Work It: Remote work slowly gains momentum
by Mike Pihlman
Jun 14, 2013 | 2020 views | 6 6 comments | 100 100 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Despite what Marissa Mayer, president and CEO of Yahoo, seems to think, remote work is a good thing. Check that — remote work is a great thing.

Assuming you have a career that is conducive to remote work, imagine the day when you simply crawl out of bed and spend 10 seconds “commuting” to your office. Imagine the day when you can commute 1 mile to a remote office right here in Tracy.

Imagine the day when you can collaborate via voice, video and data with your colleagues around the world.

Stop imagining.

That day is here. The technology is here. All that is needed is to change the culture to accept these possibilities.

Unfortunately, changing a culture is difficult. It can take 10 to 20 years — or more.

The concepts of telecommuting and remote work have been around more than 20 years. The next step is for the old-fashioned bosses (OFBs as I call them) to retire (us Boomers).

Then, in the next few years, the Internet-computer-smartphone-savvy Millennials of today (Gen Y) will start entering those management positions. This new blood will bring with it a shift from office-centric work to dispersed or remote work.

Seriously, OFBs, how stupid is it to travel two hours, one way, to an office to do exactly the same thing you can do from home, or Starbucks, or Barnes & Noble, or a coworking location?

Duh — very stupid. That will change.

But, for now: There have been “zillions” of studies in the past 30 years looking at the advantages and disadvantages of telecommuting or telework — or, as I like to call it, remote or dispersed work.

The advantages are many: increased productivity, improved morale, the ability to tap talent from anywhere, reduced office costs, reduced dependence on gas, increased quality of life, reduced car emissions and traffic, less stress, survivability — to name just a few.

But there are disadvantages, too: loneliness, smelly PJs, distractions, 24/7 work, weight gain, the fear of not getting promotions or the credit you deserve and more.

In my column, I will look at all of the above to show how remote work is — as I said in the second sentence — great. Stay tuned.

• Mike Pihlman has a master’s degree in electrical engineering from University of Kansas and has been a Tracy resident since 1985. He co-wrote the first telecommuting plan at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in 1990 and has been an evangelist, blogger and technology developer in the areas of videoconferencing and remote work since the beginning of time (videoconferencing time, that is). He practices what he preaches at AltamontCowork in downtown Tracy.
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June 16, 2013
"But there are disadvantages, too: loneliness, smelly PJs, distractions, 24/7 work, weight gain, the fear of not getting promotions or the credit you deserve and more."

Yea, for the undisciplined who probably should not be working from home in the first place. Seeing as I've worked from home for 5 years I believe I'm qualified to offer an opinion here.

Loneliness - staying focused, busy, and disciplined solves this rather easily.

Smelly pj's - Working from home means no shower everyday? Hmmmm.

Distractions - see my solution to loneliness.

24/7 work. This is actually one of the reasons I like working from home, more bang for your buck on daily hours as there's no cummute time and you can bang out work at anytime of the day or night.

Weight gain. How? It's easier to eat right when at home and for those who work out as I do it's actually better because sans commute time for the gym becomes easier to manage. Also, I alternate sitting and standing at my computer and take a 5 minute break here & there to walk around the yard - easier to do at home that at an office.

Fear of not getting promtions or credit - easily solved by not being insecure.

June 16, 2013
Thanks for your comments!

When I was working full-time from home (on video conferencing technology) I thought that video conferencing was the solution to any loneliness I was experiencing. I was wrong. Even for an introvert like myself, I liked going in to work occasionally.

Easy access to the refrigerator for some telecommuters can result in weight gain.

There are actual fears about promotions and telecommuting...I will site some articles in future articles. And yes, some articles have stated that people get "lazy" shower. I for one. haha :-) I like your attitude!

The new coworking locations (there are over 2,000 now worldwide) or working at Starbucks, McDonalds, or B&N help some people avoid loneliness and distractions while allowing them to work close to home.
June 14, 2013
While working from home sounds great on paper it is not all that practical for the vast majority of folks. I have to include myself in that group. While I would rather not commute to Newark every day the fact is much of the equipment I use is there and it wouldn't be practical to set it up in my house. My company simply isn't going to move a scanning electron microscope that probably cost close to a hundred k to my house so I can work at home. The same goes for the myriad of other equipment I use. The technicians I work with and supervise are also all there.

The even bigger problem is that many critical decisions and discussions take place between folks bumping into each other in the hall or talking over lunch at the local restaurant. What am I going to do, call into lunches and ask someone to put me on speakerphone and hold the phone up throughout the meal? Or ask them to put me on speakerphone and leave their phone in the hall so I can hear the conversations going on?

That is not to say I couldn't work at home once every other week or maybe even once a week. Still, its not something I would ever be able to do on a routine basis.
June 15, 2013
Sneaky: I agree that you can't have a scanning electron microscope at home. If you get one, can I get a demo? :-)

BUT....if you can do paperwork (errr, computer work) at home (or Starbucks, or B&N, or at a coworking location) once a week, and be productive, you are still "telecommuting".

Our recommendations, many years ago, was that 1 or 2 days a week was optimal for telecommuting. This way you get the office interactions and camaraderie you need AND the time & privacy to be super productive when you telecommute. The best of both worlds. :-)

June 14, 2013

Good idea for a column, especially for Tracy and Mountain House. Great start. Looking forward to more.
June 15, 2013
Thanks :-)

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