I’ve Been A Remote Worker for 20 Years: Here’s A Prediction

It’s interesting to hear everyone go ga ga over doing a Zoom business meeting or cocktail party. To me online meetings are no big deal and after many meetings from my home office for the past 20 years, I’d rather just make a phone call. People are inviting me to meet via Zoom as if it’s super special or a game or something. I appreciate it but it’s not special or fun to me. It’s business as usual. I’m not going to glamorize it. And be careful what you talk about using the free services. Your security may not be so good unless you pay for a pro version.

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However, regarding birthday celebrations, yes, it is a nice gesture to see everyone’s faces on the screen. That’s different and is nice if you live in different countries or states. I would rather see the “drive by parades” instead if your buddies are close enough to do that.

I’ve been a remote worker both for IBM and for myself for the most part since 2000 when my son was born. He is finishing up his freshman year at University of California Berkeley right now. He turns 20 this year. He’s been around as long as I’ve been a remote worker!

I say I worked from home “for the most part” because when I was West region PR manager for  IBM I had a sweet office in Mountain View, which I think is now owned by Google, as well as a guest office at IBM Almaden Research Center. But I mainly worked at home. And by the way my son went to daycare while I did that. It would have been a bit dangerous for him to wander around the house as a baby or toddler during my super busy IBM days.  (Remote work parents of toddlers: be careful.)

Here’s my prediction about what’s going to happen: in the next 18 months we will all need to be able to turn on and off remote work. I don’t believe everyone will “turn remote” permanently though. I think schools will still be around. Offices and work buildings will still be around. So don’t get rid of your printer-copiers, desks or chairs.

After listening to numerous interviews with medical doctors and data scientists from places including Columbia and UC Berkeley, I have a strong opinion about what might happen.  I believe that almost all businesses will have both an in person and remote work option.

During the next year people will go back to school and to the office. But at some point, they will told to go back home. For example, they could go back to school and work in August but be called back home for a few months in December or February. These are made up months: the exact day will depend on what happens with the COVID-19 curve. But a UC Berkeley PhD said today during an online teleconference that COVID cases could very well start to increase again during flu season: that’s when people may be called home again.

Whether students and workers go out or go home will depend on if people are getting sick from something that isn’t very treatable. So if the COVID-19 numbers go up we go home. They go down, we go to the office. Therefore my prediction is that we’ll have this back and forth lifestyle for at least one and a half years. Then maybe there will be a vaccine and things might go back to normal again.

What problems will occur? This will put more stress on college students who go to schools far away from their parents’ homes. They have to decide, will they stay at their college apartment when they get called back to online school or move out and go to mom and dad’s? Will landlords give students a break if they move out back home for three months? One of more vocal parents from the UC Berkeley Cal Parents Discussion Group Facebook page suggested simply asking landlords to put a special clause into the leases. If you move out, maybe you can get a break that month.

Regarding K-12, poorer kids will need to get laptops and WiFi supplied to them. One school district representative from New York said just this week that around 20% of their K-12 school children don’t have technology or bandwidth at home for online learning. And they have figured out how to solve about 10 percent of this problem but are working on the rest of it. Business, schools and communities: let’s work on solving this digital divide problem as a team.

My advice is simple: go with the flow and stay flexible. Flexibility is the name of the game moving forward. But wait, there’s more.

Help someone and you will get a favor back at some point: I’ve already experienced that. I bought hand sanitizer for a stranger and got a much needed essential item literally gifted to me soon after.

Try to stay healthy because if you get sick you will recover faster.

Good luck and happy online meetings everyone. I wish you all long lives with much toilet paper. And sorry if I missed your fun Zoom party. It reminds me too much of work.

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Michelle McIntyre is the founder of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC, a tech PR consulting firm in Saratoga, Calif. She’s an IBM vet and also a future of work influencer. Follow her @FromMichelle on Twitter.

 

MMC PR Blog — The Secret to Phenomenal PR Results

The definition of public relations is “changing someone’s mind.”  This is my specialty and it’s what we do at my new consulting firm, MMC high tech public relations.

I convince people to change their ways or think differently. The main way I do this is on a large scale, through media outlets example. This, of course, is called press, media or influencer relations.

One of my business mentors said something profound that always stuck with me. It’s that great PR is based on logic.

How do you change people’s minds? How do you get great press? You develop relationships with your audience, understand their attitudes and communicate your message in a way that they understand and that has impact.

This is just logic, right? I happen to have a journalism degree and a major in public relations with more than two decades of experience in this area, having spent 16 years at IBM and at several public relations agencies. But if you had the right mindset you could become a great PR pro without all of this experience

A journalist needs to write timely and interesting stories and is often on tight deadlines. Ask yourself. How can what I’m doing, or saying fit into what they are writing about?

For example, phablets are hot right now according to several top IT media outlets including CNET. Do you have a new solution for phablets?  Can you speak intelligently about this topic so that you might be quoted in a story?

By the way, a phablet is a combo phone and tablet. You can think of it as a giant smartphone or a smaller tablet, smaller than an iPad.

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One example of a PR tactic is being able to talk about how phablets are changing the workplace. They somehow need to be related to one of your offerings of course. If your solution has nothing to do with mobile computing, you probably want to try something different.

The secret to phenomenal PR is creating awesome messages and materials that contain a simple thought or idea.  Announcing new “mission critical software to solve your financial business problems” isn’t newsworthy or interesting to a journalist unless it has a super interesting twist like, “Oh by the way, Apple and IBM merged and this is the first product result of the pairing.”  That type of “Wow” news doesn’t need a ton of creativity to get press coverage.

The idea you tie to your PR campaign can be linked to industry trends, for example, here are two from a December 7, 2012 Forbes article by Todd Woody.

  • “Mobile Device Battles Mobile devices will pass PCs to be most common Web access tools. By 2015, over 80% of handsets in mature markets will be smart phones.”
  • “Personal Cloud: The cloud will be center of digital lives, for apps, content and preferences. Sync across devices. Services become more important; devices become less important.”

Ask yourself, what are you doing that relates to personal cloud or mobile devices surpassing PCs to be the most common web tools?  Can you help a journalist with a story on cloud or mobile? There is much more to it as well but at a high level, PR isn’t that complicated.

Link what your company is doing to something that people actually care about and test it out on someone who is not in the tech business. If they find it interesting, then you are on your way to a phenomenal PR campaign.And then hire someone who can get the message out and develop relationships for you in a quality way.
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