The circular economy is a concept by which materials and products are kept at their highest possible value at all times. The rapid and pervasive development of digital technologies, along with an understanding of circular economy principles, will drastically change life for the average urban citizen much sooner than we think.
Consider the smart shareable home. On walking out the door of your home, smart thermostats will trigger the heating in the apartment to turn down to a minimum, saving energy (and lowering bills). Citizens could make even better use of their assets by converting an extra room into a secure office, rentable on a city-wide sharing platform. Should someone want to rent it on a given day, the heating will quickly power up in time for the temporary resident to feel comfortable and welcome. Demand is likely to be strong — the connected city will have more remote workers and contractors who would appreciate the quiet space.
This week, I shared a report that moves managers to adopt a remote mindset. Frequent checkins are good, but don’t overdo it. To find the frequency, ask your people what works based on their personal style. Micromanaging won’t do you any favors, and too much distance will rob you of the moments critical to success.
Jesse Sostrin (HBR) says asking not only informs a baseline, “but also gives them autonomy in how the delegated work will move forward. Have an eye for detail, but don’t nitpick or act like you know everything — your coworkers won’t like feeling stifled.” Still having trouble? Let’s talk. Leave a comment or get in touch.
Remote work is here to stay. A Softchoice study released in September found that 75% of workers would leave their current job for one with a remote work option. Therefore, employers should find effective ways of managing remote workers and addressing their concerns. Communicating with remote workers through technology, such as video or instant messaging, is important, but communication must have a human connection. Finding the most appropriate way to communicate with each type of remote worker is critical.
Diversifying can move your team toward a more service-oriented approach to engagement. At TechSoup, I led a team of experts to position the forum as a global resource for nonprofits, as well as a content partner for Microsoft, Adobe and Box. My latest uses Daniel Pink’s “Motivation 3.0” (autonomy, mastery and purpose) to make the case for workplace collaboration.
Patrick Caughill at Futurism put together a list of Ray Kurzweil’s predictions, one of which relates to virtual reality (VR) and the future of work. Basically, brain-computer interfaces could precipitate a more ubiquitous “telepresent” workplace where we jack in whenever, from wherever—similar to how we use our phones now, but worlds more immersive. That said, I’m not sure how this would play out in line at Starbucks.
“[Kurzweil] predicts VR will advance so much that physical workplaces will become a thing of the past. Within a few decades, our commutes could just become a matter of strapping on a headset.” I don’t know about 20 years, but at some point remote jacking will be a thing, even on Mondays.
There are benefits. Barring health concerns, VR could up productivity while downgrading the effects of isolation. Jacking in for a meeting every few is better than wasting away on a train. On Wall Street, my Queens commute vaporized an hour plus each way. More with bad weather. Talk about stress.
More than a third of the US workforce freelances in some form. That’s 55 million people. Research suggests that people who suffer from loneliness are prone to serious health problems. VR could bring reluctant loners into the fold, inspiring creativity and infusing a sense of community into the daily routine.
Here’s the thing about humans. We need face time. Facial and behavioral cues, however subtle, are the currency we use to navigate social contexts, especially in professional settings. Even now, leading a three-way from my cell isn’t half as good as Skype or Gchat (the limitations of which I can strongly affirm).
Space drives behavior, so this virtual gig better deliver. How and at what cost VR will cut through the noise is anyone’s guess. Will dropped calls be the same? Will the VR itself be a distraction? Either way, we’ll learn to live with the static until the interface improves. With any luck, we’ll get some work done, too. And that’s not all.
As Caughill points out, VR could even shift the urban landscape. “Without the need for people to live close to work, we could see unprecedented levels of de-urbanization. People will no longer need to flock to large cities for work or be tethered to a specific location.” I say wanderlust is more of a threat, but that’s just me.
With at least 6 billion people living urban by 2050, regardless of VR, the global economy will have its due. Hopefully, there will always be reasons for people to stay in cities. I don’t think the VR itself will make them come or go. I do believe, at least on a snowy day, it will make them happier.
Work. It’s boring, exhausting, and counterintuitive to the creative problem solving that once drove American innovation. What the hell happened?
Algorithms, that’s what. Google made it fashionable to boost the bottom line with them. Now, they’re little more than a way to save on labor. Tim O’Reilly describes this turning narrative in tech as “a very dangerous time.”
How can algorithms give us more creative control over our work schedules? Or make it easier to collaborate remotely? How can they build trust and transparency, or fit 80 hours of work into 40? The world is smaller, our brains are bigger. It’s time we made an algorithm for working smarter.
The founder of O’Reilly Media has a huge influence on the role of tech in our lives, including the future of work. Now, he’s set his sights on job creators and “innovators” he thinks are more interested in making a buck than building the products and services the world can use.
Is O’Reilly right? Have we accepted the future as an extension of the past? How can a more sustainable workforce ensure an abundant future? Fair questions for a society on the brink of an automation apocalypse.
Don’t fret. O’Reilly says, “It’s still possible to reinvent the world. If we could make a more inclusive world with this technology, that would be a great gift.”
Today, I teleported to Second Life Island for a tour with Joyce Bettencourt, who leads TechSoup’s Nonprofit Commons under the alias Rhiannon Chatnoir. For an hour, Chatnoir helped me acclimate to my new body, ahead of my talk next month.