The New Life of Working Online

A point of View © 1996
The New Life of Working Online
By Paul V. Montesino, Ph.D., MBA, ICCP

It’s been said that we’re living a new normal. What is hasn’t been mentioned is that there’s nothing normal about that new living. When we live and work under new rules of engagement we not only enter a new physical paradigm, but one that is legally and economically different. Let’s start with the economic reality.

Think of the utilities we all consume. Companies use water, electric, heating, cleaning and A/C resources. So do us at home. When we stop consuming those resources as a group in our employers’ sites we start to use them individually in our own homes.  Avoiding commuting expenses back and forth may or may not be equivalent to the employee, the actual difference for each individual based on the distance commuted to the employment location and the kinds of resources they use at home. My electric company used to send me comparison reports between my neighbors’ and mine electric consumption. Those reports have ceased. They must know something.

When there are hundreds, never mind thousands, of employees staying home to work online, the employer is benefiting by those resources multiplied by the number of employees and doesn’t benefit by the commuting savings of those employees. Of course, companies don’t shut off their utilities simply because most if not all the employees are working distantly, that’s impractical.  But it wouldn’t be unreal to see that some companies might decide to become online and dispose of their brick and mortar presence forever. It has happened before. Amazon has become an Internet behemoth that is not only profitable, but also efficient and effective. And there are millions who make a living supplying that giant with labor and supplies. All of my books are sold online at Amazon.

The legal implications present a different “normal”. Beware, I am not a lawyer, I only consume legal opinions. When an employee trips and falls down in front of the water cooler at the office and places a worker’s disability claim to the company’s insurance carrier and or the State’s disability bureau, could that same employee place a claim to the company if he or she falls on the way to the bathroom or the kitchen at home? Is that possibility or alternative clear to the employee?  If a person offends or hurts a neighbor while “working full-time online,” is that a company related violation? Does that difference affect the premiums we or the company pay to the insurance companies for home or work liability? And as important, do the companies know about the potential new liabilities on an individual basis?

We all mix home and work at one time or another and don’t even think about it unless our spouses complain when we are unavailable. If I have to finish a spreadsheet at home tonight so I can present it to management tomorrow, that wouldn’t be considered an essential part of my responsibilities. Doing it day in and day out working online would change the definition of those responsibilities.

I am not trying to be a party pooper, not during these times when we all worry about an epidemic crisis that affects us all and worries us all because is transmitted by a virus we don’t see or hear. I only want to point to my readers other conditions that are no less real because we don’t think about them and might hit our pockets and our lives some day in court and never saw them coming either.

If you can think of something else that applies to you, my mission is accomplished. This article may be a starter for a conversation with your boss… or your employees, during your next salary review. But don’t blame me. I only write here.

And that is my Point of View about living normally today.