Nov 13 2009

Telecommuting: Are you ready to be a remote user?

workremotelysmilely_thumb Telecommuting: Are you ready to be a remote user?When your sitting at your desk and your thinking, ‘man, I just wanna go home.’ or your thinking you wished you could just work from home; wouldn’t that be awesome. You need to think about what your saying and try to understand the requirements to work remotely.

You need to understand there’s trade off’s and that working remotely can be a double edged sword.

It’s not all ‘this is easy this is fantastic and to Hell with all those other guys.’- nah- there’s more to it than that.

The concept of working remotely is nice as a passing thought, especially when those days can be just absolutely beautiful; the skies are blue, fresh cut grass, birds chirping and the billowing clouds the glide through. I know, I’ve been there.

Are you a candidate for Telecommuting?

This is a really tough question. Seriously, you and your manager(s) would’ve to work this out to see if your a good fit.

  • Are you a self starter?
  • Are you dependable?
  • Do you’ve initiative?
  • Do you’ve the things you need to work remotely [fax, computer, printer, paper, pencils, post-its…]?
  • Do you work well solo?
  • Do you’ve an isolated place to work?

These are just some of the questions you should ask yourself, because your going to be testing yourself.

When I worked remotely for 4 years, it took discipline to be there and do the job. You’ve to have the mindset that this is my job, I’ve to do it and I can’t be mucking off; and that’s really key to what I’m talking about.

As a remote user, you’re a self-manager. You’ve to say, and remind yourself, that you’re there to work. There’s so many things, just being at home will cause you to think, ‘I can do this’ or ‘I can do that’. It’s those thoughts that you’ll need to resist.

While you may think that you’re ready for it and that you can do it; managers will have to take a position on this. You may have the position that ‘I can do this no problem’, but how you see you and how others see you’re completely different. Managers will be taking a risk by allowing you to work remotely and they really need to know you’re not  going to go home, hook your computer and then take continuous sleeping breaks. And it may be a group decision, does the group think you can work remotely?

If your position requires you to physically go somewhere during the day in the office to grab a file, research something on a hard copy of something in a filing cabinet, working remotely is not for you- you’re not  the ideal candidate. You can’t expect someone to go and pull a folder or be your work-monkey when ever you call; it’s not fair and eventually, if it was agreed to before, it’ll start wear thin and problems will surface.

If your company is not willing to assist you with the remote user costs and upkeep with your remote office, your going to be dealing with that. That means, buying paper, pens, post-it’s and ink cartridge for the printer. This also includes the phone, long distance bills and Internet service. You’ll have to discuss those issues as well; who’s going to pay those and how. I can say this from experience, if you’ve a company credit card, expense it out, pay the bills with the credit card and everything will much easier; a lesser route would be to pay all the expenses and everything upfront and expense it later- there may be benefits or issues with paying directly with a company credit card.

So don’t be so quick to say ‘let’s do it.’

I’m going to say this frankly and bluntly, if you’ve a family [with kids] and you don’t have a basement or quiet room to go to, to work- forget it. Kids don’t understand ‘…mommy/daddy is at work, you can’t talk to them right now…’  And kids play; they run, they jump and they’re going to scream and if you can hear any of this, it’s going to be distracting and the last thing you need to hear is a customer asking you ‘…what was that screaming noise?’ It’s no professional, it’s not meant for the work place and if you can’t isolate yourself for 8-9 hours of work time, inside your house, put your plans of working remotely on hold.

So what are the benefits?

Well for one, you can work in your underwear [just kidding]. You don’t have to get all dressed up and nice all nicety. You can wake up make some coffee, watch TV, walk outside and when it’s time go back inside and get ready for work. The rush to get up get dressed and jam down the road trying to dodge all the other idiots.

And speaking of benefit one, no driving to work. Driving to work is so, so , so not fun. You’re literally putting your life in the hands of someone else. They drive crazy; you ask yourself, ‘ how in the Hell did they get a drivers license?’ and why do they have to pull up so far on my car bumper at the read lights?

And let’s not forget driving costs. There’s cost for driving; your insurance rates are based on how far you’ve to drive to get to work [it’s a stupid rule I know] and thanks to the oil companies and the asses working the stock market, the price of gas is up and down like a 5yr old on a pogo-stick. It’s a lot easier on the wallet not having to fill your gas tank every week to get to work. There’s less repairs on your car and the tires on your vehicle. There’s a very good chance as a telecommuter that your vehicle will have some quiet time- maybe a lot of it.

By being a remote user [and if it’s a benefit for your employer] you can file a tax break for working from home. The utilities[%] you use, equipment, home [%] and other resources can be claimed as a tax break when Uncle Sam calls on you to donate to the ‘Taxes Collection Plate.’ This include mileage and Internet service.

Ah, you get your own office! It may not have a view, but you get your own office; nice and quiet no interruptions, nothing put pure production/work time to get things done. It’s hard to understand to some people how you can be so busy AND work from home- IT’S POSSIBLE. I worked from home for 4yrs and there were many a day when I worked through lunch and hard to work late [yeah, at home- explain that one to your spouse].

If you’re writer or a person that does tech support, this is the perfect time to take advantage of using voice recognition software. You’ve NO IDEA how important it is to use voice recognition in the daily life of a computer user when you have a  quiet area to use it- it can save your life. I can’t stress this enough.

Having that space, that area to concentrate on getting things done is very powerful. When a person [a focused person] is left to focus on his job a lot can be done when interruptions are kept to a minimum. So people, doing tech support or people like writers should be able to really crank out some stuff in a shorter period of time, and should be of higher quality.

What’s wrong with this plan?

Your alone- The biggest issue is that your alone. You really have to work hard at working hard. And there may be times you feel guilty for working from home and that you’re under appreciated or overlooked or left out; you may be, but you’ve to stick with it. Knowledge is knowledge and it’s just as valid here as it is there; it’s not limited by geographic location.

When your in the office though you get to hear a lot of interoffice conversations; not so much your ease dropping on conversations, but you hear things that spark your interest. Like how to do something, or there’s a new feature or a new process for HR- just something you’re not  going to get from the company newsletter. You’ll miss the meetings, discussions, rumors and you’ll miss anything that’s not provided my an email or handout.

Being in the office is actually a huge benefit in some environments. because you can listen or hear a problem, find out how to fix or find out something new about a customer or just pickup on general practices that may not be handed out for weeks [via memo].

If you’re not a disciplined mind, you can very easily go from being hard worker to NO WORKER [fired] for mucking off in the middle of the day. You’ve thoughts of who cares, no one can see me and I’m special and those rules don’t apply to me. As soon as you put yourself on that road, you need to start looking for a new job ‘cause it’s just a matter of time before consequences catch up with your in-actions.

You also need to write off a lot of your social activity you would normally have during the week. I say this because the normal routine would be get up, drive to work, work and then get off work, drive home. This would be accurate in most cases [damn late night partiers], but now your are getting up, walking to your office, working, going lunch at home, going back to work, getting off work and going to do whatever it is you do. Most likely your office friends, will not be in that activity.

Internet connections can not always be perfect and you need to have a backup plan if your Internet connection goes down. You never know when dumbasses like Comcast will change their terms on Internet use and VPNs or how they handle packets for network traffic. These communications and network issues will be issues you’ll be dealing with when the connection to the office goes down- your going to be the middle man between ‘the office’ and the ISP. Saying yu can’t work because you don’t have an Internet connection is not a good excuse and may a justification for a PTO day [which sucks].

If your computer crashes, again, your ‘the guy’; you handle everything from stop to go. If there’s a coffee pot broken, you fix that too. If there’s a bill to be paid or the Internet service doesn’t work- you handle that too. Just be prepared.

Extending your work-at-home career – as a suggestion.

It’s entirely possible that you may not leave the house for a 1-2 weeks at a time. Some people’s down time is just vegg’ing out on the couch, but I want to make this perfectly clear; DON’T DO THAT…

Get up, get out, go ride a bike, drive your car, around the block, learn to surf or go do something. The ‘dark side’ to working from home is ‘cabin fever’. Go out for lunch, go out for breakfast- do something other than what you know is required to work from home. The idea is that yeah so what, you work from home, but you need social interaction, so go out for lunch 1-2 a week just to get out and keep things fresh.

If you were given the option tele-commute to work- would you?

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I’ve spent years in a cubical farm and about 6 years as a remote user. There’s all kinds of benefits to working remotely and there’s legitimate benefits to working in the office.

Depending on the person you’ are it can be a plus or a minus; it can be a God-send or a curse. I know people that absolutely loved it that I could work from home, and thought it was the coolest thing ever, and there were times [working remotely] that I could just drive to work a few days a week. It can be a personal balancing act, but it’s possible, and if you do work remotely; don’t forget get out- even if it’s go to mall and just walk around.

I hope this information is beneficial for you.


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