Reflections on 15 Years of Remote Work

It has come a long way—and it's not going back.

I’m old enough to remember the arrival of the Web. I remember early browsers, websites, search engines, ISPs, and e-mail clients. In the late 1990s, meetings started to come online. Webex, Skype, and Radmin promised to end superfluous travel–or at least minimize it. I remember being amazed at my ability to control a computer remotely. In New Jersey, I once logged into a remote session in Seattle to get to a computer in Pennsylvania.

These days, screen-sharing tools abound. I’m a big fan of join.me. I love how up to 50 people can concurrently edit a document with Google Docs. Trust me. I could go on.

But don’t think for a minute that remote work is confined to screen sharing. For example, via iCloud, you can easily locate your missing iPhone, iPad, or MacBook. You can even erase its contents or “wipe it” if it’s stolen, along with the script to an unreleased Breaking Bad episode. Just set it up yourself. No need for IT to do it for you. You surely are not happy about the theft or loss, but at least you can minimize the damage.

A New Default Mind-Set

For an increasingly tech-savvy workforce, the default mind-set has changed. We used to ask, “Can that be done remotely?” Now, many of us wonder out loud, “Why can’t that be done remotely?” And we don’t believe any answer that starts with no.

Now employees wonder, Why can’t that be done remotely?

Are there risks associated with BYOD and other nascent technologies? Of course. That’s a given. (To learn more about addressing the challenges posed by BYOD, register for a VMware webinar on the topic here.) Forget potential security breaches for a moment. There are still plenty of human challenges to overcome, as my friend Terri Griffith points out. Griffith describes an organization that believed that it was facing an issue related to lack of communication. In point of fact, the issue had more to do with the youth of the partner firm. Those types of things are hard to discover via screen-sharing applications.

Simon Says: The Remote Genie Is Out of the Bottle

Some bells you can’t unring. Remote work is one of them. While coworking is on the rise, millions of people like me are extremely productive without ever setting foot in a proper office. And that’s not changing anytime soon.

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While the words and opinions in this post are my own, VMware has compensated me to write it.

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