Monday, July 23, 2007

The Best Thing About Telecommuting Is...

...being at home for the summer with my eleven year old daughter. I don't pay attention to her all day, she probably isn't as productive as she should be (violin practice, anyone? unloading the dishwasher without reminding? whatEVer.), and I'm sure that actually going to a summer program or camp of some kind would have been more fun for her.

But it is great to not have to worry about where she is and what she's doing for the summer. And she goes back to school in about three weeks, so the "keeping her busy" is almost over.

I will miss this aspect of working from home. But I'll cope, I'm sure. And she's excited at the prospect of getting a cell phone because I won't be home when she gets home after school.

It's the little things.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Questions Potential Shut-Ins Should Ask Themselves

From Life Hack, this interesting post presents some of the questions that people who are thinking about wearing slippers as a work-style should consider before taking the plunge. For me the most serious consideration is the isolation from the main group of people that I work with. I can (and do) socialize a lot in my real life, but not being out and about amongst my Real Office colleagues is a bit of a barrier to getting stuff done, at times.

I'm just saying.

Monday, July 16, 2007

What's Going On

Even when you work in the Real Office all the time, it can be hard to really know what is going on when change is afoot in an organization. For the long-term shut in, getting plugged in and staying plugged into the scuttlebutt is critical during times of change.

I have a network of contacts that I keep up with, but making sense of the intelligence I receive is hard. I feel a bit like the three (or four or six) blind men and the elephant -- each person touches different parts of the changes that are transpiring, and thus has a wildly variant opinion about what is going on. I spend a lot of time filtering and correlating to determine what is really going on.

Luckily I have a long history with the organization, and this helps me with placing it all in context. But I discover something new everyday, and I'm realizing more and more that keeping those intelligence (okay, gossip!) networks alive and well is a big part of my job now.

Sounds productive, doesn't it?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Fighting for Focus

Maybe it's just because I'm hitting a lot of roadblocks in the getting my job done lately, but I'm struggling with remaining focused. What with flakey connections to my remote PC, terrible videoconferencing technical difficulties induced by people over whom I have no control randomly resetting firewall and Polycom settings, insane three-hour meetings during which I can hear every third word because of the aforementioned connection and videoconferencing difficulties, it's no wonder.

And naturally this is compounded by anxiety as I await an official job offer that will, like Calgon, take me away from all this.

I find it exasperating to be making progress on something only to be stymied by some technical hiccup that slows things down, and this leads to distraction. When something is taking a long time to run, compile, come up, show up, whatever, I just pop over to another window and start doing something else. When I've got every real thing that I'm trying to work on stuck, then I really feel like I'm being driven slowly mad by the internets.

I don't have any insight or solution. I'm really just complaining.

Maybe I should just work on one thing at a time and accept that I'll be doing it slowly whilst waiting for the system in question to get its act together. Perhaps it's like coping with an injury -- I just need to accept that I won't be able to use my broken left leg as fast as I would like until it heals. I can try to run a marathon on it, but it is unlikely that I would have much luck at that. Perhaps the same is true on somewhat hobbled systems I'm working with -- I just need to get the Zen mind kicked into gear and be in the moment of waiting for it to return my results, be appropriately configured and patched, or what have you.

Yes, be in the moment. I'm breathing deeply.
(Image from

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Telecommuting Pros and Cons

As I ready myself mentally for the potential of a return to a Real Office setting, I find myself thinking about the benefits and burdens of telecommuting. To wit:

Pro: Working a time-zone shift and completing my workday at three in the afternoon.

Con: Getting up at five in the morning to accommodate this schedule.

Pro: Reduced need to look more than merely presentable on a day to day basis.

Con: Descent into disarray.

Pro: Getting to concentrate for long periods of time on tasks.

Con: Sitting by myself in my house for hours on end.

Pro: Limited interruptions from coworkers.

Con: Limited interruptions from coworkers.

Pro: Feeling like a privileged member of some new environmentally-conscious-technologically-hip-super-group.

Con: Being treated like a marginal figure in my traditionally-organized-and-firmly-rooted-in-the-physical-concept-of-place institution.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Telecommuting Success Factors

What leads to any particular employee's success as a telecommuter? Well, in my year of experience I've discovered a lot of things can help.

There is having a sturdy set of remote technologies in place so that remote workers can access every system, network, and tool they may need in the course of their work. This access should go across the board, even to systems the person may not need currently, but may in the future. If expanding your work requires extensive on-site set up to hook you into another system, you're not going to be very popular with your friends in IT. Suddenly it becomes easier to have a Real Office worker take on that duty instead of the slipper-wearer, and you're on your way to marginalization.

Stella Says: Make remote access part of the default set up for all newly acquired systems. Every employee's PC should have secure remote access enabled; every server should be configured for secure remote maintenance.

Another problem I've faced is being the only telecommuter in my office, and one of only three in my 400-person division. This has lead to a perception that telecommuting is for the elite few, and this can tend to breed resentment and grumbling amongst my Real Office colleagues. So by all means, start your telecommuting and remote work program with a controlled pilot group of your best and brightest (or at least your most But for heaven's sake don't stop there -- roll it out to everyone sooner rather than later to reduce resentment and make everyone feel the loving care of flexible work arrangements.

Stella Says: Develop strong policies that support responsible full-time remote work and/or telecommuting days, that give managers tools to monitor telecommuters, and that allow managers an out when faced with abuse of the policy. Then ROLL IT OUT TO EVERYONE.

I've been worried since the start that I would never be promoted again, and I think this should be a concern for all remote workers. Depending on how management perceives the importance of your work, and how easily they can detect your accomplishments, you may face significant limitations on your advancement. For me, it's a particular problem because I work in a small technical island in a sea of people who think that it's very strange to enjoy spending eight hours a day puzzling over computer stuff. To put it simply, they think we're nuts. I think that telecommuters who work in technology companies may have a very different experience than I have had, but in any circumstance, making sure that not only your immediate manager, but his or her bosses know what and how much you're able to accomplish in your slippers. Likewise, staying in touch with the other shut-ins who may work there, and making sure that everyone is communicating well about the success of their efforts would really help.

Stella Says: Communication is key, and every part of the telecommuting food chain must think consciously about how to quantify and express how it's working.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Co-working: Antidote to Lonliness?

Thanks to LifeHack, I found this blog from some friendly co-working advocates. I like the idea of co-working, although it seems to be aimed at creating a faux-office -- not exactly the work wherever you are in your underpants utopia that many shut-ins embrace.

But for those who are wondering whether they could handle the isolation of full-time telecommuting, these co-working sites are a good treatment for that little telecommuting ill.