Category Archives: Telecommute

A Great Time to Practice Telecommuting


photo by gak

We are a week away to a possible BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) strike in the San Francisco area…again. If your people can’t get to work, what will you do? Your competition elsewhere in the world is not encumbered by your particular transportation woes! They will take this opportunity to move ahead of you while you are shutdown because your people struggle to get to the office to man (people?) the phones or work on that critical project.

So, what better time than right now, this week, to practice your emergency plans for business continuity for natural disasters and the like. Surely you have such plans already in place just waiting to be triggered! Well, okay, if you don’t, at least ask as many of those affected by the pending strike to work from home one day this week. See how things go. Fine tune your processes and telecommuting technologies. It is better to be ready to activate your plans or at least be aware of your potential problems than to scramble to keep things together when disaster strikes.

For tips on how to run teams virtually, or how to better work remotely as a telecommuter, check out the rest of this site.

It's Times Like These…

vaccineIt is times like these that I wonder why it is that virtual teams and telecommuting are not a standard part of every company’s business continuity plans or, better still, part of the core of the way of doing business. Think about it…if the concerns over the current flu pandemic come true and millions of people get infected or even die, what will you do with your business? Will you send all your people home for a long vacation? Think of your revenue stream. Think of all the phones ringing with nobody to answer them and orders going unfilled. Or, how about those unhappy customers taking their business elsewhere because there was nobody in Product Support to help them fix a problem with your product

Fortunately, there is a relatively easy fix for many businesses: telecommuting.  If you don’t already have one, you owe it to your shareholders to setup a telecommuting infractructure and encourage eveyone who can work from home to do so periodically as part of your business continuity strategy.  If you have a culture and infrastructure that supports a work-anywhere workforce, you will be able to shut down your company facilities for a short time and your customers may not even notice the change. 

It just makes good business sense to be prepared for disaster. The disaster that shuts you down might not be a virus, it might be particularly bad weather, terrorist attack, or a global conflict.  Whatever the cause, being able to operate your business with a distributed workforce is prudent.

You can read elsewhere on this site how to get started with telecommuting.  Why put it off any longer?  


Photo attribution: samantha celera

Beating Loneliness

Workforce Management today shares a couple of interesting ways for teleworkers to beat cabin fever. After all, spending every day working from home leaves many people feeling as though they’re gathering dust.

Jellies are small groups of freelancers, entrepreneurs, and telecommuters who get together with their laptops in groups of 15 or 20 to brainstorm with others in similar or even different fields. (Why “jelly?” For jelly bean, says the founder of the original one, Amit Gupta.) It’s a chance to get a fresh viewpoint and a fresh view.  An employer of a telecommuter who participates in a jelly may find it advantageous or disadvantageous. The telecommuter should be warned about keeping company confidential information to himself rather than unwittingly sharing it in a brainstorming session with a competitor. A telecommuter could be lured away by a job offered through his jelly, but there’s an up side to that problem: he might also recruit good people for his employer.

A more traditional cure for cabin fever is “co-working” in a neighborhood office space set up for remote workers and entrepreneurs. Check out Workforce’s story on how a video game developer kept a senior programmer happy and productive in a remote office after he moved away for the sake of his wife’s job. For a small space rental, his company was able to provide an office environment that energized a productive worker who found that working from home drove him “stir crazy.”

Oh Baby

Ask a Manager – one of my favorite blogs – has a pointer to this New York Times blog article about bringing babies to work. Not for a quick trip through the office to let everyone see the new addition to the family, but for an all-day camp out at the desk while a parent works. It’s an interesting twist on work-life arrangements to allow a new mom to juggle work and a babe successfully, but really, wouldn’t telecommuting from home be more effective for the parent, for the baby, and for coworkers?

Virtual Assistant: Hire One, Be One is talking about them. Employment Digest is talking about them. Tim Ferris, the productivity wizard of The 4-hour Workweek, recommends them, saying that “every facet of your life can be outsourced.” An entrepreneur can avoid hiring an extra employee by farming out administrative tasks to a virtual assistant. A admin assistant with an entreprenuerial bent can start a business working from home, choose how much business to take in, and enjoy the variety of work from multiple clients. Monster describes the career. It’s an interesting twist on telecommuting.

Two great uses for SR

I have found two great uses of speech recognition for telecommuters. But, before I tell you what they are, I’d like to give you some background on my experience with speech recognition software.

My SR Learning Experience

My typing speed varies between 80 and 150 wpm, depending on how much sleep I’ve had the previous night and my caffeine intake at that point in the day. The more caffeine, the slower my net speed due to the increased frequency of the backspace key–the most used key on my keyboard. As you can imagine, this speed was taking a toll on my wrists. Since my job required me to write a great deal, I found I was starting to experience some repetitive motion pain. Before the pain turned to injury, I decided to give speech recognition (SR) software a try. I had already tried an ergo keyboard, which helped, but being the geek I am, I wanted to try out something I felt could really fix my problem. I figured, why type at all, when the computer (theoretically) could do it for me! Continue reading

Telecommuting in the Office

Think no one is telecommuting because everyone’s present in the office? Think again. Listen to the office chatter. Workers with cell phones, browsers, and iPods are balancing work and life from the workplace.

“Seven fifty? In mint condition? Oh. Then how about six hundred?” They’re selling on craigslist, buying on eBay, and sealing deals by cellphone. “She didn’t have her homework done because we were on a trip last week.” “He’s violating the custody agreement and I want it stopped.” “It’s making this pinging noise, has been for the last thousand miles or so.” “Yeah, Saturday, at the brewpub at six.” They’re talking to accountants, repairmen, lawyers, friends. They’re friending on facebook and sending personal webmail. They work long hours. When else can they fit in personal business?

In a turnabout from taking work home, parents at work manage child care by cellphone. “No…no…I said NO. You may not take your sister’s game. It’s HER turn now. No. Later. I’m working now. Buh-bye. Hello. Again? Now what did I just tell you?” They take work home at night when there are critical deadlines. Why shouldn’t they manage a kiddie crisis from work?

An organization that has postponed setting telecommuting policies for effective work/life balance and performance measurement can’t wait. In our wireless world, telecommuting is already happening, one way or the other. Getting a handle on it in the office makes telecommuting from home just a small step further.

Everybody's Talking

Lindsay Blakely at BNET interviews Tammy Erickson of Harvard Business blog here about doing away with outdated time-based management by enacting a Results Only Working Environment. While ROWE can be used effectively by in-office workers, such a results-based performance measurement system is ideal for telecommuters and remote workers.

The Management Issues blog lists five “don’ts” here that anyone planning a telecommute program should avoid. Successful telecommuting needs some well-considered structure. discusses Accenture’s efforts to maintain a sense of community among remote workers and promote the retention of remote employees here.