Nilles’s solution to these contemporary concerns was telecommuting, but not quite telecommuting as we know it today—after all, this was before the advent of the Internet. He envisioned firms broken up into satellite offices, where employees could work remotely when they didn’t need to be physically present at headquarters.Instead of commuting to a central location downtown—and clogging up the area’s already congested streets—clerical workers would report to whichever office was closest to their homes to receive and complete assignments there. “Our primary interest, and the greatest impact on traffic and energy consumption, was reducing the commute to work,” Nilles says.
The authors wrote that “either the jobs of the employees must be redesigned so that they can still be self-contained at each individual location, or a sufficiently sophisticated telecommunications and information storage system must be developed to allow the information transfer to occur as effectively as if the employees were centrally collocated.” We know, with the benefit of hindsight, that both changes took place. (Emphasis added)
More than four decades after Jack Nilles penned these words (and years before the advent of today’s Internet), a “sufficiently sophisticated telecommunications and information storage system” now exists — thanks to the maturation and widespread adoption of information and communications technology. History’s stage is now set for a major reduction in daily commute trips to centralized, commute-in offices. That’s the primary message of my 2015 eBook Last Rush Hour: The Decentralization of Knowledge Work in the Twenty-First Century.