From dial-up to always on: remote work works

There was remote work before there was dial-up. If you haven’t heard the sound in a while, I highly recommend it. Make your kids listen to it. They won’t believe how we lived let alone worked.

Oh. Em. Gee.

Remote teams can do amazing things and the impact is broad. Not everyone is suited for this kind of responsibility nor is every company or organization equipped to manage remote work. There is a lot of adulting necessary.

In 1998 the word adulting didn’t exist. A few years earlier I’d taught myself how to code, then I went to business school and after a disastrous year working in a somewhat unstable place (there was a lot of yelling), I found Fielding – a distanced-based graduate school – founded in 1974. It was ahead of its time. I sound like a commercial. I learned there that there was evidence that remote teamwork can:

  • Lower costs
  • Decrease friction
  • Improve productivity
  • Increase human connection
  • Create enviable organizational culture

All that before high speed internet.

In 2002 I wrote a chapter for a book called the “Encyclopedia of Distributed Learning“. Since it’s a bit outdated, there is more insight from these guys:

  • Jason Fried, Rework, Remote: Office Not Required and It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work
  • Tim Baran, Working Remotely
  • Scott Berkun, The Year Without Pants

(No, I don’t get anything for promoting them).

At Fielding, there were students and faculty all over the mainland US. The school was a one-of-a-kind, focused on adult and mid-career learners. I liked that. I also liked that I could help connect everyone involved and expand those connections because of the web.

Working there and with people all over the country wasn’t any harder than any other work environment I’d experienced. In fact, it was liberating. I thrived.

Distributed or online work is not new. It could help save the planet and clean up some of the mess out there in the interwebs. If real people work together from real places and get things accomplished no matter what time zone or continent or community, the world could get a lot better.