The European Space Agency (ESA) recently revealed that a 19-year-old satellite, originally designed as a Gamma ray astrophysics laboratory, began an uncontrollable spin when one of its flywheels malfunctioned (a flywheel keeps the satellite stable). The spinning prevented the solar panels from receiving light and properly charging the satellite’s batteries.

The satellite had only 3 hours left before it was lost to the cold, unforgiving void of space, where no one can hear you scream as you realize your battery is down to 1% and the nearest charger is 12,000 miles below.

The ESA scientists quickly shut down non-essential systems to preserve battery life, then began the tedious work of figuring out how to repair the satellite. The spinning could not be countered by thrusters, given that they had stopped working back in 2020, so the only hope was to fix the flywheel.

The scientists were able to fix the flywheel and stabilize the satellite, only to learn that the satellite’s new position would not allow it to view the stars, which it uses to calculate its position. The scientific masterminds were able to fix the positioning issue just before the batteries ran out.

clip_image002This may not be big news today since we have become accustomed to space agency masterminds solving mind-numbing problems to push the limits of space exploration. What makes this story stand out (and merit inclusion in this newsletter) is that all this was done remotely. Not just remotely from earth to space, but also remotely in the sense that the scientists were working from the comfort of their own home rather than from ESA headquarters.

When remote workers are given the right tools, tasks can be achieved quickly, efficiently and without limitations.

Remote work saves fuel costs, frees employees from the stress of commuting to work, and gives them back several hours of their life each week that would have otherwise been spent in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Businesses also have seen benefits including happier, more productive employees as well as a reduction in expensive brick and mortal office costs such as rent and electricity. Some businesses have downsized their office space and opted to move their data to the cloud (or to a data center), while rotating groups of employees between office and home.

There is no shortage of tools available for employers to monitor productivity, on-line behavior, data flow and the activity of remote workers, helping business managers feel at ease about their employees putting forth effort and sound judgment while not being directly under their watchful eye.

Nobody can say for sure what the future of remote work holds in store. It is nice to know, however, that remote work has come a long way from the days of PC Anywhere and dial up modem connections.

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