recent Hartford Business article, Marten Mickos, says that "offices are so last century." Everyone working in one location "was really an invention of the Industrial Revolution. It's much more natural for people to work where they live." I couldn't agree more. As we shift from a manufacturing economy to a services, technology and knowledge economy, we no longer need to work from one location. In reality, many of us can now work from just about any location in the world that has an internet connection. In fact, this is how I work today. Here are some tips to help you work effectively, so that in time, we make offices curious artifacts of the last century.
Normalize your office hours and area.
Working from home has its own set of challenges that don't affect regular office workers. You will need to dedicate a space to work from within your home as well as establish the hours that you will work. While a separate home office is preferred, this is not always practical, so don't be dismayed at working from a desk anywhere in the home. The same goes for office hours. While a normal block of hours, such as 9-5, is preferred, sometimes flexibility is more important than structure. The important thing is to make sure that you complete all of the tasks that need to be done; get your work done if you will. Having a designated home office and office hours can go a long way to improving your efficiency working from home.
Two is one and one is none.
I don't even know where this old adage comes from, but I know it is popular in military circles, where I picked it up years ago. What it means is that things always fail, so having a backup is very important. For remote workers, the three most critical items to have backups for are your computer, phone and internet connection. Having a spare computer may not be feasible for a number of reasons, but often an iPad with an external keyboard can suffice. Having a spare way to communicate by phone can be any combination of a land line (even a VOIP solution like Vonage works), a cell phone and/or a service like Skype which allows you to place calls to regular phone numbers from your computer. Lastly, a spare internet connection can be something as simple as tethering your smartphone to your laptop and using that, or as nice as a mobile hotspot from the likes of Clear, Verizon, T-Mobile, etc. If you are really paranoid, like me, you will have two backups to each one item, making three. The point is to be able to continue working even if one of your devices fails.
Don't always work from home.
This tip can actually help on several levels. On one level, it often helps to have a change of scenery and environment when working remotely. If you don't have to be on many calls one day, needing silence, head out to a local coffee shop or restaurant which offers free WiFi. This change of pace can boost your productivity in untold ways. On another level, this can be your spare internet connection (see above.) Should your home internet connection fail, having a known local spot to hop on WiFi can be a life saver.
Keep your hands free.
When working remotely, phone usage often spikes as compared to being in an office; for obvious reasons. While on the phone, you will often need to use your hands to type notes, use a mouse, write notes down or even search the web. Your co-workers or clients do not want to hear you fumbling with the phone, so get a headset. Getting a good quality headset to use with your computer and another for use with your cellphone is recommended. A USB headset is preferred over one that connects to the traditional mic and speaker jacks on your PC because there is often less interference with USB. A Bluetooth headset is recommended for use with your smartphone, just remember to keep it fully charged throughout the day.
Should you need recommendations for any of the above items or more information for any of the tips, leave a comment below and I will try my best to answer. These are just a few tips that will help you be a more effective mobile worker, and hopefully keep you from ending up at a place like Yahoo! Yea, I said it....