Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Telecommuting Job Watch: Elder Services

This morning I heard an interesting story on NPR about an application of teleconferencing tools to help monitor older people to avoid "I've fallen and I can't get up" incidents. This is a really great way for distant relatives to keep tabs on aging parents, aunties, uncles, or anyone who is able to live by themselves, but about whom you worry just a little bit.

I've heard of other applications like that - there are telemedicine programs, for example, where a nurse or physician's assistant looks in on people who have chronic health conditions. These programs combine teleconferencing with systems that send biometric telemetry (blood sugars, blood pressure, pulse, or data from wired medicine dispensers) to help medical professionals monitor a patient's condition and compliance with treatment plans.

Pretty nifty - it seems like a cost-effective way to prevent more serious problems and complications from a chronic illness (or from just getting older). And the monitors can also be telecommuters.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

FiOS versus Cable in a Battle for My Internets

The phone company has been sending Stella some postcards lately with a bit of intriguing information: FiOS has come to my neighborhood. We're seriously considering making the switch to fiber optic internets, but I'm just not sure.

Could it really be that much better and faster?

Here are the decision points, most of which, I realize, are irrelevant and crazypants. And yet:

  1. Which company is likely to be a more reliable source of customer service? Qwest or Comcast? Who knows?
  2. Which company is less of an evil, crippling monopoly? They both kind of are.
  3. Is it really faster, the fios?
  4. Would the productivity gains we make by ditching the cable television at the same time (because that's what we're thinking about doing) have a multiplying effect on any internets speed increase that we might also see?
  5. Can Mr. Commute live without hot and cold running ESPN?
You see, it's quite a quandary.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Apocalyptic Guidance for Telecommuting Managers

Stella can't resist articles that refer to the apocalypse in daily life so I was drawn to this little item from a summary of news about federal telecommuting programs. Four simple points (or horsemen if you will) about managing telework, and they really ring true.

If you perform knowledge work, you can telecommute at least part of the time. If you drive for forty five minutes and then log into a computer and begin working with things that exist on a network, you can telecommute. If your manager only sees you once or twice a week at meetings, and the rest of the time you're just cranking out work, you can do this.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Vacation Day is Best Taken Not In the Office

Okay, I know it's intuitively obvious to the casual observer, but your best vacation day will be one taken outside your office. But when you telecommute full time and you take the occasional vacayday it can be so tempting to just pop into your home office and do a little work. Stella is not going to lie to you: she did pop in the office this morning for a little work, but now I've taken myself out for a quick bagel.

And I'm blogging to you live from the coffee shop. I've totally become that guy tippity-tapping my keyboard at the coffee shop.

Don't hate me for my battery life.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Sharpie Company Has a Direct Link Into My Sooooooul

Oh, Sharpie, why do you torture me so? I love every pen you've ever made and own an embarrassing number of them. And now pencils?


I mean: may God have mercy on my soul.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Real Advice About FLSA from Lawyers

Stella is not a lawyer. Not even close. But I recognize when lawyers are a good idea, and one area is around human resources, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and who gets paid for what when. Seriously, if you're managing a telecommuting program, you need to be thinking about this stuff. Most telecommuters are exempt staff (e.g. we work til the job is done, or our brains are fried, whichever comes first).

But there are lots of jobs where you might could use telecommuting to manage people that would be non-exempt: data entry, transcription, inbound phone operations, and so on. And in those cases, you need to craft a telecommuting agreement that is quite clear on what time is compensated and what time isn't.

This article from law.com has some other good questions you should be asking your counsel about. I strongly urge you to do so, so as to stay out of hot water.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Some Blogs You Might Like

I'll be adding these to the "Links Stella Likes" section, but I just wanted to give a little bit of a shout out to a couple of useful and active telecommuting blogs that could be of interest:

  • Telecommuting Journal: Articles about telecommuting, and also some good links to leads on jobs that have a telecommuting aspect (and that aren't MLM or scams)
  • Chief Home Officer: A freelance writer who blogs about the tools and quandaries of running a business out of a home office.
Both these blogs are actively maintained, and had a lot of good information. I'm always looking for more to read and understand about telecommuting, so if you know of a good blog, feel free to post it in the comments.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Making the Case for Telecommuting: A Simple Approach

As Stella has mentioned, she's been traveling a lot to different on-site things, conferences, and other things. Everywhere I go, I have to explain to people how it is that I work for an institution in upstate New York but live in Albuquerque, and everyone I explain it to asks immediately, "How did you manage that?"

I try to counter by asking them: do you ever log in from home on Saturday to do a quick task?

If the answer is "Yes," then you have a fundamental case for experimenting with telecommuting at least some of the time. Because dig it: if you can log in from home on your time, why can't you do the same thing on their time and be just as effective? If that kind of access is good enough for an emergency, then it should be good enough for a regular work day as well.

I just don't understand what is hard about this. If you're feverishly working in the evenings and weekends on stuff when you're on business travel, or god forbid working while on vacation, you should be able to extend this style of working to the regular work day as well. It's a benefit that costs the employer very little -- once they've put in place the basic infrastructure you need to have safe remote access to systems, it's really pretty easy to just let people use it all the time.

So let them. And you, the employees: Ask For It At Work.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

This Just In: People Who Are Able to Work More Easily Work More

Stella has long held that one reason for telecommuters' increased productivity is that they're able to work more hours without really feeling much of a pinch. If I need to crank out some project or another in the evening or for a couple of hours on Saturday, it's no big deal. I already have all the equipment and access I need to be just as efficient and productive at home as I would be in the Real Office.

But now researchers at Brigham Young have confirmed this. As reported in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, researchers found that people who had flexibility in their schedule, from telecommuting to being able to set their own hours, worked more hours per week before getting cranky about it. And so if having people working a lot and working happy is important to you, telecommuting seems like a good way to get to that end.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Yes, Okay, I get it

I haven't been posting like I should. Between being on the road for two weeks in July, working hard to keep focus with people in varying states of summer vacationing, and assorted stuff, it's been hard to gather thoughts and post.

The good news is that school starts here in two weeks, so soon there will be fewer distractions. Honestly when there's even the slightest disruption in the force I find I really have to work hard to maintain my concentration and keep cranking out the work.

Including the blog.

But rest assured, faithful readers, soon you'll be finding lots more stuff to read here. Like tomorrow!