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.

 

Top 10 Take Aways from the 2013 Silicon Valley PRSA Future of PR Panel

Last night I attended the Silicon Valley Public Relations Society of America’s “Future of PR” networking and panel event at the Four Seasons Hotel in East Palo Alto, California.

Panelists and audience members ended up speaking mostly about modern PR, as opposed to the future of the profession.

They highlighted the importance of creating content with entertainment value that is interesting to a more general audience than an organization’s specific industry.

Also, great PR people need to add business value and when driving a campaign, consider the gamut of tools from videos to events.

The panelists were Andy Getsey, Co-Founder & CEO Agency Atomic, Kelly McGinnis, Vice President, Communications at Dell, David Swain, Director of Technical Communications, Facebook and Burghadt Tenderich, Associate Professor of the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. The panel was moderated by Steve Barrett, Editor-in-chief, PRWeek.

New Silicon Valley PRSA President David McCulloch, a Director at Cisco, also added a few comments.

Here are my 10 top take-aways from the event:

1.  When measuring PR campaign results, showing strategic outcomes is better than showing number of hits, views or clicks. The strategic people are more successful. – Tenderich

2. To be respected and valued, a PR manager needs to have a seat in the board room and add business value.  -McGinnis

3.  Attendees and members were surveyed and understanding influencers is top of mind. –PRSA president

4. Facebook places a lot of emphasize on PR. We have a lot of PR agencies but only one ad agency. -Swain

5. Companies have turned into media companies. I like when someone links to Dell’s news material.  That shows success. Sometimes your news content has nothing to do with your company and that’s fine. -McGinnis

6. The only proper way to measure a PR campaign is pre and post surveys. This is expensive -Tenderich

7. PR people need to be bold and have a seat at the branding table. I like to work on the corporate side because I can stay close to the action. -McGinnis

8. Attitude is more important than skill. You have to have the mind set to stretch beyond in PR. -McGinnis

9. It is sad that we need to show analytics results to prove the worth of PR. -Getsey

10. Facebook’s plan is to hire communications people, empower them and then scale projects. –Swain.

For more information about Silicon Valley PRSA news and events, visit http://www.prsasiliconvalley.org/

Additionally, I’m a director with PRSA’s “sister” organization, the Silicon Valley International Association of Business Communicators and for information about our news and upcoming events, visit http://sv.iabc.com/

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