‘I don’t think you’re really working; I think you’re just playing on the computer. You just do a lot of talking to the screen,’ my grandmother remarked to me one day, adding, ‘I told my friend that you’re in the CIA’.
I rolled my eyes as she chuckled. I knew that she was joking, but sometimes it can become a little frustrating. In the middle of last year, I made a career switch that enables me to work full-time from home. I became a part of the 30 per cent who work remotely full-time in the US. It was my exposure to remote work as an IofC volunteer that opened my eyes to this new norm.
Of course, that’s exactly what it is – normal. Many organizations, both in the for-profit and not-for-profit spaces, are moving towards some degree of remote work capability. Yet even with this trend there are still people who don’t understand how working from home is still ‘work’, much less an attractive career choice for a growing number of people for many reasons.
The underlying issue here is a lack of trust – in both the future and in technology. And possibly, in me as a person.
Now, while it’s entirely possible to sit around and do nothing even in a strict office environment (I see when you’re on Facebook…), working from home requires discipline. It takes a lot of personal responsibility, motivation and nearly constant communication with your clients or team members. But how do you make that real for someone whose concept of ‘work’ relies on the tangible or is directly linked with commuting from home to another destination? My grandmother does not easily grasp the concept of having a job that exists entirely inside a computer. Neither does my father, whose career has been in traditional, ‘blue-collar’ work.
Of course, technology has evolved at such a rapid pace that it’s hard, even for a ‘digital native’, to keep up with. That pace has not been matched by acceptance or understanding of technology. For my father, who works in manufacturing, there is a real fear of man being replaced by machine. This fear breeds anger, fueled by misinformation, and distrust of anything associated with ‘technology’.
It wasn’t until recently when I picked up the book Who Can You Trust? How technology brought us together and why it might drive us apart that I started to think about the concept of trust as it applies to my work, especially since my work is directly linked with technology. I could point you to numerous articles that demonstrate the positive benefits of remote work. Higher productivity, improved overall happiness and lower turnover is all supported by the research available. Yet, none of that assures you that I am a trustworthy human, who’s enabled by technology. It can be said that a lack of trust in tech is directly connected to a lack of trust in the people on the other end – from the service provider to the software developer.
Or in my case, a lack of trust in almost 30-year-old who moved from business to philanthropy and witnessed how much income, education and policies prevent equity in society. I discovered that there is a way to help people around the globe, by helping them understand and adapt technologies to combat human issues. I’m not interested in a traditional ‘career’; to me it’s like making a shoe fit for the sake of someone telling you ‘well, everyone wears shoes, that’s just what we do’. I’m responding to how our society has changed, through technology, and will follow the call of conscience as I’m guided. It may not look like that to you, if you’ve not experienced it the way I have.
Granted, we’ve seen that technology can be used with malicious intent, but quite frankly, anything can be used as a weapon or a means of oppression/control. I have faith that not all technology is bad, it just takes a willingness to understand the present and adapt for the future. Remember, just because you cannot see something, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
Of course, I’m talking about the technology. What did you think I was talking about?
Tracie Mooneyham is Content Editor for IofC International and this article was first published in Network Focus - A quarterly publication by IofC International.