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Web Worker Daily, telecommuters and Convergence September 6, 2006

Posted by Tom in Community, Innovation, Opinion, Technology, Workforce.

Labor day saw the launch of Web Worker Daily, a venture by Om Malik (formerly of Business 2.0). Malik states his goal:

The new virtual worker – equipped with a laptop, a broadband connection, a mobile phone and a desire to live a sockless lifestyle. Brent Simmons and Nick Bradbury know what I am talking about. Whether it is chasing your own dream, or part of the distributed team, the meaning of work is changing. It is for many of us who might work for say Yahoo or a Google, and use EVDO cards to stay connected, working as we ride the Caltrain.

With this change, come other realities. On a more personal level, deciding when to switch between personal and work time has been a challenge. Being productive when the easy chair beckons can prove to be a devil’s choice. Interaction, or the lack there of, with others is a constant challenge. How do you fight off the cabin fever?

What are the best tools and what is the right gear to stay in touch with your team? How do you motivate your distributed teams when you are all dispersed all over the planet? The answers for these questions are hard to come by, and it was precisely for these reasons, we are introducing a new group weblog/community, Web Worker Daily.

Quite a concept. As a brand-new telecommuter (I, too, started up this phase of my life on Labor Day), I find the idea of telecommuting novel yet somewhat scary. I’m not an extrovert by nature, but I think all people have some need for direct human contact. I also wonder about the ideal tools to accomplish my work when I’m 200 miles away from my peers. And I hope my new community can offer both.

There’s a larger workforce and economic development imperative to addressing the world of telecommuters. More and more people are, as they say, “Going Bedouin.” The Gallup Poll says that 1 in 3 Americans have telecommuted to some degree. CCH HR Management indicates that two percent of Americans telecommute on a full-time basis…but many more could if they wanted to.

Whoa. Two percent of 298,444,215 (the July ’06 population estimate from the CIA, who I suspect has a better grasp on these issues than I) is 5,968,884.

Nearly six million people. All looking for a place to nest, a place to learn, a place to live, a place to plug in. This is a radically different view of economic development than the world of industrial parks. Infrastructure will relate more to quality of life than cargo load capacity of highways and rail lines. With rapidly dropping costs in telecommunications infrastructure due to wireless communications, this is an economic development game that nearly every community can engage in

So how do we attract telecommuters to our cities, to shop in our grocery stores, buy our gas and (of course) drink our coffee? I think that’s where Web Worker Daily and other such blogs fit in – giving us a window into the world of telecommuting to learn what they like and don’t like…an organic focus group, if you will. We all have a lot to learn about this workforce, and I’ll do my part to share my experiences going forward.



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