The Check Box

Introduction

One small silver-lining from the pandemic is the broad realization that a great deal of work can now be done as well or even better via Remote Work and Remote Attendance. It saves time and money and improves productivity. It provides increased accessibility for those who find air travel challenging or who simply prefer not to fly.  It also avoids billions of dollars in unnecessary infrastructure expansion and maintenance. And…

Reducing unnecessary travel is one of the most immediate, effective and painless ways to mitigate climate change.  Reducing operations at Sea-Tac Airport by just five percent from 2019 levels may reduce green house gases (GHG) as much as taking 200,000 automobiles off the road for an entire year.

Which almost nobody would even notice.

Best of all? This is not some far off technology. We’ve already been doing it for over a year.  The challenge is simply to keep doing what we’ve already been doing!

We are creatures of habit. Despite the fact that most of us now find air travel less than pleasant, we’ve developed such a strong attachment to it that without a small nudge, there is every chance we could go right back to the way things were and lose all these benefits. Fortunately, counteracting that tendency is pretty easy.

Three Steps

There are several painless ways to encourage remote attendance. And none have to do with ‘sacrifice’ or trying to make people do things they don’t want to do. We suggest a three step approach:

  1. When an employee wants to attend any conference or meeting or event that might require travel, they should get a reminder when they initiate the process. Maybe they fill out some sort of registration form on their own, or maybe they hand the process off to someone else. Regardless of the process, there can always be some simple reminder, either from the event provider or from within their organization. And all that reminder needs to do is to offer them a voluntary option for remote attendance. For example:Would you like a remote attendance option?The details can be worked out within each organization or event provider. All that matters is that employees are provided with that remote attendance option and that the option is 100% voluntary.
  2. Any business or organization which sponsors conferences, events and business meetings should be offered a tax credit or other incentives (including expertise) to encourage them to offer a remote attendance option. (The term of art is “hybrid conferencing”.) People can attend the event in person as always, but there will also equipment in place which allows remote attendees to have a quality experience. There are many established businesses which offer these services across the nation.
  3. There also needs to be an evangelist who’s job it is to promote the program to both organizations and service providers; essentially a nudger-in-chief. For example, whenever Microsoft develops a new technology, they hire an Evangelist to talk to developers and businesses and end-users. They’ve learned that you need to build excitement from all stakeholders in order to gain wide acceptance of any new way of doing business. The difference with a Remote Attendance Evangelist is that their job will not so much be to get people to do something new so much as to encourage them to keep doing what they were already successfully doing in 2020!

Push Back

A common response people have to this idea is that they prefer “the value of human connection!” Sure. Especially after a year of being cooped up, who wouldn’t? But this is totally voluntary–only for the people who want to do it. And some people will want it and they should continue to have the option.

There’s also the rationale “the market will take care of it.” No it won’t—and for the same reasons ‘the market’ did not build mass transit. Employees have wanted remote access options for a long time. Employers simply did not offer it. Remember: technologies like Zoom have actually been practical for almost twenty years. But adoption was almost non-existent until  COVID-19. Remote Work and Remote Attendance options were only made widely available when they became the only options.

At the end of the day, most of the objections come down to entrenched habits and various incentives which encourage people to keep flying. The Check Box is a zero cost and voluntary program to remind people they have a choice.

Summary

The past year has been a grand experiment to gauge the effects of wide adoption of Remote Work and Remote Attendance and the results are clear:  it is a stunning success. Many tasks and events as well or better via R/A and R/W. And given the staggering amount of GHG generated by commercial aviation, even minor adoption yields tremendous environmental benefits–with only trivial disruption to traditional economies.

The Checkbox is a simple and painless way to maintain and build on those benefits. Remote Attendance saves time, money, improves productivity, and increases access. And it helps save the planet. There is no sacrifice and no downside.

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