Anyone clearing spam from their email inbox or reading through Craigslist has seen ads peppered with phrases like telecommuting, work from home, freelancing, flexible job, and remote working. These terms refer to work performed outside of the regular workplace, and collectively, they reflect a diverse set of employment scenarios. Telecommuters may be sole proprietors such as contractors, office employees who perform their job duties from home once or twice a week, or remote employees working for a company in another state. Regardless of the specific circumstances, a distributed workforce empowered by technology, the Internet, and cloud computing is on the rise across the world, even in Southwestern Indiana.
I am a remote employee residing in Evansville and working for the Silicon Valley-based Singularity University, which aims to educate and inspire entrepreneurial leaders to implement exponential technologies toward tackling the grand challenges affecting humanity. Although SU runs numerous Executive Programs from its physical classrooms at the NASA Research Park at Moffett Field, Calif., its thriving community of alumni from more than 70 countries stay connected through various online channels to share how they grow companies, develop organizations, and advance initiatives to change the world.
Before working for SU, I spent the better part of a decade as an adjunct online instructor and contract writer/editor in the textbook publishing industry living in various places in the West and South. A few years ago, I landed a contract gig to write for Singularity Hub, a blog that covers the latest future-shaping advances in science and technology. In 2012, SU acquired the blog just as my wife, a native of Evansville, and I moved our three children to the area to be closer to extended family. After serving as the blog’s content manager, I was recently promoted to Director of Digital Platform Development to oversee all web and mobile platforms that serve the greater SU community, including online education. And yes, I can do this job from home as well.
Although my particular career path may be anomalous, an increasing number of tech businesses in the region are utilizing a distributed workforce as a means to capitalize on regional strengths, cut organizational overhead, improve life-work flexibility, and/or enhance job satisfaction and productivity. For example, Curvo Labs is a startup founded by Evansville natives Andy Perry and Steve Suhrheinrich, who now work from San Diego. Utilizing technology specialists in Indianapolis, the company developed an online platform that matchmakes medical device companies with hospitals and surgery centers efficiently, thereby reducing costs for both. Another example is DITTO, the designer eyeglass company that enables online customers to try on glasses virtually before making a purchase, which was discussed in the June/July 2012 issue of Evansville Business. While the tech side of the business is located in the Bay Area, about one-third of employees on the operations and customer service side reside in Evansville and partner with local wholesale optical lab Singer Optical to manufacture any prescription orders of DITTO’s eyeware products.
While distributed businesses aren’t anything new, virtual companies are becoming more widespread due to the speed and ease of data transfer available with today’s web and mobile technologies. The proliferation of email, social media, instant messaging, and video conferencing applications has enabled businesses to communicate and collaborate through a variety of services in real time. For those seeking a job, looking to fill a position, or even launching a new startup, the Internet has fundamentally changed the scope of possibilities in how companies and their employees can do business.
To read a more extensive review on telecommuting trends across the world, read “U.S. Being Left In The Dust Of The Global Telecommuting Revolution” at singulartyhub.com. You can also learn more about Curvo at curvolabs.com and DITTO at ditto.com.