Working at home, or telecommuting, has been growing 15% every year since 1990. When something grows a certain percentage each year, it is growing exponentially.
And anybody who has read the Singularity FAQ for Dummies, knows what the implications of exponential acceleration are.
Does this mean that working at home, or W@H as some people like to call it, is the new standard of the future?
Most likely, yeah.
Working at home already is pretty popular right now. It has started a boom in 2004, and it is accelerating in 2005. There is definately a trend going on here. In this post, I’ll analyze why telecommuting should and will become the standard of the future.
Why Telecommuting Is The Standard Of Tomorrow
We know that:
- Telecommuting is driven by our society’s connectivity, which is basically the enabling technology behind working at home.
- People have the desire to make use of telecommuting, because of the many advantages (scroll down for a list) of working at home over working at the office.
- Our connectivity is increasing exponentially in bandwidth, and thus in quality and possibilities.
At some point in time, we will get to the level of connectivity where we will be able to routinely meet each other in a virtual environment that is audio-visually very compelling. Think about live, high quality videostreams and 3D-sound positioning technologies here. In an era where mobile computing is the new standard, we will be viewing these videostreams not with a clunky monitor, but with retina goggles that project images directly onto our retina’s. Later on, we’ll probably be using contact lenses to achieve this. You won’t necessarily see the real person over the videostream, though. It may as well be a virtual avatar… a better looking version of the person you’re communicating with.
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need many speakers (such as 7.1 setups) to achieve realistic 3D-sound. 3D-sound positioning can be done with a mere two speakers, or earplugs. After all… we humans have only two ears, and yet we can hear audio come from anywhere around us.
Virtual environments like these, that are audiovisually very immersive, will not allow for touch, taste, or smell. But people that work with computers for a living, are usually not that close to each other, anyway.
Therefore, we can safely conclude that working at home will be the standard of tomorrow… for officeworkers, at least.
Advantages Of Working At Home For The Employee
- You’ve got your own computersystem, which is often way faster than the average office system, which was bought on a budget.
- You’ve got your own monitor, which is often bigger than the average office monitor, which was bought on a budget.
- You’ve got your own tea, coffee, and other beverages.
- You’ve got the possibility to bake an egg, or toast some bread, and eat it warm.
- You’ve got your own radiostation. No more battles over the one station that everybody has to listen to.
- You’ve got your own chair and desk. Since you handpicked these, they are more likely to be suited to your personal ergonomic needs than the setup at the office.
- You’ve got your own toilet. Who doesn’t hate to walk into a toilet with somebody else’s stink in it, right? I always dread walking into a public toilet myself. Will it be bearable, or won’t it? If not, you’ll have to come back 15 minutes later. Will it then be bearable? Or has somebody else come along ahead of you to stink it up again? When walking into a public restroom, the suspension is always breath-taking. You never know what you’ll encounter.
- No distractions.
- Your own working schedule. Better balance between your life and your work. Instead of taking a day off to visit your dentist or your doctor, you can simply plan around it.
- You’ll lose no more energy by travelling big distances.
- You’ll lose no more time by travelling big distances.
- As a result of the last three items in the list: You’ve got more time to spend on your own hobbies, which in turn leads to greater happiness, which in turn leads to a reduced chance of stress related psychological complaints, which in turn leads to a more efficiency, etc.
- The possibility of playing a videogame, grab the guitar and play for 15 minutes, or lift some weights when you’re on a break. None of those things are available in the office, yet they are so mind-emptying. Very useful when you’ve got an information overloaded brain.
- The possibility to do your exercise in the morning. Everybody has the right to make investments in their own health, right? Why should anybody have to put up with declining health as a result of a 40-hour workweek?
Addendum for the exercise-argument:
Instead of going to the gym at the end of your day, when you’re already exhausted and you’ve already had your diner, you can do your workout in the morning. Working out in the morning is a good idea because:
You won’t have to spend the first 30 minutes kickstarting your fatburning mechanisms, and then exercise another 30 minutes to actually burn fat. When you work out on an empty stomach, you start burning fat instantly, and 30 minutes will be enough. This saves time.
If you’re smart, you’re morning workout is basically jogging outside. Having a workout outside contributes to yet more fatburning. Jogging outside is so much more of a strain on your body than running on a machine inside the gym is.
So basically, when you do morning jog-sessions, you:
- do your exercise when you’ve still have the energy for it.
- do your exercise efficiently, because of how human fatburning mechanisms work.
- have had your exercise for the day.
- have had your half hour of fresh air for the day.
- have had your bath for the day.
- have still got plenty of energy for rest of the working day.
- start your day with a ventilated brain full of fresh oxygen, which greatly enhances your efficiency.
- can look forward to a truly free evening for yourself.
- are investing in a healthier and happier future for yourself. Your employer will probably also be happy with your increased attention span and productivity, and your decreased absenteeism due to illness.
In other words: exercise is simply begging us to indulge in it in the early morning.
Does our current 9-to-5 system allow for this?
Advantages Of Working At Home For The Employer
- Reduced absenteeism costs.
- Reduced real estate costs.
- Reduced office space costs.
Advantages Of Working At Home For Society
- Less congestion.
- Less petroleum use. This is important in the light of rising gas prices and the current peak oil doomsday scenario hype.
- Less pollution.
Advantages Of Working At Home For Both Employer And Employee
- Increased employability. From the wikipedia site:
Telecommuting options increase the employability of marginalised groups, such as mothers with small children, the handicapped and people living in remote areas. The set up also offers possibilities for increased service and internationalisation (telecommuters in different time zones can ensure that a company is virtually open for business around the clock).
Imagine that an employee could work for any company in the world, regardless of its physical location. The total collection of companies that an officeworker can choose from would be orders of magnitude bigger than it is now. After all, there’s only a handful of companies within your acceptable-travelling-radius. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have such a freedom in picking your future employer? Shouldn’t this already be the norm in our semi-advanced society?
This argument also works the other way. Imagine that you own a company, and you are in dire need of some serious talent, but you can’t find any in the small acceptable-travelling-radius around your physical location. In a society where telecommuting is the standard, you’ve got access to a whole world of talented people. You’re bound to find your talent at least a lot faster.
- Research shows that telecommuters are 25% more productive.
- Reduced employee-fuel costs.
Reasons Why Working At Home Isn’t Happening Way More Often Than It Should
Things need time to grow. You can’t realistically expect that every company will let all their employers work at home, just because I’ve got a blogpost that explains why that’s how it should be.
When an employer tells you the company is not ready for telecommuting… what he’s actually trying to say, is that he is not ready for telecommuting.
Change is gradual. And I don’t mean just mental changes. It will take a change in infrastructure before working at home becomes the norm. Companies can’t and won’t massively sell off their office buildings, after reading this and realizing I’m right. Nor is it feasible to set up telecommuting-Internet-connections instantaneously. These things take time. But they will happen.
Some people are actually actively helping the future of working at home. Just take a look at www.telecommute.org.
There’s a big report available about the Transportation Implications of Telecommuting. The report lists a number of benefits that are more or less converging with the list I came up by myself:
- Potential Employee Benefits
- Decreased Commuting Time, Work Expenses and Stress
- Increased Flexibility of Schedules
- Improved Work Environment
- Greater Job Responsibility and Autonomy
- Stronger Family Ties
The report also lists some concerns and doubts. Just thought I’d mention it, because I don’t want to come off as biased and blind to all the bad stuff.
All in all, I think it’s pretty safe to conclude that the advantages of working at home by far outweigh the disadvantages of it.
And that is why I think that working at home will be the standard of the future.