According to recent research, at least 11 percent of employed Americans telecommute during some part of the workweek. It’s important for people who work remotely to know how they can stay connected to the workplace. Most employees can rely on technology to keep them in contact with their colleagues and the tools they need to do their jobs well.
Use Instant Messaging for Quick Communication
Email might have revolutionized the way that people communicate, but it’s too cumbersome when you need to have a quick conversation with someone.
Instant messaging offers a faster alternative. It’s like passing notes in class, except that it makes you more productive instead of distracting you from your lessons.
Some popular options include:
- Gmail Chat
- Facebook Instant Messenger
If a lot of the people working for your employer telecommute, then they might use several instant messenger programs.
Instead of trying to keep up with everyone’s preferences, use an instant messaging aggregator that adapts to popular IM apps. Pidgin, Miranda, and Adium will help you stay connected to everyone, whether they work in the office or remotely.
Attend Meetings Remotely
via Flickr by mikecogh
Work meetings aren’t always the best time of the day, but they’re important. When you telecommute, you could miss out on important information. That’s why you need software that lets you attend meetings remotely. As telecommuting has grown in popularity, more developers have released excellent meeting programs that can connect people all over the world.
Chances are that your employer already has a preferred program for meetings. Common options include:
- Cisco WebEx
With these programs, practically any number of people can sit in on a meeting. They even give one person control over the screen so the presenter can lead you through software training, new policies, and other information that you would typically get at a work meeting.
Choose Software That Lets You Collaborate
Telecommuting can make it difficult for you to collaborate with others. Instant messaging and online meetings are good substitutes, but sometimes you need closer collaboration with your colleagues.
This has become considerably easier over the last few years, especially since Google+ Hangouts has managed to transform itself into a useful tool for small and large groups to communicate with audio and visuals.
Perhaps the best thing about Google+ Hangouts is that you can use Google Docs to collaborate in real-time. You can literally watch your colleagues change a document while you discuss ideas.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Google+ Hangouts is free and you can get access to it from any device, including your desktop, tablet, or smart phone. If you have an Internet connection, then you can use it.
Talk to Your Employer About EMM
Telecommuting automatically means that some employees will have compatibility issues. You use your smart phone while someone in the office uses a laptop based on a completely different platform. That would create serious problems without enterprise mobility management (EMM).
If your employer chooses the right option, enterprise mobility management benefits will make it easier for everyone in and out of the office to get work done.
Some benefits of good EMM are:
- the ability to get support for devices used by the people at your company
- heightened security, even for people who bring their own devices to work or access the company’s network from home
- the option to lock or remotely lock stolen devices so private information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands
- enables mobile devices to run on the same network without interference
Your employer probably already has an EMM service. But that doesn’t mean it has chosen the right one. Talk to someone in charge to learn more about the services you can get. You might find that you can help the company move forward by suggesting a better option.
Keep a Regular Schedule
Staying connected isn’t all about having the right technology in your home office. You also need a regular schedule that lets you coordinate with the people working from the company office.
Depending on the industry you work in, your employer may not care what schedule you keep. Instead, your manager may focus on reaching specific goals.
That’s fine in some respects, but it doesn’t give you the opportunity to push your career further.
If you find yourself working from noon until 9 p.m. every day, but your colleagues work from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m., then you can’t use many of the tools listed above. Google+ Hangouts and GoToMeeting can do a lot of things, but they can’t travel through time.
To get the most out of your workday, set a schedule that closely matches those of your colleagues. You don’t necessarily have to punch in and out at the same time. (Some of the advantages of telecommuting are that you get to do things like take care of your children and run errands during the day.) But you should make sure that most of your day overlaps with the company’s office hours.
Visit the Office When You Can
Today’s telecommuting tools will change the way that businesses operate. Hiring remote workers lets companies save a lot of money on things like:
- parking spaces
- office space
It also improves morale and decreases absenteeism. Just because you can work from home, though, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t visit the office on occasion. Visiting the office regularly will help you form relationships with your co-workers. Instead of meaningless names on a screen, they become people who you know, trust, and rely on. If you never meet them in person, though, you may not develop a bond that makes you feel comfortable pitching inventive ideas and taking risks that could benefit the company.
Obviously this is easier for some people than others. If you live in Chicago but your employer is based in San Diego, you’ll have a difficult time commuting any way other than via the Internet. However, those who can make it should.
Do you telecommute to work? What tools have helped you stay connected with the office?