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History of Remote Work

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Technology Transformed Remote Work & Now a Pandemic!

An interesting timeline of how technology opened the doors for remote work and helped shape the virtual workplace we have today:

1975: The first “personal” computer is introduced. Employees are finally able to work remotely outside of the office and eventually get to take their work on-the-go with a laptop or tablet.

1990: The internet is born and the World Wide Web helps connect remote workers with email and virtual office tools.

1990: The Federal government conducts a telecommuting study on 2,000 federal workers. People proved to be more productive, had a better quality of life and work life balance, and cut both expenses and commuting time when telecommuting. Remote workers see these same benefits today.

1994-1995: Companies like American Express, IBM, and AT&T start allowing their employees to telecommute. With continued success, the idea quickly catches on and spreads.

1997: Google launches the powerful search engine we know today. Google Search breaks down barriers and creates a place where employers and employees can find each other no matter where they live. You can still locate remote work or workers anytime today, all from performing a simple Google search.

1999: Centralized project management tools like Basecamp (originally named 37signals) give both management and employees one centralized place to manage workflows remotely. This keeps everyone on the same page, despite living in different zip codes, so everyone’s on the same page when it comes to deadlines and open-ended projects. Over 100,000 companies still use this project management software[*].

2000s: Wireless internet and broadband open the floodgates. Remote employees can finally work without being tied to a physical location for their ethernet internet connection. This also makes slow speeds from dial-up internet a bad memory of the past.

2002: LinkedIn launches and connects millions of professionals across the globe. You can still network with old friends or coworkers, reach out to potential employers, and follow your favorite companies to see what’s new on this professional platform boasting 562 million users across 200 countries and territories[*].

2003: A surge of remote workers inspires Skype, a better communication tool for virtual employees. This video conference software helps organizations maintain genuine face-to-face connections with employees even if everyone’s working remotely. It’s also used heavily in remote interviews to put a face and personality to each candidate behind the screen.

2004: Virtual meeting software GoToMeeting (GTM) helps employees “meet” in a virtual conference room to share presentations, files, and brainstorm together. GTM currently has 2 million active daily users[*].

2006: Time tracking software Toggl makes it easy for employees to submit timesheets without much effort. This helps remote workers track their work hours and get paid accordingly.

2009: Slack, which is also the fastest-growing business application in history, creates a way for teammates and managers to communicate from anywhere[*]. Slack continues to be the glue holding entire remote teams together. It supports 8 million active daily users and has over 70,000 paying customers[*].

2012: Google introduces its suite of office tools and digital file storage, known as Google Drive. This becomes the modern-day workspace where employees, both in-house and remote, access important documents and files while also collaborating and giving feedback in real time.

2016: Dell reports an annual savings of \$12 million since expanding its telecommuting and remote work programs[*]. Reports like these prove remote work is beneficial to employers just as much as remote employees.

2017: Major tech-heavy cities like Austin and San Francisco report 60% and 30% of their job offers went to remote workers, respectively[*]. Now many employers would rather have access to top talent, even if it means going outside of their corporate zip code to do so.

2018 and Beyond: “4.3 million people currently work from home in the United States at least half of the time,” and this figure has grown 150% in the last 13 years[*]. The future of remote work continues to explode, and the technology to support these needs only gets better.

Are You Ready for the Future?

For those of us living in 2017, the biggest factor is change.  Things are changing rapidly; it seems, with predictions for hard-to-imagine change coming within just ten to fifteen years.  Life expectancy is longer, so you have to consider that it’s likely you will be involved.

My personal take on all this change is that words will still matter, and we will all still need to use them correctly if we are to understand and thrive in our brave new world.

Here are more than half a dozen changes (described in words) that I’m prepared to see the future bring, and this just scratches the surface:

  • Miami, for example, will be under water.
  • People will have the option to live in homes that are round, specially-designed to be hurricane-proof.
  • Artificial intelligence* (a game changer), smart homes, the ‘Internet of Things’** and augmented reality*** will all click together seamlessly.
  • Cars and public vehicles will not require drivers, operating themselves for the most part.
  • We will have no choice but to manage our daily lives (banking, shopping) entirely from cell phones via the Internet as brick and mortar institutions fade, malls die and Wi-Fi ****dominates connectivity.

(However, N.B:  A prevailing theory in the tech industry is that smartphones will one day be replaced by normal-looking glasses that display virtual information onto the real world.)*****

  • Robots will replace people in many jobs.
  • Drones will be involved heavily in hundreds of new ways from shipping and delivery (I’m betting against delivery via Amazon Key) to healthcare, security, police work, farming, et al.
  • Higher education will evolve in ways that reduce its cost, with virtual reality****** replacing textbooks.  Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) will prevail.
  • In coming years much of our food may be genetically modified, such as “mock meat.”

*Artificial Intelligence can be defined as the capacity of a computer to perform operations that are analogous to learning and decision- making in humans by a program or by an expert system, for the recognition and perception of shapes in computer vision systems. An example here would be a digital personal assistant on some e-commerce website that works with a customer, also learns from that customer and makes recommendations for that customer.

**The Internet of Things is the network of physical devices, vehicles, home appliances, and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity which enable these objects to connect and exchange data.

***Augmented Reality can be defined as a technology that layers computer-generated enhancements on an existing reality and makes it more meaningful through the ability to interact. A good example would be from InContext Solutions.  The company provides cloud-based virtual store simulations and shopper insights so that users may, for example, actually try out furniture in different styles or colors to see how those items would fit into their living rooms.

****WiFi is defined as an abbreviation for wireless fidelity, meaning you can access or connect to a network using radio waves, without needing to use wires.

*****The smartphone will become obsolete by 2025, replaced by nascent (developing) technology.

******Virtual Reality can be defined as a computer-generated simulation of a real-life environment. Example: a 3D store shelf that can adapt to offer more appropriate items to the individual customer.



Which Presidential Candidate Favors Small Business?

Food for Thought

The problem at election time used to be voter apathy.  People didn’t vote because they believed it didn’t matter much who won.  Nothing would really change.  Today voters on both sides appear engaged and fearful that things will get much worse if the “other” candidate wins.  Undecided voters can sway the 2012 election.

Along with the undecided Ohioan voters, who seem to matter most, very soon small business owners will decide whether to choose a new leader or keep the one we’ve got.  Should the choice be based more or less on how the policies outlined in the campaigns would impact such things as hiring and marketing budgets? What about these larger issues: the ability of the man to lead and his view of the world?

Do You Have a Small Business?

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, which uses the 500-worker maximum in its definition, small businesses employ half of all private-sector workers. In 2009, of the 27.5 million businesses in the U.S., 99.7% were defined as small firms. More than 70% of U.S. small businesses are one-person operations.

A lot of numbers are being tossed around in this campaign.  It’s important to remember that statistics are always subject to interpretation and will be cited by each candidate in whatever way helps to make his case. Finding the whole truth will take some digging.

Contrasting the Policies that Relate Directly to Small Businesses

President Obama:

  • When Bush-era tax cuts expire in 2013, eliminate them for anyone who makes a profit of more than $250,000 to stop taxes from going up on 97 percent of all small business owners. The president would allow the top two tax rates of 33 percent and 35 percent to revert to Clinton-era levels of 36 percent and 39.6 percent, respectively.
  • Expand the Health Care Tax Credit created in the Affordable Care Act to businesses with up to 50 workers (up from 25). This credit seeks to help small businesses afford the cost of health insurance.  In 2014 if you employ less than 25 or are self-employed, you may find that the health care reforms bring you tax relief.
  • Use bank-bailout funds to recapitalize community banks that lend to small businesses and expand lending by the Small Business Administration in order to open up more credit.

Mitt Romney:

  • When the Bush-era tax cuts expire in January 2013, permanently extend them for all income levels. Since the top 3% of small businesses are in businesses that are taxed not at the corporate tax rate but at the individual tax rate, by lowering that rate for these 750,000 taxpayers in that 3%, they will be able to hire more people.
  • Reduce income tax rates by 20 percent and permanently repeal the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax.  Pay for these tax cuts by reducing or eliminating as yet unidentified tax credits, deductions and exemptions. If the cuts are distributed equally across the board, the Romney-Ryan budget could cut Small Business Administration funding by 19% ($170 million).
  • Repeal the Affordable Care Act to create jobs.  Romney has cited a National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) survey that found three-quarters of small businesses said they would be less likely to hire due to ObamaCare. (The NFIB, whose funders are undisclosed, recently has come under fire for allegedly representing the interests of big business and for primarily backing Republican candidates.)

What Are the Signs of a Good Leader?

The Harvard Business Review says that the two most important qualities in a good leader are trust and empathy.  I would add that trust comes largely from a perceived integrity and shared values.  Real empathy involves actually walking the walk, not just talking the talk.

According to renowned motivational speaker Tony Robbins, a good leader has:  “the ability to influence the thoughts, emotions, and actions of other human beings.”  Robbins cites as important “energy and passion,” pointing out that, “There’s a level of connectedness that leaders have with others. It’s their ability to get things done and make progress that sets them apart.”  Let’s not forget perseverance and, wouldn’t you agree, those same qualities are key to success for small businesses owners. 

How Important is Each Candidates’ World View to Leadership?

A candidate’s world view is derived in large measure from his/her personal past, which in part foreshadows the future.  World view is likely to shape domestic as well as foreign policy positions. The results, in turn, can have an effect on U.S. small businesses.

How would these factors influence Candidate Romney’s leadership

choices as President:

·         successful business record as a venture capitalist with Bain Capital
·         initial failed bid for governor of Massachusetts and the Olympics turnaround that to some degree resulted in his subsequent successful bid in 2002
·         failed presidential bid in 2008
·         “out of the mainstream” religious views and work as a missionary
·         his early life as the son of Michigan Governor George Romney

  How would these factors influence President Obama’s leadership

choices in a 2nd term:

·         success in becoming the nation’s first African-American president
·         success and pride in passing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2009
·         success in overseeing the mission of eliminating Bin Laden as the head of al-Qaeda
·         lack of success in achieving bipartisan support in Congress on several issues
·         earlier role in the Illinois and U.S. Senate
·         the multi-cultural influences in his early life

Consider the Role of Campaign Spending

Broward Bulldog, an independent non-profit online newspaper, reports that “Since Labor Day 70 % of outside spending on the presidential race made possible by the Citizens United  Supreme Court decision has benefited Mitt Romney, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis. More than $106 million of the $117 million spent on the Obama-Romney matchup since Sept. 3 has been on negative ads, with President Barack Obama absorbing more than $80 million in attacks, according to the analysis of Federal Election Commission data.”

Is Running the Government Just Like Running A Business?

Because in a democracy the process of running a government really is different from that of running a business, neither candidate will be able to have everything completely his way as President.  Although the buck stops with the Chief in both cases, a Commander-in-Chief does not have the same kind of power as a Chief Executive Officer. That’s where leadership qualities and the world view come into play. While a CEO has every right to change direction whenever it helps profits and benefits his company, a Commander in Chief must demonstrate clear and consistent, not contradictory, positions in order to persuade colleagues and earn support worldwide.

Summing Up

In essence the choice should be a visionary who shares your values, a truth-teller whom you would trust to make a tough critical decision, but who also has empathy for the less fortunate and who seeks to represent all the people.  You want someone whom you can count on to grasp the big picture, search for the middle ground and not shoot from the hip.  You want passion but not a zealot.

You want someone who has the same leadership qualities that you have as a successful business person, but someone who also possesses the perspective and ability to inspire the cooperation that it takes to function really well within a democratic system as the leader of the free world.  Tall order?  Ultimately the decision may rest with the undecided swing state voters.