There was an article in the Washington Post today (Oct. 21, 2022) entitled “Remote work changed their lives. They’re not going back to the office”. As I thought about that title it occurred to me that not only are the 58 million people doing full time remote or Hybrid remote work in the USA alone “not going back to the office” but that, in a larger sense, none of us are “going back” to the office.
Many reported in the article are going back to the same company but not to the same city, state, or country, nor any of their company’s offices anywhere at all and their companies love it. From remote cities to rural countryside and the SF Bay area to Tahiti, “Remote Work” means more than people usually conceive it to be. Working from “home” depends on where you call home.
It was not, as many naively thought, that the pandemic may have made it all possible. The possibility was already there. The pandemic may have given it a nudge as well as some economic motive, ecology, time saving, worker desirability, real estate savings, lots of reasons were there.
But the foundational reason for remote work was that it was possible. It was in large part a combination of gifts from our digital age which has been called and certainly has been a Digital Revolution. It is still hard to believe that so much has changed in so little time.
I read that Washington Post article(above) online. I pay one dollar a week for my online subscription. The same for the New York Times. Two of the best newspapers in the world. Both wonderful bargains. No paper, no ink, no distribution. It is a perfectly reproduced digital copy where, among other things, I can instantly send an important or simply interesting article to a friend (and without postage)
And I get bothpapers in my office, on my desktop, laptop, and phone. I can read them while sailing on the Chesapeake Bayor taking a rest stop on a nearby trail.Wonderful!
I just mentioned three digital age products that, for all practical purposes we did not have until the 90’s, and 2000’s, i.e., Online newspapers, the personal computer and the smartphone, And amazing software for the PC and the MobileAPPs for the Smartphone came on with lighting speed.
Today, worldwide, there are now 6.5 billion smartphones. In the United StatesPew Research reports that young people between the ages of 18 and 29, 96% claim to own one!
That is amazing when you consider that smartphones, as above, were not widely available until the early 2000’s. Mobile Apps for smartphones grew at a phenomenal rate with just two major competitors, Google and Apple. There are now more than 5 million apps in the market. Between the two app “stores” they generated over 100 billion in sales by 2020.
The Digital World – Born into it or Converted
When I write a blog article using the Microsoft program “Word” it is a digital creation to begin with, so we say, metaphorically, that it was “born” into the digital world like millions of other digital creations of the last 30 years or 40 years.
But there is obviously a world of knowledge that preexisted this very short period and for it to become digital it had to be converted. The huge and ongoing process, as most business people know by now is called Digitization, defined as the process of converting information (documents, images, studies, books, etc.)into digital format to enable them to be readable and manipulated by computers has been a unbelievable benefit to science (perhaps especially medicine), business and government.
So, today, every business (university, government, etc.) has collected huge amounts of its own data and has access to enormous amounts of relevant data that is freely available or that can be purchased. In a former time, you would have what would be called “mare information than you could possibly use in a lifetime”. But not today.
When you add that these databases are in digital format, can be securely stored with very sufficient capacity in“ The Cloud” together with new “analytical software systems” to manage and process them (Oracle etc.), scalable pricing, you can now take huge libraries of resources to your remote locations and have them at your fingertips.
And, when you need to collaborate with a colleague at the home office or at another remote location, a Zoom meeting with screen sharing puts the finishing touches on a secure and successful remote work session.
I should mention what may be most important of all remote work in that it may give you the time and opportunity for silence. To take a walk in the woods or drift along a stream in a small boat. Bring along a small notebook that can fit in your shirt pocket and a #2 lead pencil with a pocketknife to sharpen it (reliable). An idea may come or not. Don’t worry.
These are all some of the elements of the Sea Change of technology that has enabled unbelievably efficient work from anywhere in the world. Sometimes the silence it has sadly forgotten. Rediscover it.
Finally, the entire world of work is changing even for those whose jobs cannot be done remotely. Complex scheduling with built-in flexibility allows for shorter work weeks and longer vacations is now being facilitated and adopted by many businesses. More sophisticated scheduling software is aiding the task.
More and more workers have wanted this greater flexibility in the scheduling of work for some time. Just like those looking for remote opportunities they too are looking for a better balance between work and leisure with more time for family, friends, social and recreational activities.
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports in a very good and comprehensive article that, Increasingly, employers are accommodating these newer innovations and they are liking the results with a happier and more productive staff. Job sharing can also be a part of the flexibility mix as well as Hybrid work arrangements.
Who knows what further changes Artificial Intelligence will bring in just the next few years? I’m sure I will be writing about it!
So, as always, Stay Safe and continue to pray for Ukraine!