City Traffic and Remote Collaboration

I’ve been following Steve Lopez’ LA Times columns and his blog about LA traffic. The more I drive in this city the more I want to stop doing so.

LA recently “improved” an intersection in my neighborhood, adding a left turn lane and re-timing the light. The result, at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars, has all but ruined the intersection, increasing wait times for everybody and causing a blocks-long backup during rush hour. With improvements like this, the city will be gridlocked in no time. The “cure” is killing the patient.

But this summer I bicycled to work — and I’ve never had a happier commute. I arrived every day feeling invigorated and every night looked forward to the trip home.

In LA, where bike lanes are few and distances are long, the luxury of being able to do this is rare. And that makes me think our salvation will be in “remote collaboration.”

The relative simplicity of our new editing equipment, the shift to file-based workflows and the growing availability of fast internet connections, are making it possible to do all kinds of things from home. This is going to get even more appealing once AT&T and Verizon get their fast new fiber networks installed.

But there are disadvantages, too. Here are some of the pros and cons as I see them:

The Good

  • Working at home means functioning in a congenial, comfortable environment.
  • Skipping the commute means you’re fresher all day long. You experience less stress and less exposure to highway smog.
  • You can work more flexible hours, so it’s easier to deal with kids and family.
  • You’re more productive because you’re not wasting precious hours in traffic.
  • Staying out of your car means you’re reducing your “carbon footprint” and doing your part for global warming.

The Bad

  • Figuring out how to work at home and getting producers comfortable with the idea means that we’re making it easier for people all over the world to do exactly the same thing — and thus compete with us from afar.
  • Working at home means that there’s no social interaction at work.
  • You’re probably going to own at least some of your own equipment and you’re going to have to do more of your own tech support.
  • When you’re working from home, employers tend to think you’re available 24/7. You’re more likely to work extra hours and not charge for it.
  • Work rules like meal penalty and turnaround are harder to enforce.
  • Work and life tend to get intermixed. You can’t go home at the end of the day — you’re already there.

Whether we like it or not, this new internet-enabled, portable workplace of the future is coming at us. Are we prepared for it technically? Institutionally? Contractually? My feeling is that we need to get ahead of this trend and start figuring out how it’s going to affect us — now while we can still exercise a little control.

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One Comment on “City Traffic and Remote Collaboration”


  1. I cycled around SF for years – the good – you get around the city faster than a car – the bad – you need a shower upon arrival at work, which is not always an option.


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