telecommuting

Oil prices, “telecommuting” and working near home

by Paul Carder on January 19, 2016

by @paulcarder

Whilst reading for my next PhD task, an old reference just popped up…the origin of the term “telecommuting” (Nilles, 1975). Full references in my footnote.

Jack M. Nilles was the Director of Interdisciplinary Program Development (I like that already… 40 years later, still very much in need of these guys!), Office of Academic Administration and Research at USC, Los Angeles.

In his 1975 paper, he says: “Our research at the University of Southern California (USC) included an investigation of the technologies required for “telecommuting.” A telecommuting network has computational and telecommunications components which enable employees of large organizations to work in offices close to (but generally not in) their homes, rather than commute long distances to a central office.”

This is often referred to as the first mention of “telecommuting”. But perhaps more interestingly, note the part which most people who reference this four decades later omit:

“…offices close to (but generally not in) their homes…”

Sometime later, that part was lost, and people started to put telecommuting together with working at home. Why? – well largely because, in effect, we all “telecommute” today, all the time. In 1975, if you needed to work with someone, then you (or they) had to travel to get together. Or use the telephone.

Reading the footnotes to Jack Nilles’ paper, at the time it was mostly about the oil price, following as it did shortly after the 1973-4 oil crisis (OPEC embargo)…and way before most people had heard of “sustainability”. Nilles base in Los Angeles is still slave to the car today, but in those days there really was no choice other than commuting – to drive to your office, work all day, and drive home.

In 2016, who would have thought we would see the oil price tumbling? But we all have a far more pressing reason to find a cure for commuting: sustainability, of course. And we really do have the choice – in fact many options – to work in different places, using a whole variety of technologies. How long does it take for this message to permeate the seemingly impervious corporate cultures where people must be ‘seen’ to be assumed to be working?

Just one last nugget… nearly missed in the footnotes, Nilles writes: “Some major national corporations already have video conferencing networks connecting regional offices”. …in 1975! And beneath, he lists the first reference to the “video telephone” (Dickson & Bowers, 1973). Really? Wow!

So why can I still walk around most offices and not find corporate video conferencing or video phones? …just those old plastic desk phones. Even though, almost everyone has video conferencing in their pocket on their iThingy. Possibly not connected to the corporate network though…ho hum.

I guess these things just take time, right? …or is it something else?

 

References:

Nilles, J. M. (1975). Telecommunications and organizational decentralization. Communications, IEEE Transactions on, 23(10), 1142-1147.

Dickson, E. M., & Bowers, R. (1973). The video telephone, a new era in telecommunications: a preliminary technology assessment. Program on Science, Technology and Society, Cornell University.

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When: Thursday, March 7, at Noon Pacific Standard Time

Register:  https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/476196598

Please join me and my colleague, Pi Wen Looi of Novacrea Research, for a lunch-and-learn session to learn about “Leveraging Mobile Work to Engage Your Employees.” We’ll present our 2012 Mobile Workforce Survey findings and share ideas about how you can use these insights to engage and leverage your mobile workers.

We planned to conduct this webinar well before Marissa Mayer of Yahoo! issued her now-famous edict mandating all Yahoo! staff to “cease and desist” working from home and to come to the corporate office every day. But the buzz surrounding that decision makes this webinar all that much more timely.

This session is designed for anyone who manages Gen Y workers, remote workers, IT professionals who are involved with mobile technology, and knowledge workers who work on-the-go.

Past research on the mobile workforce has focused on either the technology needs of mobile workers or the challenges of managing a virtual workforce. Our newly designed Mobile Workforce Survey is the first study that takes an integrated look at both the hardware needs of mobile workers (e.g., mobile devices) and the factors that impact their organizational engagement and personal views about mobile and remote work.

Key Takeaways

  • How and where knowledge workers are getting their work done today
  • What tools they use to be productive
  • How their mobility is affecting their work and their professional and personal relationships
  • Tips for managing and engaging remote workers

Registration

Please click on the link below to register for the free webinar, which is being hosted by People-OnTheGo, a firm focused on workforce productivity and achievement.

https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/476196598

Details

Date: Thursday, March 7
Time: 12:00 noon PST
Place: Online

Pi Wen and I hope to “see” you on the webinar next Thursday. Feel free to invite your colleagues; the more the merrier!

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What is really going on at Yahoo?

by jimware on March 1, 2013

There’s been quite a buzz building around Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer’s recent proclamation that all employees are now expected to be in their assigned corporate office every day. No more “telecommuting” or working from home.

There is no way I can summarize all the insightful commentary about Ms. Meyer’s edict that is all over the Internets and the mainstream media this week. However, I can point you to several really good starting points for understanding what all the buzz is about.

And I’ll humbly start with my own interview with talk show hostess Turi Ryder on WGN 720 radio (Chicago) on Wednesday evening: “The Perks and Catches of Working Remotely.” It was a fun and provocative conversation.

Here’s a one-paragraph summary of that 20-minute conversation, brilliantly written by my good friend, colleague, and “pioneer” in the the field of remote work, Jessica Lipnack. Her post is titled “Jim Ware to Yahoo: ‘You have a management systems problem.'”

But for a really thoughtful and passionate statement on the issue, you’ve got to read Jessica’s lengthier and far more important note, “Marissa, we need to talk. This genie is way out of the bottle.”

That is the most articulate statement about remote work and its benefits that I’ve ever seen. Read it and bookmark it. I guarantee you will want to come back to it whenever your company starts wavering or waffling about the pros and cons of flexible work.

It’s not a simple or straightforward issue. If you have the time, read through the many Comments (both supportive and dismissive of Marissa Mayer) from readers that accompany Jessica’s posts, and this one additional article on Kara Swisher’s AllThingsD blog, which is where I believe it all started:

Yahoo CEO Mayer Now Requiring Remote Employees to Not Be (Remote)

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