Australia, Please Move Over to Remote Work!

Dear Australia, I have seen your wonderful country now for the second time. It is so beautiful! Great landscape everywhere, beautiful animals, tasty food, free BBQs in every park and very friendly, lovely people.

But you have one big problem. You are destroying your beautiful nature in a rapid speed. You changed the positive meaning of the forward-thinking word ‚development‘ to the cruel synonyme for logging very old woods, which are full of species and building houses, industrial areas, extra-wide highways or yet another shopping mall.

I’m not saying that you should not develop! But it is definitely wrong how it is going on now. You are selling your nature to international and national companies for a few hundred job here and a few hundred there.

You let the Indian company Adani build worlds biggest coal mine in the hinterland of Cairns with a new railway to the coast and yet another coal port for huge ships in the Great Barrier Reef. Just a few month ago, they got a way too small fine for the spill of contaminated water into the wetlands next to their actual smaller operation up there.

Without any care about koalas, you are ‚developing‘ thought the east coast. The complex habitates of male and female wild koalas are even not fully researched, but cutting their food trees for ‚land clearing‘ is permitted everywhere. You are literally killing your iconic animal. The newly build freeway no. 1 between Brisbane and Sydney is getting tiny horizontal ladders 150 meters actross the road (maybe used by possums, but never by koalas) and special tunnels under the road to let the koalas cross underneath. Nobody knows if they will be used sometime. The fences along the road are only to prevent the cars from kangaroo damage – koala will easily climb over them.

Airlie Beach is a nice touristic destination at the Great Barrier Reef south of Cairns. It was developed from a small fisher village to a medium sized town. That is enough! You do not have to put concrete over every grass halm between the town and the highway in the hinterland. The building signs for exactly that are already standing – this time backed by Chinese money for huge casino resorts!

Australia, I know you need jobs – you just need a better plan than betting on fossil fuels, mining and tourism.

You are the remote country! Dive into remote work!

You have a tradition in very remote mining operations and very remote farming. You are the remote country, you are even the remote continent! On the other hand you are highly urbanized – the percentage of your population, which lives in cities rankes right next after the city countries like Singapore – and this is not good for a right balance with nature and the health of your people. I have already written a post about that at the beginning of this year: How remote work supports the health of our planet .

Get prepared for the actual form of remote work which means working over the internet. This means mostly getting highspeed internet in every populated corner of your country – I know Telstra did a good job with that, even with over-the-air-wifi in cities, but it is still hard to get good internet in smaller towns.

Then educate your workers for this kind of work, which is new to most. I even found a New South Wales agency for that: Pointer. All the remote work pros and cons are here: The Ultimate List of Remote Work Pros and Cons. Jumping into remote work would have two major impacts: 1. you don’t have to run after everyone who want to create a few jobs and allows him ruining your country for that. 2. enabling the people to work wherever they are would reduce the pressure on the cities – especially the koala inhabitating east and southeast coast and your biggest cities Sydney and Melbourne where you already cannot afford the tiniest houses.

To see what other benefits it will have for your residents, even mentally: What Remote Work is Doing with You.

And there is the big trend of spreading sustainable energy. Your geography is perfect for solar power generation – in big and small scale. You can go completly off-grid with the ongoining reduction in battery prizes – great in every remote area. Nice that you purchased a huge Tesla battery for he stability of the South Australian power net.

Boost your jobs for PV and battery installing electricians and put money in battery research. And switch from coal to PV power generation in the big scale quickly and let the coal in the ground – that would be a enourmous contrubution for reducing the outcomes of the climate change. Your PM want to extend the time of the coal Liddel power station (Link), despite its operator AGL will not?

Australia, please wake up, before it is too late!

In Remote Dubois, a Quiet Revolution

From guest author Lois Wingerson

RodeoGrounds4This is a story of loss, and the signs of renewal.

In the late 1980s, the last sawmill in Dubois, Wyoming, closed, plunging the town into economic crisis. (In this image, the site as it looks today.)

Possibly that same year–I’ve lost track of the exact date–we came with our toddler son to a dude ranch near Dubois, to enjoy a getaway from two stressful jobs in the big city.

That was back when Bernard and Leota Didier owned the Lazy L&B, two owners and most of a lifetime ago.

LazyL&BHorses

I was awestruck by vistas I had never imagined, let alone seen. I focused on trying to stay mounted on my horse, having never ridden before, while the wranglers loped easily over the endless range ahead.

A tourist enjoying a brief getaway, I had no idea about what was happening in the town nearby. Nor, at the time, did I care.

Dubois had thrived on logging since the turn of the last century, and the tie hacks hewed railroad ties for the transport network that was uniting the country (although the railroad itself never came near Dubois). Now, the industry had abandoned the town, due to a change in logging policy at the US Forest Service and economic realities that eroded its profit.

LazyLB_editedDubois quickly set about trying to re-invent itself. The town sponsored several community projects, hiring consultants who led self-examinations and assessments of the town’s potential.

My favorite of these assessments was a freelance project. In 1992–exactly a quarter-century ago–an economics professor named John Murdock, who had retired to Dubois, completed an independent analysis of how the town might recover from its devastating loss.

He considered the potential of minerals, oil, and gas (virtually none in that region) and small manufacturing (nil, because of the distance to market).

Murdock concluded that the town’s only hope for economic revival was two sources who would arrive bringing their own income: (1) retirees and (2) people who would work here remotely, using the Internet.

The Internet didn’t yet really exist. This was two years before the creation of the World Wide Web Consortium that would set international standards so that computers on different systems could share information.

CemeteryView1_042917

Dubois waited. Retirees always arrived, but predictably, some would leave to be closer to family and others due to failing health.

In the meantime, its lifeline was tourism. The goal has been to attract people like us who wanted a brief escape from “civilization,” and to entice part of the horde bound for Yellowstone to stop here long enough to experience Dubois’ unique, enchanting qualities.

The problem with tourism (which is now the second largest industry in Wyoming) is that it can’t form the basis of a year-round economy in a location like Dubois. In the periods between the snow and the summer, the revenue stops.

We were far away as all this was evolving, and I was experiencing industrial challenges of my own, as publishing began to shift to the Internet. I had to learn how to code content for CD-ROMs meant to be read on a computer. Then I was hired to manage a “webzine” about science. I ran an online news service, and had to learn more coding. Later, I helped create a search engine.

My team was based in New York and London. We communicated by email and video conference. At my last job, my boss was based in Denver, with my coworkers in Baltimore, Boston, and San Francisco.

The writing was on the wall–as was a poster of the image below, which I had taken years earlier at the Lazy L&B and moved from office to office. Sometimes, looking up from the screen, I would rest my thoughts on Dubois.

Luckily, my last employer was unconcerned about where I was located while I worked. Eventually, when the time was right for us, Dubois called us back.

LazyLBDrawAs we returned, the old sawmill site was being transformed. The EPA now cites it as a case study of environmental remediation.

Cleaned up with help from the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, the location now houses a medical clinic, a fitness center, and an assisted living facility. A fishing pond for children should be completed soon.

In my absence, Dubois had been laying the tracks for a new kind of transcontinental network: high-speed Internet. I quickly learned that it was more reliable in Dubois than in the city, where I often had to close my laptop and reboot in a library or cafe when my signal suddenly went down.

When we first moved to Dubois, I met a few other individuals who were making their living here on the Internet. Gradually I met others, but I don’t know them all by any means.

I have encountered several other telecommuters–a computer coder, a software architect, and a marketing expert–who have newly relocated to the area. All of them chose Dubois in order to enjoy Nature and solitude while earning a good living at their keyboards. Two of them have children they don’t want to raise anywhere near a city.

DTECoils2The economy that Murdock foresaw 25 years ago is in its birth pangs at this very moment. According to a recent report in Forbes, about 40% of employees are now working “remotely” most or all of the time. About 80-90% of employees surveyed say they would like to work from home.

On Twitter, I’ve discovered a thriving separate industry of “remote workers” complete with vendors of supplies and services, support networks, employment recruiters, and professional conferences. A recent article on a jobs site for telecommuters predicts that the new industry will boost employment in rural areas.

Some high-skilled technology workers who work as consultants describe themselves as “digital nomads.” They migrate from one exotic location to another, wherever there is good broadband, enjoying a combination of travel and work as their day-to-day lifestyle. There are travel agents who specialize in serving this market.

The cost of commercial real estate, combined with the exploding cost of living in major cities and long commute times to affordable areas, makes it Downtown3almost impractical to insist that employees who work largely online must come in to an office–especially if the best candidate for an online job doesn’t live anywhere nearby.

Many employees want to live in urban areas anyway. But surely some want to be in a place like Dubois, for exactly the reasons we love it: It’s small, it’s isolated, it’s placid.

The new year-round economic base of Dubois is emerging slowly, one by one and two by two. Like Dubois itself, it is clean, quiet, and tucked away in the wilderness.

© Lois Wingerson, 2017

You can see new entries of Living Dubois every week if you sign up at the top of the right column at www.livingdubois.com.

Remote Work Creates a Fairer World

We all know the big inequality we have on earth. Your chances in life are highly different depending on your place of birth. Remote work will lower that on a large scale. Have a look how that will work out.

Birth Lottery

The biggest disadvantage on earth is based on the birth lottery. You have less possibilities in life, if you are born into a poor family. The education is worse, the motivation to go studying is less and the connections to good jobs are missing. That is common everywhere on earth and we know it from our western communities.

But the birth lottery is even worse at developing countries. If you are born in a rural area without internet access and maybe without electricity, the way to a middle class life is very, very hard. You have to start real work underaged, have to get kids in your twenties or earlier and cannot even think of university.

The good news is, that it is getting a little easier to improve your standard of life with every year. Electricity and internet are on the rise, i.e. with photovoltaic power generation, in every region on earth.

Remote Education

With the higher availability of the (hopefully neutral) internet comes the better access to education. Everyone who is a little self-motivated can receive free high level education, i.e. from Udacity or other MOOCs (massive open online courses) of high schools and even well-known universities.

This is a big chance for talented, young people in the developed and in the developing world. No matter if you are a young African software developer or a German mom and likes to restart your career without leaving your kids alone too long.

Well-paid Work

And then comes remote work! Because all the education doesn’t help without well-paid work. Electricity, internet, laptop and education are the only ingredients, what a motivated woman or man needs today to increase their standard of living fundamentally.

Take the example of tunga.io a remote startup run by a Dutch founder. They are working together with BITS ACADEMY with sections across Africa, which are training IT skills to students. Tunga tries to link these trained developers to worldwide software projects.

A little bit more on the side of entry level jobs is Sama Source from San Francisco. Their mission is to lift people out of poverty with remote jobs like data entry or data enrichment. If that all is working on a large scale, this will improve the life of whole communities, including better sanitation, increased health, less hunger and a reduced number of children in families (which slows overpopulation).

The possibly increased standard of living is the same for underprivileged people everywhere. A disabled person who can work on a computer but is not so mobile thrives with actual remote work options.

Better Than Development Aid

Nothing bad about good development aid! It saved an amazing number of lives and helps the people who are mostly unblamable for their situation. And it is old news that education is the key for helping developing regions. But a sustainable development starts only if there is enough work.

It is not the best solution for the local people, to bring them work through the big enterprises, with was common for production work in eastern Europe and China, moved through India and looks for its luck now in Indonesia and the Phillipines.

Much better for every country is, to enable a diverse and strong economy. This works not only with international teams, where workers of developing countries are part of the team, it works mostly through the huge number of better trained and experienced young people who will start new endeavours by their own. Remote work can be more sustainable than development aid in this way!

That all is not naturally given, so a stable, democratic political framework is important. An affordable, unrestricted access to an uncensored internet is crucial. A government, which thinks it is better to keep the people stupid, will not help itself in the long run, because a strong, independent economy is the better choice everytime.

Summing Up

Remote work creates exactly the opportunities, which were missing in the past. It gives well-paid work to so many disadvantaged groups of job seekers. Disabled, underprivileged, formerly undereducated, part-time, young mom, rural or remote living and relative caring people have much more possibilities these days. The worldwide inequality between poor and rich countries, between metropolitan and rural areas and between high and low educated people will be lowered dramatically by remote work!

Other opinions? Interesting additions? You know similar initiatives like the above mentioned? Please write that in the comments!

Want to be part of the movement? Want to do something good – better than development aid? Please contact me via the contact page.

What Remote Work is Doing with You

Remote work has so many benefits. Did you know that remote work is so much healthier for you than office work? Let’s discuss the influence what remote work has on your body and soul.

Less stress

Not having the daily commute saves not only a lot of time and money, but also a lot of stress. Many studies are showing that commuting makes you nerveless, groggily and even fat. Doctors are diagnosing sleeplessness, stomach troubles, back pain, overweight, mental illness and frequent infectious disease more often at commuters than non-commuters.

The second point what reduces your stress is the absence of the cubicles. This big open offices with their constant loudness harms you. It is clear that it distracts you from work, but it affects your health in fact. Also the distraction can increase your stress level, especially when you have a deadline.

More motivation

You have certainly heard about good stress and bad stress. I can work more than 12 hours a day and feel happy and not stressed, if it is the right work. With ‘right’ I am talking about encouraging, self-reliant and meaningful tasks. The setup of remote work creates self-guided work and freedom by itself. That means, you are more or less free to switch tasks and projects and also the time to accomplish the work. And exactly that is the reason why most remote workers are more motivated than their office peers.

More time and flexibility for sport and healthy meals

Without commuting you have more time available and with above mentioned time management by your own you have more flexibility for exercise. The other big point for our health is our nutrition. Is your cantine also packed with greasy dishes? If you work from home, you can cook your lunch with the ingredients you like. That both is the reason why remote work is healthier than onsite work.

Risk of isolation

The biggest danger for remote workers is the risk of isolation. This loniness can lead into depression as worst case. It is very important to have hobbies, which pulls you away from your laptop. This can be everything what is not including to watch on an electronic screen, be it art, playing an instrument or any kind of sport.

If you live alone, it is particular important to meet other ‘real’ people on a regular basis. You can combine that with a hobby, go regularly to the local store or simply feed the ducks at you next park.

Risk of to less exercise

If you don’t have to leave your home for work and have no dog or other responsibility like bringing kids to school, make sure you are leaving your home on a daily basis, even at bad weather! Be it for a walk, to get lunch or for one of the points mentioned above.

If you work at an office, you have to go there and have to walk normally between different offices, meeting rooms and the cantine. Home office workers have much less exercise, so please make sure you are compensating that with some other action.

Do you agree or disagree? Did I miss an important point? Please let us know at the comments!

Why Remote Work has Not Exploded yet

All the requirements are given since several years. The hardware with phone, internet, video chat and collaboration software is ready since years and the work, which is possible to accomplish remotely is there since decades.

So, why is remote work still niche instead of normal?

1. Fear of managers

Liz Ryan wrote a great article for Forbes this March: The Real Reason You’re Not Allowed To Work From Home.

The best statement of the post is: “The real reason you’re not allowed to work from home is that managers at all levels are fearful of change and especially fearful of change that requires them to step out of their comfort zone.”

She explains further, that fearful management is the key problem in organisations. To not allow staff to work from home is one action that exposes this fear. The managers are often talking of trusting people, but who’s actions are reflecting that? I know middle manager which even fuel the rumors that the remote working collegues are not really working at home.

2. Missing leadership skills

So, the first major blocking point is the managers fear and their trustless behaviour. The second point is the need to rate team members with looking at the work results instead of counting hours at work which is indeed much easier. This type of measurement needs more time and knowledge, what the managers do not want or even are not able to spend.

Commonly that worker, who made technically a good job and was nice to his boss, will be promoted as team leader in the companies I attended so far. That lack of leadership skills is a big problem, but it is logical if the ability to lead is no part of managers selection process.

Key solution: Select managers with good leadership skills and train them on managing remote teams!

3. Companies struggle with organizational changes

All companies I know, are struggling hard with organizational changes. And it is no surprise that it is even harder if the company is big. But also companies with a few dozens employees and a few years in the market have lots of written rules and processes and many unwritten ones in addition.

It is easy for workers to follow these rules and it gives them security even if the rule is stupid. After realising that, the company will start an organizational project to fix that glitch – enabling remote work is only one example of many. The main problem of such projects (next to the workers fear of change) is, that always the operational / customer projects are winning over the strategic ones in the everyday competition about resources.

We have many organizational projects in our 780-people-middle-sized company right now, because lots of processes should be adjusted, after the company tripled in the last 10 years. As the head of project management I’m involved into a lot of them and believe me – you need month or years to change even smallest things in a middle-sized company.

Is the change coming nonetheless?

My hope is, that the situation will change when more millennials are reaching C-level positions. The remote work possibilities seams to be much better at startups – probably because of the younger executives. The risk with millennials climbing the corporate ladder at bigger companies is, that they have learned the ‘benefits’ of onsite working and collecting teams in cubicals from their mentors.

But the circumstances for the big companies are changing recently, too. Years before, there were only the remote work benefits of saved money on offices and more productive employees. Now they have to deal with exploding housing prices in every metropolitan area worldwide.

What I am experiencing in southern Germany, where we have a very low unemployment rate, is, that so many vacant jobs cannot be staffed over month. This huge financial loss due to open positions and the cost of recruiting would justify every effort into remote working. Even with this highly different employment situations in Europe, the workforce is not so flexible to bring enough workers to my region.

Short example: the district office hold a small job fair in my next town Lindau 4 days ago. Attendees were representatives of 13 local companies and only 30 (!) students of two German universities.

Exploding cost of living in cities and skill shortage will drive the movement to remote work drastically. A major factor of success of companies is already the adaptability to the future of work!

What do you think? Are there other reasons? Let us know in the comment section below!