Steve Jobs predicted the power of a remote workforce 30 years before COVID-19

Accounting for every conceivable development in life, fostered Steve Job’s prescient wisdom in death.

Twenty years before he succumbed to pancreatic cancer, and 30 years before the coronavirus pandemic, the Apple magnate predicted the value of telework.

In a recently uncovered sit down with journalist Jon Erlichman that took place in 1990, Jobs championed the potential of a digital labor market. In his estimation, an organization that can function in a virtual setting is more flexible in the face of black swan hiccups.

A bicycle of the mind

“As an example, in an organization, we’re starting to see that as business conditions change faster and faster with each year, we cannot change our management hierarchical organization very fast, relative to the changing business conditions,” Steve Jobs said on a WGBH show called The Machine That Changed the World. “We can’t have somebody working for a new boss every week. We also can’t change our geographic organization very fast. As a matter of fact even slower than the management one. We can’t be moving people around the country every week. But we can change an electronic organization like that.”

Although Apple exists among the minority of firms that have yet to fully embrace telework, the lion’s share of tools at our disposal with respect to out of office productivity was designed by Job years before our urgent need for them.

He described computers as the “bicycle of the mind,” something that takes us far beyond our inherent abilities.

In a memo, Tim Cook recently informed employees at various global Apple offices to “please feel free to work remotely if your job allows.

The policy was initiated in order to protect disproportionately affected regions-namely offices in the Santa Clara Valley and Elk Grove areas in California, Seattle, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland, and the U.K.

When the pandemic first penetrated the US,  the company opted to temporarily close all 42 of its retail stores in mainland China to reduce COVID-19’s exponential growth curve.

Since March, most of these heavily impacted locations have reopened. Travel to China, South Korea, and Italy is still restricted. Even still,  the low ball revenue projection for Apple set at around $63 billion for the January-March quarter was redacted in light of prolonged commercial curfews.

As previously reported by Ladders,  companies that were already prepared for remote work are currently enjoying the most job growth during the pandemic.

Speaking more broadly about the utility of telework, collaboration immediately comes to mind as a benefit. Jobs’ success survived on “casual encounters.”

As noted by the late CEO, digital communication allows for connections that would be nye impossible thirty years ago.

According to the 2017-2018 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, remote work was on the verge of taking over the labor market, with a third of employees agreeing that their job could be done just as easily from the comforts of their home. This figure has more than doubled in the time since the COVID-19 pandemic urged national shutdowns.

Executives don’t get much credit for deciding to colonize digital sphere ecosystems,t the fact that Jobs was determined to do so, several decades ahead of a looming recession a, devastating pandemic and before the technology even supported the execution, speaks volumes about his legacy as a trend setter.

“And what’s starting to happen is as we start to link these computers together with sophisticated networks and great user interfaces, we’re starting to be able to create clusters of people working on a common task in a– literally in fifteen minutes worth of setup. These fifteen people can work together extremely efficiently no matter where they are geographically. And no matter who they work for hierarchically. these organizations can live for as long as they’re needed and then vanish. And we’re finding we can reorganize our companies electronically very rapidly.” Jobs concluded.