Monday, September 28, 2009

In A Recession, What Gets Cut?

We can only hope that wasteful programs to keep you sitting in a cubicle are the ones that get cut, and not flexible work arrangements and telecommuting. Really, employers, telecommuting saves you money in the long run. And with H1N1 looming menacingly, you are a stronger company by having technology and policies in place that will help you stay in business if people must be quarrantined.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Re-awakening My Office Supply Fetishism

I've been so good. Other than some Energel and Sharpie pens (and I'm seriously lusting after the new retractable Sharpie pens...ooh they know where I live, and it's in the pen aisle) I really have restrained myself on the office supply front. I've been embracing a new frugality. I've got perfectly nice folders in primary colors; I don't need the paisley ones.

This article from LifeHacker is kind of making me reassess my home office though. I think I do need more effective cord management. What about you? Does rearranging your space make you work better, or is it actually just an excuse to waste a little time in the office?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Spend Money to Save Money

This just in from Information Week: if you spend money to make your telecommuting infrastructure strong and useful to your employees, you save money and have more productive workers.

See? I told you so.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Thinking About Scheduling (Some More)

My place of employment is a very meeting-heavy environment. I mean, people love to meet, they meet all day, and when you need to get with key decision makers (or heaven forfend, get a group of key decision makers in one room at the same time) it's often a two to three week wait (or worse) to find a time. Now Stella generally gets to escape some of the madness, because a lot of what I do is actual project work that comes after decisions are made, and I am 2,000 miles away most of the time.

But now that I'm getting into more "strategery" areas, I really need to get time with people, and it turns out to be really tough because they're all booked solid, packed back to back, lined up in stacks, and ready to mack.

Okay, not the last part. But you see the organizational problem here. I maintain that we should embrace the following rules about scheduling:

1. No one's day should ever be back to back meetings all day. Never. Ever. I don't care what kind of high-powered executive you are, you should have 90 minutes in the morning (even if it's broken into three 30-minute chunks) to do actual work, and at least 60 minutes in the afternoon toward the end of the day for processing what you've been handed during the day. Minimum.

2. Organization-wide meeting-free days are a good thing. Even if you're mostly managing other people's work, you still need some time for making. Uninterrupted free time where you can chew on those important-but-not-urgent projects that always fall by the wayside. Of course, this requires discipline, because sometimes those meeting-free afternoons become work-free afternoons, but you can do it. Tag some important-but-not-urgent task for each meeting-free day and you're in business.

3. Block time for "office hours" -- like a college professor who sits in her office during office hours so students can come in and wheedle for better deadlines, or a pediatrician who has "sick kid" appointments that can be doled out as people call with urgent needs to be seen, having time that is targeted for meetings but not booked weeks in advance is critical. It gives everyone some time to play with when genuinely urgent matters come up.

4. Consider carefully what meetings you really need to attend. Could you send a capable deputy and then have part of your regular confabs with your staff be filling you in on this or that project? You can get the skinny on what's talked about and get clued in on what you'd like to be involved in the deciding on when you send your able staff members out into the world. Try it.

5. Also, this sharing thing works both ways: you actively share what you've heard about in the meetings you attend with your staff so everyone knows what's happening now. Spreading the information helps you get the maximum value out of the meetings you simply can't miss.

Look, Stella isn't a business researcher, and I don't have any data or studies that suggest that these things would actually help people feel less harried and get more work done, but it makes sense to me. Maybe I should go get an MBA so I can study the dynamics of meeting scheduling.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Telecommuting as a Path to Employment for People with Disabilities

Stella has long had this thought in the back of her mind: telecommuting is ideal for people with disabilities. And then I find this agency, NTI, which specializes in training workers with disabilities for telecommuting jobs in a variety of fields (mostly customer service, call center, and medical transcription). But really, how cool is that?

If you're an employer who already uses telecommuters in some fashion, consider expanding your program to seek out and hire people with disabilities as well. It's a great way to keep a person in the workforce and contributing their talents and skills to society.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

An Excellent Use of Telecommuting Technology

Telehealth is an emerging field and as a resident of a big state with lots of rural areas where there is very little medical care available, it's something I've been aware of for a while. Now, big insurers like United Healthcare are getting into it and deciding that it might be covered, and that's a good thing.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Stella's Strategic Planning Plan

Just so you know, this is my basic strategy for making the outlook better for my colleagues. A simple plan is best, usually.

Drinks, anyone?

Friday, September 4, 2009

In the Office, But More Uprooted

Stella is getting ready to go on-site in the Real Office next week, and as usual it's a mixed bag. Of course, seeing people in person, having meetings that reassure instead of having technical problems that make people wonder if I'm making static noises with my mouth so I can get out of conference calls, and wearing shoes are always fun.

But the downside to being on-site is camping out in a conference room and running madly from meeting to meeting.

It just feels inefficient and frazzling. But hey, that's the work people. I'm trying something new this time, though. Instead of thinking of it as "camping out", I'm going to consider myself "location independent." And while my windowless conference room isn't exactly a cafe on a Greek isle, but if I close my eyes...

No. That doesn't work, but thinking of my self as independent rather than rootless may help.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

We now resume normal social activity

If by "normal" you mean "going to a bar and taking a test with your in-laws". We played Geeks Who Drink last night for the second week in a row, making it officially a thing. Our stalwart team leader Margret was home doing something meaningful with her baby (hence our team name) but we had another team member back from a long-term work assignment in Tulsa, so we had to go. Second place. Alas.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I Think the Skype Sale Is Good News

As a person who uses a SkypeOut number as her primary office phone number I was glad to see that EBay decided to just sell Skype rather than let it languish and die. Even though it wasn't useful to allow auction participants to talk to each other (um, isn't that the whole point of using the EBay? The stuff sits out there, you answer questions when it's convenient for you, and then when it's over your ship the crap to whomever won the auction?), Skype is very useful for me.

So good deal, I think.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

"This Page Intentionally Left Blank"

Five words that always crack me up, because, by their very presence they nullify what they are intended to indicate. Like this cake. I recommend that you look at all the cakes on Cake Wrecks, and pause to reflect.