The Compadre of Telecommuting, with Jack Nilles
In the fourth installment of Workplace Geeks, Chris and Ian cross seven time zones to learn from father of teleworker and environmental activist Jack Nilles about the multidisciplinary research project that led to his 1976 book, The Telecommunications-Transportation Trade-off: Options for tomorrow”. Teleworking has proven to be an effective and valued part of hybrid work solutions since the 1970s. The obstacles to implementation are rarely, if ever, of a technological or economic nature: they are cultural, often specifically business, and always have been. Nevertheless, proven change methodologies can master these challenges. Now more than ever, we must embrace the many benefits of remote working, not only for organizational and personal benefit, but also as part of our strategies to address the climate crisis.
Chris and Ian’s conversation with 89-year-old Jack examines the motivations behind this landmark study, its foresight, legacy and ongoing relevance. It also celebrates the tenacity, wisdom and vitality of a living legend. I hope you enjoy listening to this for yourself – let us know.
About Jack Niles
Born and raised in Evanston, Illinois, Jack Nilles attended Haven School and Evanston Township High School. Trained as a physicist and engineer at Lawrence University, Ohio State University and UCLA, he began his career as a US Air Force officer in the Aerial Reconnaissance Laboratory at the Wright Air Development Center in Ohio. After retiring from active duty, he continued his “rocket scientist” activities, directing the preliminary design of several remote sensing spacecraft and communications systems for the US Air Force and NASA.
He has served as an advisor to the Science Advisory Boards of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, the National Science Foundation, and other federal agencies. He also led the preliminary design project for the EROS data center, which will make remote sensing results available to the general public.
In 1972 he joined the University of Southern California as Director of Interdisciplinary Research and began his formal research on telework and telecommuting, terms he coined in 1973. With USC’s Center for Futures Research, he led a series of studies into the current and future impact of information technology and created the standards by which large-scale telecommuting projects are judged. Known internationally today as the “Father of Telecommuting/Telecommuting,” he founded the business consulting firm JALA International, Inc. in 1980. He retired from USC in 1989 to pursue JALA full-time.
He has developed and/or evaluated remote work projects for a variety of Fortune 100 companies, the state governments of California, Arizona and Washington, the City of Los Angeles and other companies and organizations in the United States, Europe and South America. He is past President of the International Telework Association & Council (ITAC) and was a member of the Management Group of the European Community Telework/Telematics Forum.
In 1993 he received the Environmental Pride Award for his contributions to improving air quality in Los Angeles and in 1994 an award for his work in environmental sustainability from Renew America. In 1997, the Los Angeles County Board of Trustees presented him with an award for his work in reducing traffic and improving the area’s environment.
He is the author of five books, including The Telecommunications-Transportation Tradeoff, the original book on telecommuting, and dozens of book chapters, journal articles, and articles. His 1994 book, Making Telecommuting Happen, is a complete guide to developing and managing telecommuting programs. Its sequel, Managing Telework: Strategies for Managing the Virtual Workforce, was published in the United States and Canada in 1998.
His books have been translated into Japanese, French and Portuguese. The Polish edition of Managing Telework was published in 2003. The Telecommunications-Transportation Tradeoff has been reprinted and is available from online retailers. More information about his publications can be found here.