Telecommuting and the future of social media

ksmith244    March 27, 2017

Eight years ago, when my Dad told me that he had joined Facebook, I groaned. Being in my early adulthood at the time, when my social status meant a lot more to me, I was worried about what my friends would think. While I adored my father (and still do!), Facebook was a space for Millennials with Bieber haircuts and skinny jeans, not for Dads who wore Velcro sandals. In fact, prior to the public launch in 2006, Facebook was only available to users who were enrolled in a university or college.

Fast-forward to 2017, and Facebook is a place everyone—Dads included! Most of us have grown so accustomed to social media being a part of our lives that it seems strange to think about it as a “new” phenomenon — but it is. In less than 10 years, a handful of niche sites catering to small populations have turned into thousands of apps and platforms that connect the majority of the world’s population. But where is social media and technology headed in the future?

It is obviously impossible to predict the trajectory, but there are signs of technologies in their infancy stages that are quickly evolving and adopting social media capabilities. In the last year, I have visited the Silicon Valley a few times; a place that is buzzing with the latest technologies that haven’t necessarily made their mark elsewhere in the world yet. About a month ago when I was driving on the Interstate 101, headed into San Francisco, I passed by dozens of billboards promoting artificial intelligence technology for the workplace, whereas a year ago most billboards were promoting the latest cloud base computing software. Perhaps these latest billboards are a sign of what’s to come.

University Avenue is the main street in the tech town of Palo Alto, California. From afar it looks like any other quaint downtown street with local boutique shops and cafes. But once you walk down the street you’ll notice that University Avenue is more like an outdoor version of the Consumer Electronics Show. Store fronts act like tradeshow booths highlighting the latest technologies and sales people encourage you to walk in and give the gadgets a try.

One day I was walking aimlessly down University Avenue, browsing the windows when I noticed a slim looking Segway motoring around with an iPad attached to the top. I figured that someone inside the store was controlling it, so I avoided eye-contact to ensure no one thought I was in the market to buy—sorry, no room in my carry-on! As I began to walk away, the Segway looking robot was quick on my heels and seemed to be following me. Suddenly I heard it say, “Hi”. When I turned around, I noticed a person on the iPad screen waving to me. Like a confused dog, I stood still with a perplexed look on my face while a young guy on the screen began to tell me about the product and that he was currently in New York City.

What was following me was Double, a robot that gives people physical presence at work, school or anywhere they want to be—so long as an Internet connection is available. The person on the other end, or the telecommuter, can physically drive the robot around using a joystick. You may be wondering what advantage Double has over other social applications like Skype or Facetime. Well, for starters the user has much more control and autonomy. When I work remotely, I have to rely on my office-based coworkers to set up video conferencing in the board room to allow me to join a group meeting. Once the meeting is over, the video conference is shut down and I resume to working alone. In an office, Double makes it possible for remote employees to have impromptu conversations like stopping by a co-worker’s desk to ask a quick question. This natural conversation is a valuable form of collaboration and is more challenging with statically designed video conferencing systems. The other benefit that Double has is that it allows the remote person to feel more connected, which can be a big challenge for people who work from home.

After receiving seed funding from companies like Johnson & Johnson and Coca-Cola, Double Robotics began filling customer orders in February 2013. Today the likes of LinkedIn, General Electric and Reddit have successfully implemented Double in their offices. Currently priced at about $3000 USD per unit, Double is a bit of a hefty investment for some companies. But, when you think about the return on investment for having engaged employees and removing barriers for those working remotely, the cost seems very menial.

My Dad (yes, the Velcro sandal wearing guy) is a software consultant for Workday and has spent most of his career working for companies like Oracle and Peoplesoft who were earlier adopters of remote-based employees. Since 1998 he has spent between 40 – 50% of his career working from home, with the other time spent in clients’ offices across North America. Having worked remotely even in the days of dial-up Internet, I wanted to get my Dad’s perspective on how social media has improved his working conditions and his thoughts on Double.

“Aside from high-speed Internet, I would say the thing that has greatly improved my work life as a remote employee has been social applications like Skype for Business or Sharepoint. It is essential to be able to collaborate and share with a team no matter where in the world people are located.”

I also wanted to get my Dad’s perspective on Double and whether or not he saw a use for it.

“It seems like a pretty neat technology and I can see it having a positive impact on remote-based employees.I wouldn’t want to be the first user who was driving around the office—I think I would be getting a lot of stares. But perhaps in a company that was more open minded to technology, then I could see it being very effective.”

Lessons for Others

Social media is defined as websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking. It is safe to say that there is a lot of room to grow for social media technology. With reference to Double alone, perhaps the next phase would be to have a robot that allows a telecommuter to use robotic arms. Today we talk about social media as a new phenomenon the way Baby Boomers spoke about adopting computers into their lives. It is only a matter of time where social media is so well integrated into our personal and work lives that we don’t need to talk about it because it is the way of life.

Organization: Workday
Industry: Software
Name of Organization Contact: Steve Smith

Authored by: Kristy Smith

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.


Customer Stories (n.d.). Retrieved March 23, 2017, from Double Robotics website

Dosh, K. (2016, Sept. 1). 10 Surprising Challenges of Working From Home. Retrieved March 23, 2017, from Women’s Day website

Loyola, R. (2013, Oct. 13). Double robotics review: Why go to the office when you a robot can go for you? Retrieved March 23, 2017, from Macworld website

Roberts, A. (2017, Feb. 1). Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality and the Future of Digital Marketing. Retrieved March 23, 2017, from CMS Wire website