Peter Fox

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Wondering why people still commute to offices.

We have the communications technology but not the management structure or tools. When people work remotely a lot of important things break down. We need to deal with psychological and social factors.

As individuals we need tight-knit groups for task-focussing and clear motivation. When working remotely we lose the lightning conductors for dissatisfaction so how can they be replaced? Organisationally it is the web of workers that is the means of production and that needs development and maintenance.

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  • Aug 2 2011: There are a number of factors limiting distributed working. I would suggest that that technology has moved faster than most people are comfortable with, I talk about twitter and social networks and my bosses have no idea. They can manage teleconferencing, and allow people to work from home (the odd day), but to move to a trust model where the majority of work is done at home with regular meetings in coffee shops/business centres is beyond them.

    As GenX grow up into management positions I think we'll see a radical change in how business is done. Some jobs will always require onsite work, but for jobs that can be completed anywhere - there is going to be a lot of change!
    I almost bought a house in Texas, with a view to continue software development for European companies.

    We will have more control over our work lives (take a day off when it's sunny) as technology allows us to collaborate online. The saying is that 'Work colleagues are the family you never choose', and we'll always need to meet people face to face , but I feel that as there are no more jobs for life, we'll all move towards contract work; perhaps for the same company, but companies will take people on as required for projects/tasks over a given period. This periodic work, with natural deadlines would allow people to complete work as and where they see fit.
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    Aug 2 2011: I think because bosses want them to come in. We have a finance manager in my school district that comes in 3-4 days a week and works from home. He does a good job and I know of people who work from home a lot. As a teacher I cannot work from home even though I teach independent study students. I need to be there to give them the individual attention they need and I need to see them to make sure they are understanding the work.
    Best Wishes
  • Jul 17 2011: @Peter This is a very good topic. You seem to have a good insights about how to minimize impact of telecommuting.

    I have one specific issue and that is lack of good technology to conduct effective meetings. Over the last few years I have been working within a distributed team of about 40 people within North America. One thing we noticed over the years is that being distributed (similar to telecommuting), virtually meetings were much less productive and of course less social.

    One solution to this I think could come when the right technology is developed. We need high definition video streams that allow for real size capture of participants with no lag and we need a very simple way to share and see some kind of drawing board. Currently "talking heads" and a web page with a board to draw on is not good enough.

    Another aspect of telecommuting is lack of friendly conversions that usually happen at offices (water cooler talks). Again with some cool technology (like Google+ Hangouts?) we could have that as well.