The History of Remote Work

A quick look back before we zoom too far into the future

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Thanks to all the new subscribers - especially Arthur, Cara, and Nish!

Congratulations on making it through the first two weeks of January 2021.

I started the year positively and published Four Work Trends Set to Boom.

In uncertain times, it reflects my hope that we will see more opportunities for earning and learning, more equity for workers, and a booming creator economy. 

The History of Remote Work

What percentage of working adults in the UK will 'work from home exclusively' in July 2021?

What would your best guess be?

About 75% of this group of Superforecasters say more than 10% but less than 20% (the red line in the graph below)

It’s hard to predict exactly what will happen to the workforce this year. Before we Zoom too far ahead into the future, sometimes it’s useful to look back...

This might surprise some people, but with the emergence of capitalism in Britain from the 1600s to the mid-19th century,

work did not take place in factories but in people’s houses.

Workers made dresses, shoes, and matchboxes in their kitchens or bedrooms

Whatever its future, Remote Work is not such a new phenomenon.

“We tend to overestimate the effect of the technology in the short run and underestimate for the long run” Roy Amara

Our predictions tend to be made through foggy Zoom goggles, constrained by the Gregorian calendar and tossed about by one thousand randomly swirling factors.

Here’s a fun look back at looking forward, with some predictions from people in 1921 who were asked what will happen in 2021? 

It’s hard to believe one hundred years ago, predictions included,

📺 ’streaming entertainment into our homes’

🚗 ‘electricity powers our wheels’

📚 ‘books will read to us’

No Meetings, No Deadlines, No Full-Time Employees

From the history of remote work, to a future of work scenario for some.

In 2011, Sahil Lavingia started Gumroad, a platform for creators to sell their work. Today it’s growing fast with revenues of $11m with its creators earning over $175m.

In No Meetings, No Deadlines, No Full-Time Employees, Sahil gives his honest perspectives on how Gumroad approach work. 

If we include everyone who works on Gumroad, it’s 25.

If we include full-time employees, it’s none. Not even me.

We have no meetings, and no deadlines either.

This won't work for every organisation, but this way of thinking might be helpful.

Blockchain Workforce

I caught up with LaborX in Australia, a platform where freelancers earn crypto, growing quickly with over 500 gigs.

I published my research on the impact of Blockchain on work in early 2018, with the Blockchain Research Institute.  There have been lots of exciting developments since then, on self-sovereign identity, verifiable digital work credentials and work platforms. I will be sharing more details in future articles here. As part of the research, I imagined a blockchain version of Upwork – with lower transaction costs, more trust, and better worker equity.  Getting paid in Bitcoin is great when it’s value doubles every few weeks, but it’s volatility doesn’t help pay the rent. So the LaborX team built a stable coin linked to the Aussie dollar too.  Impressive stuff.

If you would like to find out more about my blockchain research, check out this video introduction by Don Tapscott - the best-selling author of ‘Wikinomics’ and ‘Blockchain Revolution’, and ranked as 2nd most influential Management Thinker.

📓 Reply to this email if you would like a PDF copy of my research report.

Best People Analytics Resources of 2020

HR is rapidly changing with an influx of techies, behavioural scientists, and entrepreneurs.

I see two tiers of HR functions in the Digital Covid Age, with those that embrace People Analytics sprinting ahead and solving business challenges.

From improving innovation in virtual teams using network analysis, to better sales productivity and capturing the voice of the employee.

David Green has curated this excellent series of the best posts on People Analytics from 2020.

Scribe Spotlight

✍️ Highlighting the best future-of-work newsletter writers

Laetitia@Work is written by Laetitia Vitaud, and recommended reading for Workforce Futurists. 

In her own words,

The future of work, with a feminist perspective.

I have been a fan of Laetitia’s writing for many years, and would suggest as starting points,

Future of Work: 12 books I read in 2020, Future of Work:7 Trends for 2021 and Age is Malleable.

Should you subscribe to this newsletter? Bien sûr!

Tweet Board

For those on twitter, here are my Top 10 Tweets of 2020 and a list to follow

👋 Come by and say hello @AndySpence

Clocking Off

Thanks for reading - if there was something of interest or useful, then please ‘like’, subscribe and spread the word!

Image published by Echte Wagner HT @JonErlichman