Tuesday, October 28, 2008

University Sustainability Includes Telecommuting

Universities are key economic forces in their communities (and sometimes in the world as a whole, depending on the institution's reach). As leaders in employing people and driving how work is done, they should totally embrace green policies, including encouraging telecommuting.

That's why it warms Stella's heart to read that Syracuse University has specifically included flexible work and telecommuting as part of their sustainability plans. Along with Zipcars and pre-tax bus passes, "Supervisors have been asked to encourage their employees, when appropriate, to consider flexible work schedules that cut down on commuting. Four-day weeks or telecommuting are among the options."


Monday, October 27, 2008

Tips for Coping with a Wrecked Hand

I know I said I wasn't going to be blogging, but I just can't stay away, dear readers. I've had my sweet little cast on for two weeks (almost) and I'm finding some good ways to get around the inconvenience.

1. Thumb typing can be less annoying than hamfisted traditional typing. I've been going slowly insane, driven to madness by the slowness of my typing, and I discovered that answering all my email on the Blackberry is, in some ways, easier than trying to peck out coherent responses on the full size keyboard.

2. Embrace plastic baggies. One of my big concerns is keeping my cast as fresh as possible so that I am presentable for social situations. I slap a baggie over my left hand when I'm doing stuff around the house -- cooking, tidying, petting dogs -- and it seems to really help. A related tip: Febreeze (aka: why clean when you can just make it smell clean?).

3. Take breaks. Often I will get on a roll where I'm really trying to type something important, and I have to consciously remind myself to stop using my bad hand because I'm also making my shoulders, neck and back feel bad. I stop, do some arm circles to try and keep some semblance of arm muscles, and then I put the bad hand up and go one handed for a while.

4. Proofread like crazy. You should do this anyway, but it's easier to get your fingers on the wrong keys when one hand is completely (well, nearly completely) useless. Give everything you write a super-duper-twice over.

I know this blog post will be incredibly useful to the large segment of the population out there who is trying to get stuff done with a broken pinky. That's what bloggers call knowing your audience!

Monday, October 13, 2008

This Isn't Some Kind of Gang Sign, I Hope

Well, the good news is that your gentle correspondent did not need surgery on her injured little finger. The bad news is that it had to be configured as depicted at right. My pinky and ring finger are extended at roughly a right angle to my palm. It's like I'm wearing a very stiff Michael Jackson glove. One that I can't remove for six weeks.

I'm pecking at the keyboard in a way not unlike a chimpanzee operating the controls in his space capsule. I predict that I'm probably only 7 to 10 days away from wrecking my left shoulder by typing like this.

So much to look forward to.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Brief Blogging Hiatus

Stella is sad to report that she must take a brief blogging break -- she broke a finger on her left hand* and cannot waste any of her limited tolerance for one handed typing on recreational use. Seriously, I normally touch type at 75+ WPM and this is going to drive me to drink. I have to keep my sh!t together for my real job, so I must conserve my keyboard essences.

If I can figure out how to post my x-rays, I will surely do so.

* It happened in the sliding door of our minivan. The door did manage to close all the way and latch, so my pinky is decisively brokesville, baby! I've got a sling, an arm splint, and orders to see an orthopaedist on Monday. Fun!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Telecommuting Wardrobe Tips

It's easy to think that when you work at home you no longer need to worry about clothing at all. Let your freak flag fly, you figure, because who will see you?

Well, dear readers, if you're doing things right, people will actually see you pretty frequently (through your web cam). So you need to make sure that you look reasonable when you're virtually attending meetings. I've got a few suggestions:

1. No pajamas. I know it's a cliche, but just don't do it. Even the most professional looking pajamas are still vaguely floppy. And really what's the point of having business-like pajamas?

2. Try shirts with collars. There is something about a shirt with a collar that makes you look somehow more pulled together from the waist up than a t-shirt. Even the most chic, sophisticated jersey knit t-shirt will look slouchy and too comfy when people see you online.

3. Wear shoes every day, at least for part of the day. Stella has learned one thing over the years of wearing slippers: they're a lot more comfortable than shoes. But the sad thing is that you will always have to wear shoes at least part of the time, so don't let your feet get too comfortable. Put on Real Office shoes for at least part of your day.

4. Pay attention to what you wear. A corrollary to my wear real shoes every day is this little rule. It's far too easy to slip into the same yoga pants, cardigan, blogging muu-muu or what have you. But working from home is your lifestyle, not a temporary illness where you give yourself a break. I'm not suggesting that you spend a ton of money and buy a whole new casual home wardrobe -- that would defeat the purpose. But don't forget that you're a vital, attractive, young telecommuter -- wear stuff you like that looks good.

Particularly from the waist up!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Telecommuting Is Awesome, Study Finds

From CIO, this quick piece covering a survey conducted by CompTIA about the perceived and actual benefits of telecommuting. Of note: 60% of respondents said that telecommuting programs saved them money, although the amounts varied widely. This stands to reason: if you send all your employees home and eliminate your rent and facilities costs, you'll save a lot of money. If you let people work from home one or two days a week and maintain an office or cube for each of those folks to use when they are in the Real Office, you'll save a bit less.

I would have liked them to ask people whether giving people telecommuting is a good way to offset paltry raises (or worse yet, cuts!) in an era of economic instability. Because I think this is going to be a growing benefit of telecommuting. If you can't help your employees keep pace with the rate that gas and other commuting expenses are increasing by increasing their pay, you can help reduce their costs by having them not drive their cars to and from the office.

It really doesn't cost you a thing. And that could save your employees a lot.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Worst Case Scenario

This story about Comcast customers in the Houston metro area is really awful. First of all, on a personal level I'd kind of freak out a little bit if I wasn't able to obsessively read crap on the internets for several weeks. But the work aspects of it are truly horrifying.

This is the flip side of having remote employees -- if they are remote in places that are experiencing the same natural disaster that your Real Office is experiencing, you don't tend to get the disaster responsiveness you might could be hoping for. That's why everyone should hire telecommuters from New Mexico -- other than the occasional high wind, fire, or sand storm, there isn't a lot of catastrophic weather stuff that happens here.

Okay, we do have the plague. But it's highly treatable now. Really.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Driveable Telepresence, Again

Okay, this is a movable telepresence device I could get behind. Or inside. Or however I would be, prepositionally speaking, relative to this nifty little item. I have to think the badass design would reduce the risk of involuntary hat-wearing at the remote location, and I love the idea of driving it into people's offices and frightening them at their desks.

The problem with a lot of telepresence stuff is that you can't drive it from home. So if I need to meet with someone who is less technically adept that I (or less willing to horse around with Skype killing off their webcam every three minutes or whatever) it's a problem. I need to be able to get myself into a conference room without the other party having to do anything except show up. Just like if I was there, no one would be responsible for wheeling my disembodied head into the conference room.

Well, under ideal circumstances that would be true.

(Image from io9)

Friday, October 3, 2008

Telecommuting Definitely Saves Gas

I know that there are some doubters out there who say that even though telecommuters aren't driving to work that they're still using gas. You know how we're all driving to lunch with colleagues and running errands and stuff, and so it's probably a wash.

Well, I beg to differ. I must tell you (and please don't hate Stella, dear readers) that I am only filling my gas tank once a month. I noticed this trend in July -- I filled up on July 2, then August 5, then again after Labor Day, and I just did my October fillup. That's not much gas.

Now I'm not taking crazy measures -- I pick up my little kid at daycare three days a week when it's my turn to do so, I drive to the grocery store more than I should (largely because I'm too lazy to schlep a gallon of milk home by hand), I zip up to the gym, and so on. But really, it's so much less gas than I used even on my modest commute to the Real Office during my brief respite from full-time shut-in-ism. I'm a little shocked myself, honestly.

I really think that folding support for broad based programs to support telecommuting (improving internet infrastructure without metering and with neutrality, consistent tax policy so people aren't double-taxed by states, tax rebates for employers who promote telecommuting, oh, I suppose there are other things too, but I am policied out after watching the VP debates) has got to be a part of an energy strategy. A small part to be sure, but be terrific, be specific.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I'm Not Getting Political

...but I will say this: do you ever find yourself in the middle of a rambling question and/or answer, and sorta come to outside your body and think to yourself, "What on earth am I talking about?"


Okay, it's just me. But lately when that's been happening to me, I've been feeling like I know what Sarah Palin must feel like sometimes, and I've wanted to say to the person I'm going crazy on how sorry I am for getting Palinesque. And then I stop because I'm afraid they'll take it like a partisan thing instead of a "string a coherent sentence together" thing. But I mean it as a coherence-competence thing.

I mean, really. We've all had tough interviews where we found out about halfway through the interview that when they said TCP/IP, they meant a whole lot more than basic configuration of a firewall on a home router. I don't know about you, but when that happens to me, I just answer honestly and say, "I'm not familiar with the intricacies of configuring switches," or what have you.

I've never done it, but I know enough about it to know that it's not the kind of thing I can bullshit through with a Sams "Teach Yourself TCP/IP in 24 Hours" book and a smile.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Tips for Videoconferencing

From the New York Times, these are some good basics to keep in mind when you're on the videemaphone with your colleagues. I find it's one thing to be the person running the meeting -- I have no problem focusing, filtering distractions, and all the rest of it. But it gets a lot harder to focus when I'm on the periphery of a meeting.

It's so easy to start picking through email. Or do a little IMing. Or spacing out and looking out the window.

Well the last bit you could do if you were in the conference room with everyone else. But you should knock off the rest of it.