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Working away from the office: Benefits and drawbacks


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Presentation to the annual conference of the Employee Assistance Professionals Association of Australia, held at the Sydney Hilton, August 2014.

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Working away from the office: Benefits and drawbacks

  1. 1. WORKING AWAY FROM THE OFFICE: Benefits and drawbacks Rhonda Bracey EAPAA August 2014 #cybertext
  2. 2. “The virtual office has existed for at least a century... Clothing factories used to drop off piecework at the homes of stay-at-home mothers who would sew the pieces together and receive payment on a per-item basis. …it’s simple enough to give a worker a remote login to your network, a high-speed Internet connection, or whatever other connectivity service she requires.” Lee, TJ. The Virtual Office: Part 2 © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd
  3. 3. “I’m sitting in a traffic jam, in the car that I need to get to work, so that I can pay for the house that I’m never in.” How many minutes of this per day? 10? 20? 30? 45? 60? More? 3 © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd <date>
  4. 4. How far/long is your daily commute? © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd 4 RAC WA Horizons, June/July 2014, p9
  5. 5. Only to face this for 8+ hours… © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd 5
  6. 6. 6 Just 3 minutes walk away…
  7. 7.  Worked remotely full-time since Feb 2007  Several long-term clients in that time (WA, Qld, Tas, Israel, US)  Main client since late 2008: Chevron (Gorgon LNG Project)  Rarely, if ever, meet my clients/work colleagues  Mostly do technical editing for large teams of authors About me
  8. 8. Positives © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd 8 No commute; no madly running errands on the way home; no ironing! More time for family, leisure activities More discretionary time Reduce or cut out: expensive lunches, snacks, drinks (coffee!); parking, public transport, tolls, fuel, car wear and tear; wardrobe updates, laundry, shoes/stockings, makeup/hair/nails Reduced costs (~$10,000 pa saved) No/fewer meetings; no water cooler chat; few ad hoc interruptions (prairie dogging); little office politics Greater productivity Few interruptions = meet deadlines; work hours to suit body clock/commitments; not rushing; fewer take-outs/meals out; more time for exercise; don’t catch/transmit bugs Less stress/ better health Not running car as often; not consuming as much Reduced footprint on Earth
  9. 9. But it’s not all roses…
  10. 10. Negatives © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd 10 Miss ad hoc work and social relationships with co-workers; out of the loop; no body language/facial expression nuances Isolation Possible increase in power/internet/phone costs; equipment/software costs if employer doesn’t provide; dedicated office space and furniture Increased costs Family/friends may assume you’re ‘always available’ to do other tasks (chores, shopping, kid taxi, coffee/lunch etc.) Interruptions Managers/co-workers may assume you’re doing nothing or doing things other than work Perceptions Can be too easy to work Overworking all hours and not separate home/work life Self-discipline is essential otherwise you’ll get nothing done; beware of distracting yourself with non-work tasks Underworking
  11. 11. Self-distractions…. © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd 11
  12. 12. It’s about managing… © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd 12 Yourself and your time (discipline/routine) Perceptions of others (ALWAYS be available during core hours) Interruptions (train your spouse, family, friends) Your workspace (dedicated is best, with a door) Your mental and physical health (exercise regime, social contact) Your employer/manager (who pays for what; negotiate core hours)
  13. 13. © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd
  14. 14. Helping hands: If you have these… © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd 14 Existing/ suitable work/ network Consider remote working (at least some of the time) Existing reputation Supportive employer Supportive family Appropriate environment Good self-discipline
  15. 15. Who is remote working for?  Any worker who DOESN’T need to:  interact face-to-face with others  use specialised equipment  work in a specialised location all the time  NOT suitable: e.g. trades, retail, reception, hospitality  Look at remote working from various points of view:  you may be able to work remotely  you might recommend this option to your clients © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd 15
  16. 16. Conditions conducive for remote working (1)  Suitable work types: ANY! Occasional, temporary, PT, FT, permanent, consultant, contractor…  Suitable time periods: ANY! Full-time, few days a week, occasional, temporarily FT for a period… © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd 16
  17. 17. Conditions conducive for remote working (2)  Physical health issues: e.g.:  long-term conditions such as chronic fatigue  short-term conditions such as a broken limb  recovering from illness/hospital stay  temporary or permanent physical limitations  Mental health issues: e.g. anxiety disorders  Personal issues: e.g.:  death in the family  primary caregiver for an extended period but can work some of the time  need time to meet/consult other professionals (e.g. dealing with financial/car/trades issues, health issues, addiction issues, etc.)  workplace harassment/abuse © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd 17
  18. 18. ‘Quiet’ tasks suitable for remote working  Phone/internet counselling  Conference calls, teleconferencing, videoconferencing  Recordkeeping, data entry  After-hours work (e.g. one-on-one counselling)  Making bookings, appointments  Calling, emailing © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd 18
  19. 19. Knowledge tasks suitable for remote working  Report writing, updating case files, form filling  Evaluations, assessments, audits  Researching, reading  Thinking, analysing  Reviewing, editing  Writing  Planning  Media/social media engagement, writing blog posts © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd 19
  20. 20. 20 Connecting Technologies Takeaways:  Internet essential—the faster the better  Remote access and collaboration tools are getting better all the time  Keep in contact—have regular voice meetings with manager/colleagues © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd
  21. 21. Internet © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd 21 MINIMUM: Broadband connection (>1.5 Mbps) Websites, email, social media Conference calls: phone and/or video Transfer/backup data files Connect securely to another system (VPN) Work on another system as though you were there (Windows Remote Desktop: free) Instant messaging (e.g. Microsoft Lync in corporate environment)
  22. 22. Telephony © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd 22 Landline, mobile, VOIP (e.g. Skype, Cisco) Skype: • Computer to computer (free) • Smartphone app, conference calls, video calls, chat, voicemail, file transfer, screen sharing... Cisco IP Phone option if already used in office: • Office phone directory • Dedicated local number/extension
  23. 23. © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd
  24. 24. Web conference/screen sharing tools A Google search for web conferencing applications gives >92 million results! Many apps are suitable for tablets too. Examples: © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd 24 Provider Pricing (in US$, as at June 2014) Website WebEx Free (up to 3 people); $24/month (up to 8); $49/month (up to 25) GoToMeeting $49/month (up to 25); 30-day free trial Adobe From $45/month; also ‘pay per use’ Connect option: 32c/user/minute oducts/adobeconnect.html Microsoft Lync Online Various prices depending on Office 365 subs, corporate installations etc. en-us/office365/lync-online. aspx Join Me Free; Pro version from $13/month Fuze Meeting Free (up to 25); $8/month (up to 125) pricing
  25. 25. Remote access requirements © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd 25 If you need to access:  your own system while on the road  a client’s system from anywhere then you’ll need this information…  Domain name, username, password  Client sys admin to allow VPN access  Tools to provide access, such as:  Remote Desktop (Windows; free!)  remote access to server and networked PCs via web  Microsoft Outlook Web Access (if using Exchange Server)  commercial desktop and web tools
  26. 26. Commercial remote access tools Examples: © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd 26 Provider Pricing (US$, as at June 2014) Website GoToMyPC $10/month for access to one PC (30- day free trial) LogMeIn From $99/year (free trial) TeamViewer From $699/year Soonr From $30/month (3 users)
  27. 27. IT help © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd 27  If no access to corporate IT help, consider ‘pay per use’ on demand on-site or remote services  Some have pre-paid cover plans, managed IT services  Examples:  Geeks2U (  PC Guru ( (remote support from WA; alliances with local companies for on-site work)  Search for: IT support Sydney personal PC
  28. 28. Example collaboration tools © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd 28 Document sharing tools (e.g. Google Drive, Office 365) File sharing tools (e.g. Microsoft OneDrive, DropBox) Project management tools (e.g. BaseCamp, ToodleDo) Microsoft SharePoint: Tries to do all the above in the one package; success varies… Other: Content management systems, wikis, forums, blogs, Twitter
  29. 29. 29 Home Office Takeaways:  Essentials: dedicated space with a door  Get a GOOD chair © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd
  30. 30. 30 © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd <date>
  31. 31. 31 © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd <date>
  32. 32. © CyberText 32 Consulting Pty Ltd
  33. 33. Minimum equipment © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd 33 PC and/or laptop Modem/router (preferably with WiFi) Printer (multifunction for single footprint—copy, scan, print, fax) Headset (or microphone + speakers [often built-in to laptops]) External, portable hard drives/thumb drives Phone (smartphone is ‘one device to rule them all’)
  34. 34. Nice to have… © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd 34 Tablet (iPad etc.) WiFi connection (built-in to later laptops; on phone/tablet) Webcam (built-in to later laptops; on phone/tablet) Travel-sized bits and pieces (mouse, cables, WiFi dongles) Digital voice recorder (try your phone/tablet) Digital camera (or phone/tablet camera)
  35. 35. Stuff for your body © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd 35 Decent desk + chair (you’ll spend a LOT of hours at both, so don’t scrimp) Quiet/free from distractions (noise-cancelling headphones, ear plugs) Good lighting Temperature control Exercise
  36. 36. Just for video calls © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd <date> 36 Check background for inappropriate, messy, personal items (test!) (Is anything growing out of your head?; use fake background image or screen to cover mess) Ban pets, children, others from the room (lock the door, ‘On Air’ sign) Work in a silent room if possible (no background noises: screeching birds, barking dogs, vacuum cleaners, drills, microwave beeps, etc.) Mute any room noises (e.g. phones, alarms, computer notification pings) Watch for bright lighting (can distract, wash out, or make your face dark)
  37. 37. Just for video calls © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd 37
  38. 38. 38 Facts and figures Takeaways:  Costs of commuting are huge—time, money, mental health  ‘Employers of choice’ are those that offer flexible approaches to where/how you work © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd
  39. 39. Some facts… © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd 39 UK companies spent £24 billion on business travel in 20111 It costs UK employers £7000 per person per desk for office workers1 90% of office workers would like to work from home some of the time1 35% of tech professionals would sacrifice up to 10% of their salaries for full-time telecommuting2 Microsoft dramatically reduced Australian office rent by encouraging employees to telecommute and ‘hot desk’3 1. From "Home of the future" Episode 2: Work (TwoFour Broadcast Ltd, 2012; presenter Chris Sanderson) 2. 3.
  40. 40. Results from studies on commuting… © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd 40 Lengthy, unpredictable commutes affect physical and emotional wellbeing1 Commuting strain  nervousness/tension, pain/stiffness, irritability, fatigue1 >10% of parents in paid employment spend more time each week commuting than with their children1 On the IBM Commuter Pain Index2 (1 to 100), Sydney is 40, Brisbane 34, Melbourne 32, Adelaide 22, Perth 19 (Beijing and Mexico City = 99) 31% surveyed3 said traffic was often so bad they turned around and went home (69% in Beijing!) 1. From Flood, Michael and Barbato, Claire (2005) Off to Work: Commuting in Australia, Australia Institute, Canberra. 2. IBM Commuter Pain Index (2011): 3. IBM Commuter Pain Index (2010):
  41. 41. Effects of commuting on mental health © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd 41  Main article:  Swedish study: cid160978  Stutzer and Frey (German study):
  42. 42. ‘Employers of choice’  Offer working from home as a part of a flexible approach to work, leading to:  reduced absenteeism  retention of good staff  enhanced job productivity © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd 42
  43. 43. 43 Resources Takeaways:  Search for ‘remote working’, teleworking’ ‘telecommuting’, ‘working from home’  Plenty available on benefits/costs of telecommuting and convincing arguments for your boss  List of some on my blog: resources-for-remote-working-presentation/ © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd
  44. 44. Just for fun…. © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd 44
  45. 45. 45 Thank you… Any questions? Contact me:  Email:  Website:  Blog:  Twitter: @cybertext  LinkedIn: © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd