Today, many new paths are being created towards financial security and professional accomplishments. The market allows for numerous choices. And the effects are seen throughout society. Certain people love jobs which involve a lot of traveling. Some, on the contrary, prefer to be in an office environment. Others want or need to stay at home. Those in the latter category, however, sometimes dread losing their income or are worried that they will miss out on professional achievements. They may even be concerned that society will look down on them for not working, which happens, perhaps more often than previously thought.
The home office
For those who want to stay at home and keep the income as well as professional satisfaction, a career involving telecommuting is the closest thing to a dream job. It helps cut out both the costs and time of transportation, as well those of lunches, work clothes, and, most of the time, babysitters.
Depending on how the telecommuting job is structured, one might need to work a regular schedule or have the freedom to schedule as they see fit, as long as they meet their deadlines. In the latter case, one could organize their lives in a very effective manner so that they might even be able to, for instance, not have to hire a babysitter for their children. And, even in the event of having to hire one, if they have to keep a regular schedule, for instance, the proximity to their children and the ability to look in on them and the babysitters regularly creates a less stressful and more secure environment for both parent and offspring.
When a deadline nears, though, it does not matter how the work is done, as long as it is of good quality and delivered on time. And, the previously underemployed work resources of the stay at home parents, college students, retirees, and others who might like to take up such careers would make for a very good addition to the modern workforce. There is, of course, the argument that people perform better when under supervision or when part of a team and that staying in touch with team members is important while working on a project. This is not an invalid argument. However, there is much to be said on the matter.
Firstly, it is true that some people work better under supervision and that others also prefer human contact in order to do their jobs well. Yet, when it comes to keeping in touch with teammates for the purposes of collaborating on a project, this is easily done through many different technological channels. At the same time, when looking at telecommuting jobs, it is obvious that the people applying for such jobs want to be able to actually perform them and get paid, which means they will either already be very good at time management and meeting deadlines or they will have to learn to deal with such an environment in order to do well. In the same way one does not hire a liberal-arts major to work as a computer programmer or an opera singer to do quantum physics research, companies will be looking for people with great time management skills who are self-starters and perhaps do not enjoy the communal work environment or cannot be in it for whatever reason.
Of course, it is not as if the entire future of the labor market is to be mapped out in terms of telecommuting careers. The point to be made here is that, just as there are part-time and full-time jobs, there should not be any surprise that there are and will be ‘on the site’ and telecommuting jobs. Different people have different skills, needs, and preferences, and the more opportunities are out there for them to achieve those goals, the more society will benefit.
Already entrepreneurs are growing their business by reaching people everywhere through the internet and telecommuting jobs are making people’s lives less logistically complicated. Even medicine is taking the step and advancing towards a more personal, less ‘on location’ experience (telemedicine).
More and more things are coming to the home. There are delivery systems for food, clothing, furniture, water and many other goods. Almost anything can be ordered online now. And, with the addition of the internet of things, one’s refrigerator can even order food for them. These innovations save the individual time and allow them to focus their leisure hours on what makes them happy. And, as a consequence, most are, in fact, more productive during working hours.
Of course, it is important to remember that the key concept here should be more choices, not fewer. Thus, as long as people still want and use brick and mortar stores (which can make the shopping experience feel more real and even relaxing) ‘on-site’, online, full time, and, part-time jobs, the market will continue to provide them.
With so many new ideas on how life and work can be improved it is hard not to wonder what the coming years will bring. What might happen when inventions such as VR, video games (and ‘gamification’) and the internet of things will be put together? Will we see some in the workforce ‘go to the office’ or to a conference in a virtual reality setting? Could we soon see holograms of ourselves at a business meeting across the ocean? Might it be possible to reach out to the video gaming crowd and create a work from home opportunity for them also, where they might be able to function and perhaps work in a video game type setting? As far-fetched as this sounds, games such as Second Life are already taking the next step to creating alternative cyberspace worlds. And gaming studios have embraced telecommuting to access global talent for developing their products, such as in many independent productions, including the now famous Star Citizen. Would the market miss the chance to make these experiences financially productive for everyone involved?
Again, this does not have to be the mainstream work environment. However, as individuals more comfortable in a home or virtual environment exist and prefer to work in such a manner, it is hard to believe that the market would not find a way to adapt to these needs. That is not to say that encouraging time in a VR environment is a healthy choice, but if one simply makes use of it to save time in real life and use the rest to bond with family and friends outside cyberspace, it might, in fact, be a worthwhile endeavor.
Ultimately, the era of ‘at home’ is upon us and it promises new and exciting opportunities for all involved. It will be interesting to see where it will lead in the future, especially since such jobs might not take into consideration national boundaries. One could be lounging in a log cabin in Switzerland sipping hot cocoa while staring out the window at the snowy mountains and working for or with a company in crowded, noisy, New York City.
Still, it is worth keeping in mind, that, as technology progresses, there will be a need for ‘manual override’ skills which will keep society alive and thriving even in the event of an ‘unplugging’. It is wonderful to be part of an era of technological advances and discoveries. However, there is no need to turn civilization into a scientific dystopia. As we grow technologically, old and valuable life and work skills should be protected and reinforced, giving people even more choices as to how they might live their lives and do their work. Thus, we might become a complete, not just an advanced, civilization.
This article was originally published on The Market for Ideas