In the old days, pre-Covid, I used to write about telework as a tide coming slowly in. An inch at a time, unlike Alvin Toffler’s Third Wave. But with the advent of Covid the telework tide turned into a tsunami, seemingly sweeping all else before it. Now that the tsunami is slowly receding it’s time to review its impacts and their future.
The Covid pandemic suddenly forced many organizations to become telecommuter-dominant early in 2020. Consequently, the majority of the employees at all levels of the organizations were forced, almost overnight, to work at home, mostly with no prior training or other preparation. I was conflicted at the time, elated that a massive, global demonstration of teleworking had been started, but worried that the lack of training and pre-planning would produce many organizational disasters.
Fortunately, most of those instant, tsunami-induced conversions to telecommuting worked well after a few days or weeks of frantic adjustment. The organizations — and employees — adjusted. Productivity rose. Many operating costs were reduced or eliminated. The pandemic was deflected if not avoided. Business operations normalized, at least when viewed from a distance. The “bottom line” improved rather than crashed.
Continue reading Slowly, slowly, then all of a sudden!
Now that many of us have had at least a year of experience with teleworking (or many of its synonyms) it is time to take stock of the possibilities for the near future. Who will the future teleworkers be, what will they be doing, when will they be teleworking and where will they be doing it? The successes, and tribulations, of the past year give us some clues to each of those possibilities.
Fundamentally, teleworkers are people whose jobs are at least partially location-independent. Currently that’s roughly half to three-fifths of the workforce in developed countries; information workers. Some information workers still are restricted to live near and work in a primary location but technology is constantly eroding that requirement. Those restrictions are imposed by such things as access to fixed or very expensive equipment or facilities, security considerations or group interaction requirements. Currently that leaves more than 40% of the workforce as potential active teleworkers. As technology improves, the proportion of telework-eligible workers grows.
Continue reading Telework 2021: Who, what, when and where
Millions of information workers have been suddenly forced into working from home, teleworking, because of coronavirus-induced lockdowns. I suspect that a large number of these workers — and their supervisors — have never experienced this before. So, in case you have missed my years of writing about telework as a means of disaster survival, here are some of the basics for surviving those lockdowns.
Foremost, it’s time to rethink the traditional methods of management if you haven’t already done so. Your job is to lead, not to be the work cop. When you think: “How do I know they’re working if I can’t see them?” you’re falling for the tried-and-false management myth: observation of process means knowledge of progress. It doesn’t. Here’s how to do it right.
Continue reading Coronavirus survival and telework basics
One of the continuing dangers to society in the digital age is that of binary thinking. Things, ideas, events and people are labeled as either true or false, this or that, positive or negative, no in-between. One of the most pervasive such attitudes, other than in politics, has to do with offices. The common assumption is that offices have been the way they are today “forever”, never mind that they are largely industrial revolution artifacts. Millions of workers have “always” been commuting to their offices every day. Now here comes Covid-19 and pervasive lockdowns; suddenly we are facing the prospect of no operational offices at all, at least until Covid-19 has been extinguished or at least suppressed. Then all will be back to “normal,” right?
But that is not the way things will turn out. As I hinted last time we won’t all go back to offices in the Covid-altered future. Here’s why.
Continue reading Covid-19 and the end of offices?
After last month’s blog on disasters, particularly induced by the coronavirus (COVID-19), matters have accelerated. As of this writing there were 127,863 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection and 4,718 deaths from it worldwide. The World Health Organization has declared it a pandemic. One of the primary recommendations for surviving the virus — or preventing it from spreading — is to stay at home. One consequence of the widespread publicity about COVID-19 is that major changes are occurring in working conditions.
Foremost among these changes is sudden emphasis on remote working aka teleworking. What decades of imploring employers has failed to do, COVID-19 is making happen. Major employers are having their employees work from home. Universities and school districts are converting to telelearning. Telemedicine is being used to lessen the load on hospital emergency rooms. The years of telling employers that teleworking helps the bottom line, teleworking’s primary carrot, have had some effect. But that effect is nothing compared to the stick provided by COVID-19.
Continue reading Coronavirus: the stick that urges teleworking
The world never seems to stop having disasters. And it’s time again to start the 2020 disaster season. The disaster most in the public consciousness today is the coronavirus. I remember writing about its predecessor, SARS, as well as other disasters of the time, 16 years ago. That article is on our website under the title War, pestilence, natural disasters. What I said then is even more true today: teleworking is a great tool for coping with disasters.
For example consider China. China, Wuhan in particular, appears to be the origin of the latest pandemic. From a few reported cases in January 2020 the number of people infected with the coronavirus has swollen to more than 70,000 with almost 1800 fatalities as of this writing. Most of the people affected are in China but the disease has spread to many other countries, including the US. It has also had a growing negative effect on global commerce. The Chinese school systems have shut down after Chinese New Year because of the virus.
Or have they?
Continue reading It’s disaster time again: telework to the rescue
Exactly a year ago I wrote a blog entitled TELEWORK AND UNNATURAL DISASTERS: BREXIT. Today one or other of the versions of that disaster is almost upon us — or not. The United Kingdom and the European Union have been talking past each other for the past year. As a result the UK might just fall out of the EU with no formal political arrangements of any sort between them, an unnatural disaster indeed.
The UK’s prime minister is at odds with parliament. Parliament is at odds with itself. Both are at odds with large parts of the populace. The EU doesn’t particularly like the UK’s exit plan Brexit. There appears to be a growing part of both the populace and the government to say: “Oh, just forget it! We’re staying in the EU.” But, as I write this, the governments, at least, have to make some sort of formal decision by April 12th. Stay or leave and, if the decision is leave, what’s the deal? Very complicated.
Continue reading Telework And Unnatural Disasters: Part 2
One of the reasons I recommend telework is its usefulness in allowing work continuity even in the case of natural disasters: earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, blizzards and the like. I haven’t spent much time writing about telework and unnatural disasters. Now here’s one that’s made to order: Brexit. A disaster that the UK and the EU are just now beginning to recognize.
Amid the gory details of the Brexit process, a saga that evolves daily, is that of the European Medicines Agency (EMA). The problem is that the EMA is currently domiciled in London; Canary Wharf to be exact. The role of the EMA is comparable to that of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States. The EMA approves medicines for millions of Europeans.
But Wait! How can an agency responsible for the medicines of Europeans be located in a soon-to-be non-European country? Answer: Politically speaking it can’t; it must move to the Real Europe.
Continue reading Telework and unnatural disasters: Brexit
The winter of 2014-2015 presented a new series of natural disasters that served to demonstrate the power of telework. The eastern half of the United States suffered record-breaking blizzards and cold waves while the west coast continued its millennium drought. What an opportunity for teleworkers — at least in the east.
In case your organization has yet to adopt teleworking for disaster preparedness it’s way past time to get the attention of your CEO. Even if you’re not in one of the weather-stricken areas. Start with the fundamentals: Continue reading Telework and Disasters 2015
The favorite retort by many of us in the midwest or eastern US in the past few weeks has been: “What global warming? I’m surrounded by icicles!” Others of us, such as in the southwest (and much of Russia), have been sweltering in temperatures dozens of degrees above normal. The key to understanding all of this is to remember that weather is not climate. The polar vortex is not all there is, even when it’s errant. For some explanation see this from the Weather Channel.
Yet all this recent weird weather does allow us to crow: “Telecommuters do it at home! They don’t need to go out in all that snow, ice and slush. When disaster strikes we can deal with it (unless the power goes out too).”
Continue reading What global warming?