Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Working from home - will broadband internet save Michigan?

Michigan Expats - Commentary - See All Commentary

By Mr Sig

I have not ever seen my boss. She lives down in Tampa, and I live in the DC area. And while it will always be true that being in one place with the whole team is better for collaboration, this is simply not a reality for most large companies. Without doing any research or looking at any studies, I postulate that many companies have done the calculation and come to the conclusion that the value lost due to lack of physical collaboration can be and is made up for by being able to attract better and smarter workers by offering "Freedom of Location." Almost everyone in our IT department works from home, but these folks are able to deliver on very complex projects.

I strongly believe that the rise of broadband, cloud-based solutions, collaboration software, and a things such as video conferencing services and screen sharing will be a huge help to Michigan. If Michigan has strong internet pipes to support this sort of traffic, then the ever diminishing need for a company office will cause many people to choose more attractive places to live. Gone will be the need to "go where the jobs are." And, which state has a giant swarm of successful expats that want to return home? Why, Michigan of course!

The concept of "working from home" will only continue to become more prevalent, but it will be slow. Personally, the tools are not quite easy enough to use and the high quality solutions such as Cisco's Telepresence are still far too expensive to set up in the home. Until we get there, most companies' willingness to abandon the concept of an office will be slow (but steady).

While the right technology at the right price is still many years away, an inexpensive Michigan home with a 100Mbps fiber line and an "office" with a wall full of monitors and high quality audio will be an outstanding place to work. I'd certainly love to work there.

Am I going out on too much of a limb here? What do you think about this being one way for Michigan to grow? Given that the major broadband providers are focusing their best technologies on densely populated areas, do you think this will ever happen?


  1. I think the future of the economy in general is virtual. I know of lots of people who are not particularly fond of the "city life", but live there for a job. As workplaces go virtual, those people will leave the cities and move back to cheaper places like MI.

  2. this sounds great to me, too. I'm always glad when Mr. Sig returns for a longer visit simply because he can work from home for about a week with our old computer monitors in his temporary portable "office." With less commuting time, there would be less pollution and lower costs. Sounds like a win-win situation.

  3. The trend seems to be moving toward remote working arrangements. With the amount of people who enjoy Michigan, I think can only be good for Michiganders.

  4. A group in Grand Rapids has been involved in the Google Fiber application, and the city is still in the race to win this technology. Check it out on Facebook and support it as an expat! Your story about the ability to bring virtual work to Michigan would be great to add to the movement.
    Here's a shortened link for the GR Google Fiber group on Facebook: http://bit.ly/bkfcsR.