Monday, December 28, 2009

Is Flying About to Become a Royal Pain?

Stella is ramping up for a post-holiday trip to her fine employer. I find that nothing says, "I really like working here," quite like showing up at the Real Office in Rochester, NY in January. But naturally I'll need to fly there, and given all the news lately, it seems like that's going to be a bigger pain than it might have been before this week.

That's okay. I can dig the need to make everyone feel safe. But I don't feel excited about the idea of not being able to do anything except sit quietly with my thoughts for the last hour of my flight. And I'm with Bruce Schneier on this:

I wish that, just once, some terrorist would try something that you can only foil by upgrading the passengers to first class and giving them free drinks.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

It's Hard to Vacation

When you live in your office building (e.g. you work out of your home) it is really tough to do the stay-cation thing over the holidays. Stella has been doing a supremely lousy job of it this holiday season. In part it is because this is one of the most important times of year in online fundraising (one of my primary concerns). I need to stay on top of the online giving data, make sure the system is working well, and resolve any donor problems that may arise quickly.

But it is also too darn easy to come out to the office and just do a little work. Maybe I should change the locks on my doors or something. No, that's not it. I need to have a little self-discipline that pulls in the opposite direction from where my self-discipline usually pulls me. Which is into my home office at six every morning.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Potential Tax Break for Virginia Telecommuters

A bill has been introduced in Virginia to offer people who telecommute more than 75 days a year a tax break on home office equipment, furniture, and the like. This is a great idea in an area where the traffic is truly awful, and where telecommuting can make a big impact on the quality of life. Encourage people to do what you'd like them to do with incentives like these. I love it!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Two Idiosyncratic Observations About Headsets

A ponytail, when properly placed, can provide an excellent resting spot for the behind the head style headset, relieving pressure on the tops of your ears. Also, spectacles and eyeglasses almost always interfere with a good headset fit, and are generally a pain.

Does anyone out there have a headset recommendation for the four-eyes set?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

When Worlds Collide

If you're like me, you figure that people should know that even though you work awfully hard and are really professional when it matters, that you're not a robot and you may occasionally enjoy an adult beverage in the company of friends and family.

But maybe you'd rather your colleagues and business contacts don't browse those snaps of you playing beer pong when you were twenty (or last week, but nobody's judging you). These tips from Web Worker Daily are about the best advice I've seen on segmenting your Facebook life from different aspects of your real life.

Pictures of you dancing at a wedding can be safely sequestered from your Vice President's browsing. And that's a good thing. Because it's important to network and connect with folks, but you don't need all your business out in the wild. Right?

Photo from Sorry I Missed Your Party - a site that is frequently not safe for work, but always hard to look away from.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

To be a telecommuter, that is. Yes, Hannukah and Christmas are a bundle of laughs, family, lights, food and so on. And Stella is planning to take some time off to spend with her family -- the kids don't have school for two weeks and so it would be hard to work here anyway.

But it's also the busiest time of year for non-profit fundraising. And this is where telecommuting really works out for me. Because even though I'm technically taking vacation days, I still will come into work every single day of the break to run data, monitor the health of the online giving systems, respond to email, and the like. Having the flexibility to mostly be "out of the office" while still being just as in the office at a moment's notice is critical.

There are lots of times when having the tools to be in the office wherever you are would be helpful. Nothing is worse than getting the panicky call from the Real Office whilst on vacation and not really being able to do anything about the situation. If everyone has access to the telecommuting tools and the basics of how to use them, everyone is able to pitch in when absolutely needed.

Not that employers should abuse this privilege. But it can come in handy.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Double Your Employees' Output?

That's what one company did. Rather than just plunge into a telecommuting program without knowing what impact it would have on their business, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System did a controlled experiment. The claims processors who worked from home more than doubled the number of claims they processed.

To which I say, nice work, guys!

I think that this outcome is probably caused by a few factors. First, people who are allowed to work from home tend to really appreciate the privilege and work really hard to not mess it up for those who would follow them. People selected for these kinds of pilot programs tend to be the A players, people who have a lot of initiative and who have built up a lot of trust with their managers and co-workers.

And of course, when you're working at home, you don't get interrupted by coffee runs, chatty Cathy Colleagues, and all the other distractions and folderol that Real Offices can throw at you. The distractions of television, housework, and family are largely overrated. Seriously, have you watched "Divorce Court"? It will make you want to gouge your eyes out. I would much rather process insurance claims, frankly.

How much could your business gain by having your workers focused, calm, and uninterrupted for a few hours?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Always Good Advice

There are a lot of reasons your employees might all need to telecommute for some period of time. I know you're getting sick of me harping on swine flu and other epidemiological events, but consider bad weather, problems with heating/water/air conditioning in your facilities, major traffic disruptions, or the Olympics. That's what employers in Vancouver, BC are facing as they look toward the 2010 Winter Olympics. Needless to say between security, visitors, and all the rest, getting workers to offices in many parts of the city will probably be a challenge.

That's why the Vancouver Observer's tips for the basics of setting up a telecommuting environment at home available here are useful for Vancouverites. But they're also good for anyone looking for the details of setting up the home office.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

On the downhill slide

We're on the short turn around to holiday parties, friends, and maybe it's best if the telecommuters don't go. Because there is a non-zero chance that we'll show up to the party in this. Actually, in my fevered imagination, I think that this is what my colleagues picture me in all the time. This or a muu muu.

Please, retain your discipline and composure, fellow telecommuters. Just because you can wear just a Snuggie to your home office doesn't mean that you should.

Monday, December 7, 2009

This is how inter-state taxation should work

If you're the StellaCommute reader who lives in Washington State but who works in Oregon, good news for you: You can prorate your income tax earned in Washington. So if you telecommute most of the time to your job in Portland, you should only pay Washington tax, not Oregon tax on that.

Get your calculators and figure it out.

Friday, December 4, 2009

If You Can Work From Anywhere

Why not work from the ski slopes like this developer for Etsy did last winter. While my corporate culture doesn't really accommodate this kind of thing, it's theoretically and technically possible. And I think it's kind of a great idea. You could really make this kind of arrangement work if you (like Stella) are in a different timezone than your core office, too.

Let's say you're a Hawaii surfing enthusiast (the real kind of surfing, not web surfing, goofballs) and you work for an East Coast outfit. You get up really early, work the East Coast 9 am to noon, surf the morning in Hawaii time for a couple of hours, then work East Coast 2:30 - 6. And you still have time to do other stuff before you go to bed. See? That could work.

Stella is considering a moderation of this: working Friday afternoons at a coffee shop. It could work. Maybe I'll try it today?