While I have been taking an undeserved break from working on this site, I have been marvelling at remote work capabilities across the planet.

It is been hashed and rehashed about ‘knowledge’ work and how can work from anywhere and collaborate to get things done.

In some ways, this is 100% accurate. However, what work are you really getting done? Is pushing data and files around really a form of productivity?

The people in charge of measuring such things would definitely that this factors into the equation. Output over input… A lot the inputs happen to be meta data and a lot of the output happens to more data, but still there are inputs and there are outputs.

It really doesn’t tell you how useful the output is, nor does it tell you how efficiently you used the inputs.

If you’re in a factory producing golf balls, you know how many golf balls were made from how much raw material, labor and capital equipment. It is not immediately clear how much economic value was created from that productivity because there still a lot of unknowns.

You don’t really know how many of those golf balls have been sold and at what price and you have no idea how much effort into the golf balls ‘saleable’.

Generally speaking, the work of actually producing the golf balls cannot be done remotely. The people making the golf balls need to be on the premises working synchronously.

But all of the fuzzy “hard to measure the value of” work can be done remotely. It is hard to measure those inputs and those inputs.

If no golf balls could be sold without the efforts of the “hard to measure” people then it is pretty clear that their work does create value. It then becomes a problem of ascribing the value of each groups contribution to the whole.

While marvelling at remote work capabilities for the past two years is justified, it is important to remember that remote work can’t accomplish much without people doing some physical work somewhere.