A wander through history today with apologies to those looking for punchy bullets.
The Web turns 20 today. Frickin' amazing if you ask me. My 10-year old wonders out loud what we all did before the Internet (by which he means the browser-based world of Club Penguin, Google, Yahoo!, and YouTube). And for the life of me, I can't remember, either.
How did we collaborate? Well, I remember that I wrote lots of letters to friends to stay in touch and was thrilled when someone wrote back (it was too expensive to make long-distance phone calls). My 7th grade buddies and I also wrote away to Pennzoil and STP to ask for stickers to put on our notebooks. I also spent a lot of time in the library (any library anywhere) and in book stores looking for books, magazines, research papers, whatever.
And for sharing information? Copies, copies, copies. I was an early and big fan of the mimeograph machine, stinky beast though it was. We used to sneak into the Physics office in college to get extra blanks in case we messed up when making copies for a seminar. And you had to get there early on seminar day to command a slot in the mimeograph line. (It was a blessed breakthrough when the Xerox machine was installed -- and only a dime a copy!)
And for creating, editing, co-authoring? It was typewriters, paper, and purple pens, folks. And pen and ink for graphics. Ugly stuff, but amazingly it worked. It took days or weeks do a turnaround, though.
It was shocking to me anyway that we already have 34 million Americans working at least occasionally from home today. And that's with broadband to only 56% of US homes. But that's what the data say. And with our Consumer Technographics survey of 61,033 US and Canadian consumers, you can be confident that the numbers are accurate.
But it's even more surprising to run the numbers forward to 2016 and see how many Americans will work from home then: 63 million! We just published our US Telecommuting forecast that shows how an additional 29 million telecommuters will enter the remote workforce. What's going on?
First, broadband pipes to the home, work laptops, and secure VPNs bring the tools that most information workers need right to the kitchen table or bedroom office. And collaboration tools like instant messaging, Web conferencing, team sites, and desktop video conferencing make it ever-easier to stay in touch and contribute to the project.
Second, employees rightfully point out that they will save time in commuting and can get more done for their employers with that time. The benefits of work flexibility and leaving gas in the tank are also real.