Thursday, August 20, 2009

v29.4: Living From Anywhere

Good morning folks,

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I did not get a chance to write yesterday.  I decided yesterday that I had a lot of mundane tasks to complete and rather than come into the office where there were a bunch of distractions, I stayed home and worked remotely.  Isn't technology fun?

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Working from home has so many benefits.  I can't believe more companies don't go the route of letting their people work from home on a regular basis.  For starters, there are a lot of jobs (like mine) where the actual customer is many miles away and doesn't come to visit very often.  We have a direct network link into their network and we work remotely from our office in Halifax.  So whether I'm working remotely from the Halifax office or my house should matter very little to the customer; and it does.

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I don't know where the issue is but I imagine it has something to do with the "one bad apple" scenario where one person abused something which resulted in a policy change.  Personally, I don't mind my people working from home but my bosses (yes, that's plural) seem to mind for some reason.  Let's analyze some of the pros and cons of allowing people to work from home:

Cons

  • Opportunity to slack off

  • Can be more difficult to get in contact with someone

  • Some home lives can be more distracting than work

  • Improper ergonomics or unreliable Internet connections

  • Loss of personal contact


Pros

  • More efficient if home life is less distracting

  • Greater chance employees will work more hours in a day since they are home they are not watching the clock all the time

  • Ability to assist with family matters without waiting to get home

  • More comfortable setting, less stressful

  • No commute which saves gas and money for parking or bus passes

  • Less electricity usage in the office which saves the company money


Of course these only outline a few of the pros and cons, there are many many others.

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Technology is slowly being integrated into all aspects of our daily life.  I'm sure many of us remember it was barely 10 years ago when we used to have to pay our bills by mailing them or taking them by hand to the office.  We used to have to dial a phone number or go down to the bank (or ATM machine) and check account balances or do regular banking.  Technology has changed all of that.  I've been talking a bit about the pros and cons of working from home but let's broaden that a bit and instead of labeling it as work, let's label it as life.  Now instead of only being able to work from home we are able to live from home.

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All of the things we used to do that required us to leave our homes and run errands can mostly be done from home now.  Like my example of paying bills or doing banking, people have the option to utilize the Internet and login to their bank's website and perform any number of tasks including paying bills, sending money and setting up recurring payments.  Most utility companies now have options to discontinue paper billing and only email you reminders every month that your bill is ready.  You login to your account on their site, see the bill on your screen, go to your banking site and pay.  Simple right?  What used to take us hours to complete by running errands now takes a minute.  Hell, if I have a question regarding my bill there are many ways I can get in contact with someone.  I can send a message, I can type to a live representative in a chat room or I can call by either picking up my phone or clicking a button on their page that uses my computer to call (using Skype ore any similar phone program on the computer).  In most cases people rarely need to get out of their chairs to perform these tasks and the world is only getting more and more autmoated.

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So if you take all of the above into consideration, what kind of world do you think we'll see in the next 10 years?  How about the next 20 years?  Remember, it was around 10 years ago when the first Pentium hit the markets at a screaming 75MHz.  Now most computers sold are in the range of 3ish GHz (3,000MHz) and hard drives are now available in the terrabytes (1,000 gigabytes) and only cost a couple hundreds bucks.  I remember in 1996 it cost me $200 to upgrade my PC from 4Meg of RAM to 8Meg of RAM.  Today, I can buy 4Gig (4,000Meg) of memory for $60.

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Technology has gotten to a point where the only bottleneck is humans.  In fact, if things keep moving the way they are going, computers will have replaced the need for millions of people.  Just think about how many jobs you would need to employ to accommodate what I've talked about above?  Every single cheque that is mailed or every single payment processed would need a pair of human eyes and hands to deal with it.  Every single bank transaction or question regarding banking would need a person to look at your information and relay the data back to you.  How many jobs have been replaced by technology already?  When was the last time you went down to a bank to perform regular banking?  We, as a society, are driven to automate and accelerate our lives.  We want to be able to live from anywhere and do whatever we want, whenever we like.  I can pay my bills during business hours or in the middle of the night; there is nothing stopping me.

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Of course the more automated we become the less social interaction we obtain.  Remember Jill the Bank Teller?  Neither do I because I never go to the bank.  These are things that are slowly beginning to die off.  The personal relationship people used to have with their banks resulted in a lot of loans being approved because the bank manager knows your father or mother and has great respect for them.  Regardless of credit history, people used to be able to go down to their bank; see their Saturday night poker buddy and get a small loan.  Those days are all but gone now and everything is number driven.  If your credit score is 80 and the bank requires you have an 81, you're denied regardless of how good of a person you are.

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We obviously can't have it both ways and society in general is going to want to progress toward an automated technical age so we can either embrace it or be left behind.

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Anyway folks, that's all I have for today.  Remember, don't point a finger at anyone as there will always be three pointing back at you.

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Cheers,

Al