Tag Archives: teleworker effectiveness

In search of that elusive serendipity

Almost from the beginning of our research on telework we had the alleged problem of loss of serendipity — that chance encounter by people in the hallway or lunchroom where the conditions were just right to lead to major positive changes in . . . whatever. Almost from the beginning we have been in search of that elusive serendipity during telework. That Aha! moment that transforms where you collectively are going. In my experience those prized chance hallway encounters among co-workers rarely are serendipitous because one factor is usually missing.

I had a truly serendipitous experience in Santa Barbara, California, in the Spring of 1971 when I asked Sam Clawson, a regional planner in that city, about how the aerospace industry could help him. His answer: “Why can’t you techies do something about traffic?” Bingo! My Aha! light went on and soon changed the direction of my career. Then, two years later, what I started to call The Telecommunications-Transportation Tradeoff became Telecommuting. Now the question is: could that happen today or are the chances diminished when most information workers are teleworking, spread across the countryside?

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Productivity, effectiveness or . . .?

One of the prime attractions of telework, at least from the employer’s point of view, is the increased productivity of teleworkers compared to their office-bound colleagues. I have issues with that description of the output of teleworkers or other information workers. I prefer to use “effectiveness” rather than productivity as a better term for telework’s impact. Here’s why.


First, productivity is so twentieth or even eighteenth century. For the last century or two productivity has been defined as the result of effective effort, especially in industry, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input.
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