Last week I attended the Minnesota Telecom Alliance (MTA) Industry Showcase. I was particularly interested in their telework tract, especially after talking to Dave Bickett from Park Region/Otter Tail Telecom about their Fergus Falls telework initiative at the MTA Annual Conference in the spring. Dave was presenting at the Industry Showcase this time – and was kind enough to share his presentation.
It was nice to get an update on what’s happening in Fergus Falls – but also instructive for any community interested in pursuing telework in their area too. There was a lot of talk from attendees about how telework provides opportunities for local residents but also provides great draw for folks looking to relocate. As several people pointed out – you no longer have to wait to retire to move to beautiful areas outside the Twin Cities (or Chicago or Tokyo!).
At the conference we also heard from Walt Stolrzyk, who has teleworked for several years now. He gave some pros:
- Less travel
- Less sickness
- Productivity in emergencies (no more fire drills, stay home with sick kids)
And he gave some cons:
- Different distractions
- More dependent on technology
- Limited to local provider
- Need back up when technology fails
He clearly was a big fan of teleworking and it had worked well for him and for his company.
We also heard from Larry Kugler from Olsen Thielen. He was sort of the exception that proved the rule. He was very negative about teleworking. He seemed to think that workers wouldn’t work as well or as collaboratively from home. He said the key was communication and seemed to feel that only face-to-face communication would suffice. Then he made some comparison to a football game from 1967, which I have to admit was wasted on me – because I’m not a football fan and I definitely wouldn’t recall anything from a football game from 1967. So maybe his presentation did indicate that telework may not be for everyone – but I don’t think the issue is the technology, it’s the people.
Also for those of us who are proponents of telework, it was heartening to see the audience defend telework. At least a third of the room had a story to share of successful telework initiatives in their office and several were clearly taken aback with his take on telework.