Remote work and the end of super-commuting

Super-commuting was (and is) mainly a burden and a problem — a failure of public policy. (Super-commuting is when your commute takes 90 minutes or more each way.)

According to the US Census Bureau, even before the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing remote- and hybrid-work surge, super-commuting was very much on the rise. Between 2010 and 2019, the number of super-commuters in the United States increased by 45%, according to an analysis by Apartment List. In 2019, some 4.6 million Americans commuted for more than 90 minutes each way.

Pre-COVID, the rise in super-commuting was driven by rising housing costs and road congestion. Nearly a third (roughly 1.4 million people) were found near only three over-priced housing markets: New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. And nearly half live within 30 miles of the office; those longer commutes resulted from slower traffic, not further distances.

Many super-commuters, especially in and around New York City, live only 10 miles from their place of work. But it takes so long to get to the office because of slow rush-hour traffic, long waits to switch between buses or subway trains, and other problems that have nothing to do with living far from work.

So what is the effect of post-COVID work arrangements on the super-commuting trend? The answer will surprise you. 

[About this newsletter. My "Future of Work" email newsletter is published by Foundry. The newsletter is both ad-free and free of charge. BUT, because Foundry newsletters are aimed at technology and business professionals, you'll be asked some basic information as part of the subscription process. Please provide! I'd love for you to subscribe to my Future of Work newsletter. -Thank you! -Mike]

Enterprise AR will be dominated by Apple and Magic Leap

Magic Leap just unveiled an advanced prototype of its Magic Leap 2 headset and the consensus among reviewers is that it’s a great product.

Founded 12 years ago, Magic Leap first offered up a series of proof-of-concept prototypes that started out being bigger than a big refrigerator. Then, four years ago, the company introduced its first headset, aimed also at the consumer market. The technology wasn't ready for the world, or maybe the world wasn't ready for the  technology, but the company sold only a few thousand units. Magic Leap was barely hanging on until it raised more money to continue.

The prototype, unveiled last week, delivers universal improvement in all aspects of the device's technology, usability and functionality. And two features put Magic Leap into contention as a device that can co-dominate enterprise augmented reality (AR), along with Apple.

The trouble with hybrid work

The current thinking goes like this: Hybrid work is a great compromise between requiring all employees to either be in the office full time or requiring employees to work remote full time. Remote work is a great solution because employees can enjoy the convenience and focus of a home office, then go into the office for the real-world collaboration they can only get in person.

Many large Silicon Valley tech companies are embracing hybrid work, including Google.

It feels like a great solution. But I think the hybrid model may create more problems than it solves over time. So here are the potential issues with hybrid work.

[About this newsletter. My "Future of Work" email newsletter is published by Foundry. The newsletter is both ad-free and free of charge. BUT, because Foundry newsletters are aimed at technology and business professionals, you'll be asked some basic information as part of the subscription process. Please provide! I'd love for you to subscribe to my Future of Work newsletter. -Thank you! -Mike]

Leo Laporte, Doc Rock, Daniel Rubino and me on TWiT!

We celebrate This Week in Tech's 17th anniversary! Plus we solve every problem related to Elon Musk, Apple, Microsoft, hybrid work, argan oil, NVIDIA, Russian army audio, Unreal Engine, WWDC, Magic Leap and enterprise AR, the climate crisis, r/Place, Alphabet drone delivery, Windows 3.1, baseball tech, Amtrak trolling, Chatterbox and much more! Watch now!

Don't look now, but the blue-collar remote work revolution is coming

A convenience store chain in Japan, called FamilyMart, is experimenting with remotely controlled robots to stock shelves. The employees can work from anywhere using what are essentially VR googles and controllers, and among their number can be disabled employees with limited mobility — people who lack the physical ability to stock shelves unassisted by robotics.

Heavy equipment maker, Cat, is developing increasingly-capable remote-control earth movers and other such equipment — as are several other European companies. For now, it's marketed as a safety technology, so humans don't have to work in dangerous work environments. But in the future, it could be that high-skilled machine operators could be hired from anywhere. Construction. Road work. You name it — it could all be done from a city apartment.

Planes, trains, and automobiles could be piloted and controlled remotely. Some factory work can be done at home, as long as the equipment isn't too large or complex.

In fact, a great many jobs now considered impossible as remote positions could become remote with the right technology, along with some creative thinking.

Here's why the blue-collar remote-work revolution is about hit

[About this newsletter. My "Future of Work" email newsletter is published by Foundry. The newsletter is both ad-free and free of charge. BUT, because Foundry newsletters are aimed at technology and business professionals, you'll be asked some basic information as part of the subscription process. Please provide! I'd love for you to subscribe to my Future of Work newsletter. -Thank you! -Mike]

Are we destined to work in the metaverse?

In a recent interview with Lex Fridman, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg described a future in which our workplace would exist in the so-called "metaverse."

Our commute would involve little more than slipping on a pair of virtual reality (VR) goggles. Once jacked in, we’ll interact with colleagues via avatars, attend meetings, give presentations and do all our work in a VR world.

Instead of sitting at a desk in front of a keyboard and screen, we’ll instead sit in front of a virtual keyboard and virtual screen, doing our work as before, but all virtualized.

Zuckerberg specified the virtualization of even jobs that involving typing — such as writing and coding — where VR would be preferable to actual reality because you could have a virtual screen of any size — "your ideal workstation," he said.

That scenario, he said, is "no more than five years off."

Zuckerberg's predictions, which are more than predictions because his company is investing billions to realize them, confront futurists (especially those of us writing newsletters called "Future of Work") with the question: Is the future of work virtual?

How to follow me on Amp

Amazon's Amp is the newest and best social audio service. Amp is thousands of radio stations where you're the D.J., if you want to be. (Or you can just enjoy the music.) You can play music free from Amazon's tens of millions of songs. You can talk. You can take callers and have conversations. 

It's ambient social audio, and people are spending 10 hours at a time on the service, even as they work. Here are my current thoughts on Amp

Amp is currently in beta, US-only, iOS-only and requires an Amazon account. Here's how to get on Amp and follow me (I'll follow you back, too): 

1. Download the iPhone app here

2. On the app, log into your Amazon account

3. Use the Access Code GOLIVE

4. Click here to go to my profile, and smash the button to follow me.

Have fun!

Why Amazon's Amp is way better than Clubhouse or Twitter Spaces

I’ll just come out and say it: Amazon Amp is BY FAR the best social audio service.

Because it’s “ambient.” It’s designed to provide a soundtrack for your life, without all the scheduled, trade-show-conference intensity of Clubhouse or Twitter Spaces.

Amp lets you be a DJ. You can select from any of tens of millions of songs available to use (but not download) for your shows. You build a playlist, then play that music for yourself and your audience — the Amp users who choose to listen. Between songs, you can talk. And, like a radio DJ, you can open it up for “callers.” They queue up, and you can choose whomever you like to talk. And you have a conversation.

Currently live shows are featured on the app, and as you scroll through them you eventually see the scheduled shows in order, with the soonest first.

The result of this format is a very relaxed, easygoing ambient kind of social audio experience.

Unlike Clubhouse or Twitter Spaces (which can become a kind of extrovert Hunger Games of microphone hogging and bloviating pontification, and where far too many conversations descend into boring chatter about crypto), Amp shows are great for everybody. Even the most extreme introverts can host shows without discomfort.

I think Amp is going to be huge. But even if it doesn’t blow up, Amp is already a super fun way to discover music and have conversations.

Go here to get all the details

Why nobody is buying Putin's bullshit anymore

The Russian government used to be very good at disinformation. In the last two weeks — not so much.

Russia's disinformation strategy is rooted in 20th-Century KGB tactics for using information warfare against the Russian population to suppress popular support for political opponents of the state.

In the 21st Century, where information is global, Russia's disinformation services are working overtime to serve the regime's interests as Putin sees them, with sometimes opposite messages for internal and global consumption.

In general — both inside Russia and around the world — Russia's falsehoods and propaganda aren’t having the usual effect. And this failure may hold the keys to combating disinformation in the future. 

If so, here's the apparent formula for defeating state-sponsored disinformation.

The magic of Oaxaca!

The magic of gathering around the table with kindred spirits is unforgettable. It’s the place where lifetime memories and lifelong friendships are created.

We had the pleasure of creating a magical gathering with an exquisite meal prepared by our friend and talented chef Israel Loyola Espinosa at the beautiful Hotel Sin Nombre during the recent Oaxaca Experience. But there are always secret new gatherings and endless surprises during this once-in-a-lifetime Oaxaca Experience. We can’t wait for you to feel the magic of gathering for The Oaxaca Experience in December.

The 'Great Return' to the office is happening — now what?

Two years after much of the business world abandoned offices to avoid COVID-19, it looks like it’s time to get back to the office. Just how is that supposed to work?

The moment we all anticipated (or feared) is here: After two years of on-again, off-again pandemic lockdowns, the "Great Return" is happening for most offices between mid-February and the end of April. Read the rest in my Future of Work newsletter!

[About this newsletter. My "Future of Work" email newsletter is published by Foundry, the publishing company formerly known as IDG. The newsletter is both ad-free and free of charge. BUT, because Foundry newsletters are aimed at technology and business professionals, you'll be asked some basic information as part of the subscription process. Please provide! I'd love for you to subscribe to my Future of Work newsletter. -Thank you! -Mike]

Should you become a digital nomad?

In other words: Is it time to sell the house, tuck away your belongings in storage and turn your life into a permanent workcation?

The answer is yes.

[About this newsletter. My "Future of Work" email newsletter is published by Foundry, the publishing company formerly known as IDG. The newsletter is both ad-free and free of charge. BUT, because Foundry newsletters are aimed at technology and business professionals, you'll be asked some basic information as part of the subscription process. Please provide! I'd love for you to subscribe to my Future of Work newsletter. -Thank you! -Mike]

Morocco after the plague

We're in Morocco, and so happy to be here again!

Before the pandemic, we used to come two or three times a year, sometimes for two months at a time. But this is our first trip to Morocco in nearly three years.

Like many countries, Morocco closed during the pandemic. But few closed as tightly as Morocco. This country not only banned international flights to and from Morocco, but also all travel between cities internally. When Morocco shuts down, they *really* shut down.

Here's my update on what happened in Morocco during the pandemic, and what's happening now

Ukraine is weaponizing consumer tech. Literally!

From weapons to vehicles to communications gear and more, most militaries are equipped top to bottom with technology specially designed and created for military purposes. Military technology, or miltech, is an industry that’s largely separate from enterprise or consumer tech.

I mentioned last time how the Russian invasion of Ukraine is the first TikTok war, with social media being the main source of intelligence and information about the war. Most of the intelligence-gathering gear is just ordinary smartphones, cameras and other tech made for the consumer marketplace. 

But the deployment of consumer gadgets, apps and other gear by Ukrainians in their defense against the Russian invasion goes far beyond that, and is unprecedented in the history of warfare. 

Here’s how Ukraine is weaponizing consumer tech.

What to look for in a cybersecurity resume

Staffing for cybersecurity has always presented a challenge. But with the old skills shortage combined with the new “Great Resignation,” hiring the right candidates has never been more important.

The first step in looking at any prospective hire is to review resumes. People often don’t appreciate this process. It’s easy, for example, to overlook the best fit. You might toss aside the resume of someone who might be an outstanding candidate because of factors that really don’t matter.

Here are the top ten factors in hiring a cybersecurity professional

How the future of work changes the future of business travel

The way people travel for work in 2022 or 2023 will look a lot different than it did just a few years ago. So, grab a burner phone (and your freshly wiped laptop) before you go.

As the pandemic winds down and businesses start making plans for a post-pandemic world, the one big question is: How has business travel changed?

Airports and airplanes are starting to fill up, but mostly with leisure travelers. Business travel is recovering far slower than tourism.

A poll from SAP Concur found that business travel is likely to start booming by the end of this year. But that sounds unlikely to me. I believe we’ll see a mini-boom starting in March and April, then a slowdown in late 2022 as COVID-19 spikes again in the winter, followed by a real boom in the spring of 2023. (I’m not an expert in epidemiology, but my understanding from reading real experts says that the road to endemic status for COVID-19 involves one more winter spike—something that probably didn’t factor into the thinking of those polled by SAP.)

What we do know is this: When it does come back, business travel will look very different. Here's what to expect.

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The Ultimate Valentine

Tens of millions of tourists see Venice each year. But hardly anyone knows about the heaven-on-Earth Prosecco Road less than one hour North.

And yet this may be the most beautiful wine country in the world, with a fantastic and wildly underappreciated culture.

While everyone is familiar with the City of Venice, the islands and lagoon, the culture of medieval Venice responsible for that city was part of the larger "Serenìsima Repùblega Vèneta," which means "Most Serene Republic of Venice" in the Venetian language. The "country" of Venice extended all the way up to the Prosecco Road to the mountains beyond.

During our incredible Prosecco Experience, we explore the wonders of Venetian culture — the incredible food, wine, architecture and history — which lasted for a thousand years.

(Subscribe to the Gastronomad newsletter free)

It’s time to pay attention to pay

The pandemic has changed everything about work.

Far more people now work remotely. Hybrid and flex work arrangements are all the rage. Employees are quitting in droves in the Great Resignation. There’s the labor shortage, the skills gap, and remote hiring. The list goes on.

So, how do we decide how much to pay people? And if you’re interviewing for a new job, how do you decide how much to demand?

Two opposing incentives are creating uncertainty about pay. On one hand, most employees prefer remote work so much that they’re willing to take a cut in pay. And they need less pay if they move outside expensive areas.

On the other hand, the skills shortage, labor shortage, and Great Resignation movement are driving up salaries and bonuses, as companies work to incentivize employees.

Adding to the unpredictability: Many companies are still in lockdown mode, so it’s unknown how many jobs currently remote will remain so. And inflation is changing the cost of living.

Tech giants like Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta, and Microsoft announced pay cuts for remote employees who left Silicon Valley—which is notorious for its high cost of living (the median home price in Palo Alto in Silicon Valley is roughly $3.5 million). But many other companies, including real estate website Zillow, have said that pay shouldn’t vary based on the cost of living.

When the dust settles, it’s likely that pay at most companies will generally reflect the cost of living of the employee as it always has. Companies will tend to pay whatever the market will bear in the labor market, and it will prove easier to hire good employees at lower salaries in areas with lower costs of living.

But there's much more to it than that. Here's what we should all be thinking and talking about when it comes to paying people in the future of work

This is from my free, weekly Future of Work newsletter. Subscribe free here.

Flying cars are a bad idea and nobody really wants one.

Along with jet packs and food in pill form, flying cars were a staple of 20th-Century futurism, which envisioned a family flying car in every driveway. Soaring above the roads on the way to work, school and the high-tech shopping center, the flying car was intended to replace regular cars for everyday use.

The reason you never see one — the reason you don’t have one — is that a “flying car” is a horrible idea

Welcome to the strange, surprising new world of metaverse cybersecurity

Everyone started talking about the metaverse in the summer of 2021. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg kicked it off with his plan to focus his company on building what he imagined would be the future of social, business, leisure and culture: the metaverse. He even changed the name of his company from Facebook to Meta.

Since then, the chatter about the coming changes has been loud. Silicon Valley, the global tech industry, the media — everyone is talking about it. But what is the metaverse, exactly? And what are the cybersecurity implications of living more of our lives in a virtual world?

Tear up your remote work policy (if you have one) and start over

Chances are, you don’t have a hybrid work policy. Many companies don’t have any written policy for working outside the office. Those that do probably have a remote work policy.

Going without any policy at all is ill-advised. Policies protect the company, improve morale, foster better culture, help employee retention, improve cybersecurity, and provide other benefits.

And remote work policies crafted just a couple of years ago are likely obsolete for most companies now.

The concept of having an employee handbook for “regular” employees who work in the office, plus a remote work policy for that minority that works from home, is now antiquated in the extreme.

Yes, some employees are explicitly categorized as hybrid or flex workers, spending some days in the office and some days at home. But even those labeled as on-site workers are likely to do some work outside of the office, after hours, and on weekends. Staffers may take “workcations,” or do work in other countries for short periods of time. And some specific employees may rotate in and out of the “office,” “remote,” and “hybrid” categories.

The possibilities for where employees do their jobs are endless. And that’s why you need a single policy for all employees—a hybrid work policy.

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