Fire Extinguisher Emergency

Let’s finish off 2017 by continuing the “Suitable Work Type” post series. It’s time to talk about a few work types that don’t make sense to do remotely. At least not yet.

I know, it’s a bit strange to see a post on a remote-work blog talking about this. But when advancing a big change, such as a major shift in how many jobs are done, one must expect opposition. Especially when said shift threatens a lot of jobs (including that of the opposition).

I’ve already had people throw out counterarguments like:
“How will police do their jobs, huh?”
“You can’t do ER work remotely, so that means the whole thing’s wrong!”

To a large degree, these arguments are true. For now. They just don’t consider the future perspective.

I’m writing this post to illustrate how true they are, if there’s any progress toward making them remote-friendly, and why this doesn’t disprove the larger telecommuting shift.

Identifying Non-Suitable Work Categories

A reminder: I’m grouping the following into categories. These are segments of the workforce, with many specific jobs under their umbrella. Easier to envision them this way.

Most (but not all) of these jobs we cannot yet do remotely. Not without severely low efficiency, and/or serious risk to the larger populace.

I want to stress something before I continue: These jobs are important.

They help us build & sustain critical parts of our economy. In no way does my listing them here minimize their necessity.

That said, let’s take a look at the criteria.

The Criteria (Again) for Remote Work Suitability

I’ll use the same set of criteria as the last post.

  1. Primary Role – Where is this role most effective?
  2. Job Location vs. Customer Location
  3. Do the daily duties require physical interaction?
  4. Which communication methods are commonly used?
  5. What is the ideal communication method for this job?
  6. What output does the job generate, and where does it go?

Work Type 1: Blue-Collar/Trades

This is a blanket term for many constructive roles (literally) – plumbing, electrical, residential/commercial construction, etc.

  1. PRIMARY ROLE – Tradespeople are most effective at a worksite. This can be a new construction location, a home in need of repair, and so on.
  2. LOCATION – The customer may not necessarily be at the job location. For instance, commercial developers in one city paying workers to wire a building under construction the next city over.
  3. DUTIES REQUIRE PHYSICAL INTERACTION – Yes, definitely. Pipes can’t lay themselves (yet), buildings can’t build themselves (yet).
  4. COMMUNICATION METHODS – The trades can use any communication they want. My limited experience has told me that many workers like phone calls, texting, and conference calls. All methods they can use while on-site.
  5. IDEAL COMMUNICATION – At this point, I’d have to say texting is ideal. It doesn’t force a worker to stop what they’re doing, and they can keep in touch with whomever they need to.
  6. OUTPUT & WHERE – The trades produce some of the most tangible output possible. New homes, office buildings, city infrastructure, sewage & electrical systems, and much more.

Remote Work in such a field is not possible. At least not entirely. Instead, we have a lateral change occurring in the trades…automation! Automation is making a lot of headway in terms of construction. Witness robots building houses!

A Robot Can Print This $64,000 House in as Little as Eight Hours – Futurism

3D Printed House

Photo courtesy of Futurism.com.

 

(The technology is still a bit preliminary. That will change, fast.)

Work Type 2: Medical (in Part)

Another huge blanket term, covering everyone from orderlies to cardiac surgeons.

Ambulance

Photo by Benjamin Voros on Unsplash

 

  1. PRIMARY ROLE – The site of patient injury.
  2. LOCATION – There are three primary locations for medical professionals: the Hospital, the Injury Site, and the Patient Home.
  3. DUTIES REQUIRE PHYSICAL INTERACTION – Yes, for almost all instances.
  4. COMMUNICATION METHODS – Direct person-to-person, by phone, through electronic records, some email, texting.
  5. IDEAL COMMUNICATION – I’m going to say a combination of person-to-person and electronic records here. Phone is fastest, but it’s also the most subject to misunderstanding. How clear can you be on the phone if your family member/friend is bleeding?
  6. OUTPUT & WHERE – Medical professionals output better patient health.

Since the medical work type must work in so many capacities, Remote Work is largely impossible. However, some aspects of it CAN work remotely.

For example, HealthTap is developing technology capable of replacing a doctor visit/consultation. One very large aspect of the entire medical profession…done from anywhere.

Think of how this would benefit Doctors Without Borders. They could estimate where to send the most resources based on ground-level experience, all gathered before anyone begins travel. Mission successes would jump, resource allocation efficiency improves, and most importantly, more people stay healthy.

Work Type 3: Emergency Response

These are the people working in between things like the medical and legal industries. Firefighters, EMTs, Search & Rescue, and so on.

Fire Department

Photo by Mike Anderson on Unsplash

 

  1. PRIMARY ROLE – The site of emergency.
  2. LOCATION – Anywhere people are injured, lost, or in danger. Any place property is damaged.
  3. DUTIES REQUIRE PHYSICAL INTERACTION – In most cases, yes. Visual assessment and physical response are key.
  4. COMMUNICATION METHODS – Any & all available. These professions even have their own communication channels (e.g. specific radio bands, point-to-point calls).
  5. IDEAL COMMUNICATION – The profession’s own communication channels work best. That’s why they developed them!
  6. OUTPUT & WHERE – This work type outputs mitigated emergencies. Injured people treated, lost people found, property preserved, fires put out.

There’s too much travel for this work type to accomplish 100% remotely. However, we’re already replacing aspects of it with automation.

Self-driving vehicles help with the ambulance question. We don’t yet have machines which can do EMT work in the back of an ambulance…but we will automate the driver’s role very shortly. Search & Rescue? Launch drones! It’s not as good as an expert tracker’s eye, but it’s much more efficient than mobilizing dozens of people when seconds count.

Work Type 4: Law Enforcement

This work type primarily covers police and related bureaus (e.g. federal investigators). To a lesser degree it also covers judges.

Police Officer

For some reason I just like this photo. Maybe it’s because he isn’t rushed or angry or under threat. He’s just out there doing his job. Photo by Jordan Andrews on Unsplash

  1. PRIMARY ROLE – Law enforcement does their job best when they’re able to interact with colleagues and suspects.
  2. LOCATION – One important point here. Law enforcement’s “customer” is actually the citizen. Their job is to protect & serve citizens, by enforcing laws among them. Thus their job location is best characterized as “in the field.”
  3. DUTIES REQUIRE PHYSICAL INTERACTION – Yes. Some police departments insulate themselves from the populace; this is not only wrong, it’s inefficient. It breeds distrust among citizens and an authoritarian attitude among officers.
  4. COMMUNICATION METHODS – Police generally use radios, electronic records, phone calls, and email.
  5. IDEAL COMMUNICATION – I would lean more toward electronic records as best. I don’t know if you’ve ever listened to 911 call recordings or police dispatch calls, but the audio quality (not to mention vocal timbre) is terrible!
  6. OUTPUT & WHERE – Law Enforcement’s best output is a safe environment for citizens. When children can play outside without their parents fearing the worst.

What’s the Remote Work future for law enforcement? Robots! We already have robots which can monitor locations, provide a ‘presence’ to deter crime, and process criminals. They aren’t perfect. But nothing is in early stages.

For now though, we don’t have robots that can chase down a suspect or conduct questioning. Law enforcement is not Remote Work-suitable just yet.

The Future: Automation Can Replace At Least Some of These

As I pointed out above, automation looms large for many work types. Overall I believe this is a good thing; jobs such as firefighting and construction take a heavy toll on workers’ bodies. Any form of lightening that load should be employed.

Does that mean fewer jobs (even remote ones) for individuals in these work types? To a small degree, yes. But we will always need people to manage the drones, maintain the equipment, program them, fix mistakes…

Not everything will be remote work. But more of it will shift as automation grows. Which can actually help Remote-Enable more professions!

I’ll dedicate more posts to automation later. It’s a meaty topic; a bunch of professions deserve an address from its perspective.

For now, thanks for reading, and Happy Holidays!

What’s your perspective on these work types Remote-Enabling in the future?

Remote Work Web Development

You can do entire types of work remotely. More types than you might suspect.

This is the first of a post series, talking about which jobs/job types are best (and worst) suited for remote work. I’m writing it for two explicit audiences:

  1. Those who’d like ammo in case someone asks, “Well if telecommuting’s so great, how come only programmers do it?”
  2. Those who hear about Remote Work and think, “There’s no way you could do X Job remotely.”

If you think remote work is only good for contracted programmers, this post should prove enlightening. I’ve met many different people who work remotely, in a variety of roles…all the way up to CEO!

Maybe I’ll address the “remote CEO” question later. For now though, let’s dig into our definitions. In order to determine if a work type is indeed suitable for Remote Work, we’ll need criteria. Factors which, if they all add up, mean the job is not location-based. Here are those factors.

The Criteria for Remote Work Suitability

After some research and pondering, I devised these criteria for our use. They cover critical work functions, interactions, and goals. They are also broad enough that they apply to most work types without special circumstances (e.g., medical, rural industry).

  1. Primary Role—Where is it most effective?
  2. Job Location vs. Customer Location
  3. Do the daily duties require physical interaction?
  4. Which communication methods are commonly used?
  5. What is the ideal communication method for this job?
  6. What output does the job generate, and where does it go?

I’ve dissected 6 common work types using these criteria, and found all of them are suitable for remote work. In fact, none require a physical office at all!

I hope at least one of these surprises you. I’m using standard industry names for easy understanding.

Working Remotely from Anywhere

Work Type 1: Web Development

  1. PRIMARY ROLE — Wherever the developer is most productive.
  2. LOCATION — Customer location can be “anywhere.” Job location is therefore location-independent.
  3. DUTIES REQUIRE PHYSICAL INTERACTION — No. Email, calls, and chat work fine. Especially when dealing with code.
  4. COMMUNICATION METHODS — Email, GitHub, chat, etc.
  5. IDEAL COMMUNICATION — This depends on the client for whom the developer works. Any of the methods from #4 may then work.
  6. OUTPUT & WHERE — Code for apps & websites. This is posted to a server, tested, and released.

From what we can see. nothing about this role requires presence in an office. No surprise that this is one of the largest telecommuting-friendly work roles today.

Work Type 2: Management

  1. PRIMARY ROLE — Directing the workloads of others. You can do it in-office or through other methods, depending on scale & business standards.
  2. LOCATION — “Customers” are split between actual business customers & employees. Either or both can be local or remote.
  3. DUTIES REQUIRE PHYSICAL INTERACTION — Requires interaction, yes. Physical interaction? Again, depends on scale & business structure. But no, physical interaction is not required.
  4. COMMUNICATION METHODS — Phone, email, collaborative editing, yelling across the office, text…all sorts. In fact, some communications were arguably invented for Management to talk with you more!
  5. IDEAL COMMUNICATION — For management, ideal communication is trackable, fast/real-time, and clear. Email & phone win out.
  6. OUTPUT & WHERE — A manager’s output is measured in employee productivity & customer satisfaction.

Should Management stick to the office? They can. Do they have to? No.

Work Type 3: Creative Work

  1. PRIMARY ROLE — The same as a developer…wherever they are most productive.
  2. LOCATION — Customers are usually an employer or client. Job can be wherever they are, or wherever the creative is.
  3. DUTIES REQUIRE PHYSICAL INTERACTION — Daily duties involve focused work: writing copy, designing graphics, etc. They require focus…the opposite of interaction!
  4. COMMUNICATION METHODS — See Management’s #4.
  5. IDEAL COMMUNICATION — I asked a designer friend of mine how he prefers to communicate. He prefers two methods:
    • Email (for as much detail as needed), and
    • Video calls (for getting a good sense of what someone wants).
  6. OUTPUT & WHERE — Output is creative content. This normally goes into a website, ad, or marketing campaign.

Like web developers, nothing in creative work requires an office. In fact, many find offices stifling. Too much noise, not enough focus time.

Work Type 4: Sales

  1. PRIMARY ROLE — Salespeople sell. Thus they are most effective where the customer is most receptive. That could be in a store, on a website, or over a phone.
  2. LOCATION — See #1.
  3. DUTIES REQUIRE PHYSICAL INTERACTION — Some sales processes do require personal interaction…negotiating deals, for instance. But this is changing as more people shop online.
  4. COMMUNICATION METHODS — Salespeople rely on techniques & rapport. In the past they built both with speaking & learning about customer needs. Such skills are still useful…and even better, you can use many of the same techniques online.
  5. IDEAL COMMUNICATION — So much business occurs online that I’d say the ideal sales communication method is now the written word. That means email, webpages, chat, texting.
  6. OUTPUT & WHERE — You can measure sales output in customer purchases, reviews, repeat sales, & so on. Doing sales remotely actually makes all of these easier to track.

Sales is very audience-specific. Depending on yours, your salespeople could do very well telecommuting.

Work Type 5: Information Technology/IT

  1. PRIMARY ROLE — IT is a broad term, but I’ll go with a general goal of “maintaining IT systems within the business.” This is most effective from a place where the IT professional can access said systems efficiently.
  2. LOCATION — Customer is the employer or client (they’re the ones paying for the technology!). Location could be where the system is, if remote access is not possible. Bust that’s becoming a tiny minority. Remote access is commonplace.
  3. DUTIES REQUIRE PHYSICAL INTERACTION — Duties require interaction with the system more frequently than with people. Some IT pros prefer not interacting with people at all!
  4. COMMUNICATION METHODS — Like web developers, IT pros use almost every communication method out there.
  5. IDEAL COMMUNICATION — Based off my own IT friends, I’d say online chat has become the ideal method. Slack, Skype/Teams, etc. It’s real-time, easy to follow, and keeps logs.
  6. OUTPUT & WHERE — Output is a fully-functional IT system. Done right, you’re just doing regular checks & maintenance in between upgrades.

We’ve all breathed a sigh of relief when “the IT guys” show up to fix our problem. Nowadays though, they don’t have to physically go anywhere.

Work Type 6: Customer Service

  1. PRIMARY ROLE — Since Customer Service must address customer issues, they are most effective when dealing with the customers where THEY (the customers) want to be.
  2. LOCATION — Customers can be anywhere. Customer Service jobs must at least have the capability to help them anywhere.
  3. DUTIES REQUIRE PHYSICAL INTERACTION — A definite no. Case in point: Amazon’s Help Center. These CS reps are worldwide, and yet they do a pretty good job of addressing Amazon customers’ issues.
  4. COMMUNICATION METHODS – Customer Service is traditionally done through phone. However, I can’t recall the last time I called one. Instead, I go to a company’s website, and either send them an email, or fire up a chat window.
  5. IDEAL COMMUNICATION — Like IT, chat shines here. Chat works on any device, real-time, with no yelling or trying to figure out what the customer mumbled.
  6. OUTPUT & WHERE — Output is measured in number of satisfied issues & post-CS survey results. All made & recorded online.

Remote Work has given Customer Service a boost. A job search on Indeed showed me that the majority of CS jobs listed said the job was remote.

6 Major Work Types are all Remote Work-friendly. Is Yours?

These are just six types of work. You could also illustrate good Remote Work choices by industry (I’ll do that in a future post). Regardless, we can clearly see that major roles are easily “Remote-Enabled.”

Next time I’ll list some work types NOT suited for Remote Work. At least…not yet.

Is your job among the types listed above? If so, are you working remotely? Why/Why not? Please comment or email me your thoughts.

“If I can’t see you working, how do I know you’re working?”

You’ve heard this mantra from business executives before. It always comes up when employees talk about telecommuting.

Seems kind of silly, doesn’t it? But some execs just won’t budge.

In this post we’ll explain why they don’t. It’s not the reason you might think…and it’s definitely not the reason they give!

What are Execs Really Afraid of With Telecommuting?

This statement, meant to sound like a reasonable rejection of a telecommuter’s working outside the office, actually illustrates a fear. A fear the exec has…a fear which is central to Remote Work objections. A fear that stands in the way of its adoption.

However, it’s not a fear of laziness. That’s what you might think when you hear it. But the exec isn’t worried telecommuters will just slack off and not do any work. (Few white-collar execs assume so little of their employees.)

No, no. This is a deeper fear. A personal one.

The Question of Control…and Losing It

The fear execs have when it comes to Remote Work is actually fear of loss of control.

The belief is that Remote Workers are outside of Management’s reach, and thus the exec cannot direct them. Cannot control their actions. The result? They (the exec) no longer controls that worker’s productivity.

Scared Executive

Of course that’s not true. Remote Workers still need direction for a bunch of job aspects:

  • Overarching business strategy
  • Project oversight
  • Inter-department communication
  • Customer service
  • R & D
  • Marketing objectives
  • Snags in the day-to-day processes

Et cetera.

I think we can safely say that fear of loss of control is unfounded. It has no rational basis (as if most fears ever do!).

But if there’s no rational basis, why does the fear of “I’m losing control” arise at all?

For the answer, think in terms of business models. A business executive is likely older (I’m generalizing)—in their 50s, 60s, etc. Throughout their career they knew only one business model:

  1. You Go To Work
  2. You Do Your Work
  3. You Go Home

They’ve lived within that model, that paradigm their entire professional life.

Enter Remote Work. A business model which moves emphasis away from physically going to a job site. Yet the work still gets done.

To the exec’s mind, this is unnerving. Incompatible. Their emotions activate and start yelling.

“New model! Uncertain! I can’t use the same mindset I always have. Am I obsolete? No! REJECT!”

…and that’s where the fear comes from. Loss of control, not just over their employees, but over their entire business mindset. Remote Work is perceived as a threat.

In a sense I understand the fear. We’re all only human. But even though I understand, I must still point out a major problem. It’s not just a problem for workers wanting to telecommute either…it’s also a problem for all the businesses whose execs are afraid of Remote Work.

This fear expresses itself as a rejection of Remote Work altogether. The exec can’t see themselves in the Remote Work paradigm, which jeopardizes their own position. So they try to stop it. Try to keep their time-worn mindset relevant (and keep their job).

Here’s the problem. Remote Work isn’t going away.

In fact, it’s still growing. According to the Flexjobs report, “2017 State of Telecommuting in the U.S. Employee Workforce,” telecommuting grew by 115% from 2005 to 2015.

If a business’ execs continue to reject it? It’s the business equivalent of paddling into a tidal wave. The BUSINESS is what’s going away, not Remote Work.

Feel the Fear…and Embrace Remote Work Anyway

The cold truth for all executives is: The market values productivity over brand names. It doesn’t care about your fears. It doesn’t care about your business model, no matter how long it’s been around. It only cares about the value you provide your customers.

Here’s a quick example. Let’s say your business and a competitor each have a similar product. Your business refuses to allow Remote Work. But your competitor embraces it.

You pass the traditional operating costs (salary, benefits, R&D, misc. Op-Ex) on to customers via the product’s price. Typical model. Like they used to.

The competitor, having lowered their Op-Ex by granting telecommuting to its workers, is able to lower its total expenses. Let’s say they reduced their office space, and moved most of their IT services to cloud platforms. This allowed them to reduce expenses by 10% – which they use to lower their prices.

Their product is now 10% cheaper than yours. The product is just as good, just as high-value…just more affordable.

Guess which product the market buys.
Guess what happens to your business.

Remote Work Fear

But…I don’t have a good reason not to enable Remote Work, but maybe I can come up with one…

Message to Business Executives: Remote Work is Here to Help. Don’t Be Scared.

Sorry, but your, “if I can’t see them, they’re not working” mindset is directly harmful to the bottom line. Time to change. The world is not waiting.

What can you, the worker, do to make this clear to Management? Show them this post. After you do, please leave a comment on the results. I always like hearing stories from fellow Remote Workers.