Archive for the ‘Semi-Commuter’ Category
Fast Company magazine published an interesting article with advice for telecommuters. You can read the full article here, but in summary, here are the three things the author, Kevin Purdy, advises:
- Look the Part, Be the Part (dress up as if you’re going to the office)
- Schedule offline social time, batch your online social time (schedule your breaks, just like you’d do in the office)
- Realize when the problem is motivation, not space (do stuff that motivates you)
I have no argument with the second point, and in fact we endorse that in the book “Out of Office” when talking about personal productivity. But the other two points are more controversial.
First, I don’t believe it’s necessary to “suit up” if you’re working from home. Of course, I’m not suggesting you dress and act like a slob in your home office! But that’s just an extreme, and dressing up for the office is the other extreme. For many Out of Office workers, one of the biggest benefits is that every day is Casual Friday, and it’s good enough to dress comfortably. If you do find it helps to dress slightly better, then do so, but it’s certainly not necessary.
The other point – about working on stuff that motivates you – makes sense, but the advice isn’t always practical. We might all wish for more inspiring work, but that’s true whether or not we work in an office. Purdy doesn’t offer anything useful to improve the situation (other than a vague suggestion to “plan your next move”). Of course, if you can arrange to do something more meaningful and interesting, that helps. But sometimes you really do need to roll up your sleeves and do what needs to be done. In that latter situation, it’s far better to focus on being more productive rather than wishing for something better.
When you’re working Out of Office, you often don’t get the natural distractions that come from working with others. Although some of these distractions can be annoying and harmful to your productivity, they also have some positive side effects. In particular, they prevent you from spending excessively long intervals working at your desk. This means you have to be disciplined enough to create your own management plan to prevent stress, poor posture, and overwork.
The Workshifting team has five suggestions to help:
- Take frequent breathers.
- Walk at lunch.
- Play some of your favorite tunes.
- Don’t be afraid to say No.
One of the productivity tips we offer in the At Your Convenience chapter of the book is to subscribe to the Web Feeds of your favourite blogs and Web sites. We also recommend using Google Reader to do this. Unfortunately, Google recently announced that they will be retiring Reader on July 1, 2013.
So, if like us, you use Google Reader then you’ll need to move your feed subscriptions to another tool. Google provides advice on how to export your feed subscriptions using the Google Takeaway service. If you’ve not done this already, then now is a good time. It’s quick and easy.
As for choosing an alternative tool for consuming Web feeds, there are many choices. Slashdot recently published a list of four popular alternatives to Google Reader:
For what it’s worth, I’ve migrated to Feedly. My reasons for doing so are as follows:
- I can run it on my desktop PC using the Feedly plug-in for Firefox
- I can run it on my tablet or smart phone using the Feedly Android app
- It can automatically import your Google Reader subscriptions
If you use a different Web feed reader then please leave a comment.
On 22nd February, Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer made a ruling that all Yahoo staff need to be physically in the office – in other words, no more Out of Office work. The decision sparked off discussion, debate and arguments, both in the tech media and in mainstream media as well. Now that the dust is settling, we’ll discuss some of the issues around this – including productivity, convenience, comfort and collaboration.
Listen to the episode here:
Buy the book here (available at a reduced price for a limited time).
- Yahoo! Orders Home Workers Back to the Office
- How Marissa Meyer Figured Out Workers Were Slacking Off
- Here’s the Internal Yahoo! Memo
- Mayer Feels The Heat Over Telecommuting
- Richard Branson Says She Got It Wrong
- 4 Reasons It’s An Epic Fail
Support for the move:
- Why Your Company Needs You in the Office
- Why Working From Home is the Worst of Both Worlds
- Let Marissa Mayer Do Her Job
- Back to the Office Policy Mends Morale
- Yahoo’s Desperate Need for Innovation
- When Working at Home Is Productive, and When It’s Not
- 7 Great Reasons to Encourage Working Remotely
- In telecommuting debate, Aetna sticks by big at-home workforce
- Working at Home and Workplace Productivity
- What inspires your work-at-home policies?
- How Teleworking Can Improve Your Health
- 80 Percent Of Success Is Showing Up – But Where?
- Employers Using Sensors to Track Your Productivity
- What Yahoo! and Marissa Mayer Did Right and Wrong
Craig Jarrow, author of The Time Management Ninja, writes in his blog:
One of the top reasons your email isn’t getting read is because it is too long. Writing long emails doesn’t mean you are getting more work done.
Craig then lists ten reasons people write long emails:
- You don’t know what you are trying to say.
- You don’t know what you are talking about.
- Your signature is unnecessary.
- You are writing a book.
- You are spamming.
- You are rambling.
- You are forwarding a mess.
- It shouldn’t be an email.
- It should be multiple emails.
- You don’t edit your emails.
Craig then finishes with a simple message:
Make Sure Your Email Gets to the Point
We discuss email productivity at length in the Cooperate With Them chapter of the book.
This is just one of the many books that tries to tackle the growing problem of information overload, but it stands apart from others because it couches the problem in strategic terms, and then proposes very specific tactics and techniques to implement the strategy.
For example, Hurst suggests that we should only focus on the specific things we need to do today, and that anything else is a distraction. So he proposes that any future items should be assigned to a future date and then forgotten until that date arrives. This seems like common sense, and yet it’s rarely done in practice (as anybody with a bulging e-mail in-box knows).
I particularly liked the first half of the book, where he tackles e-mail overload. Despite the plethora of technical tools available for managing, sorting, filtering and filing, e-mail is still probably the biggest information overload problem for most business people. So it makes sense for this to be a large part of the book, and Hurst gives it the attention it deserves.
From a practical viewpoint, he not only proposes specific tips and techniques for managing e-mail, he has also created software, available at GoodToDo.com, that supports his system. It’s a Web-based “To Do” list, with associated smart phone apps, so you can keep your entire action list in one place, and access it from any device.
I tried GoodToDo myself, and found this slightly too cumbersome for my liking. But I already have an effective way of handling e-mail, so perhaps the benefits of GoodToDo weren’t as great for me. I do know others who say it completely transformed their life! As an aside, I do still use GoodToDo, but for a slightly different purpose: for my PA (personal assistant) and I to keep track of actions that involve her.
If you read this book, be aware that it was written in 2007, so it was five years old when I read it (which is a lifetime for a technology book!). So, although the principles and strategies are sound, some of the techniques are obsolete. For example, there is a chapter about how to name the files on your computer, and that is less relevant nowadays (because of smarter operating systems, better tagging systems, and faster searching). That’s why I found the first half of the book (about e-mail) more useful than the second.
One of the biggest advantages of telecommuting is of course the opportunity to have better balance in your life. But this doesn’t always work in practice. Lea Green suggests these five tips for telecommuters in order to increase your balance:
- Empower yourself to power down.
- Compartmentalize to create and recreate.
- Experiment with your creative cycles.
- Daydream to dream big.
- Train your mind to focus.
One of the principles we cover at length in the book is Manage Time; a skill that might need some focus in 2013 following a study published in the Monthly Labour Review
Surveys of US Out of Office workers, specifically, Semi-Commuters, found that they worked an additional five to seven hours per week compared with their full-time office colleagues. While this might seem like a bonus for employers it also means that Out of Office workers might not be enjoying all the benefits that come with flexible work arrangements.
The survey data covered the period from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s so the situation might be different now. Either way, learning to Manage Time is time well spent.
Corbett Barr usually writes about the entrepreneurial life, but he sometimes turns his attention to traditional employment as well. He suggests these four things for better workplaces:
- Let employees decide on how much time off they take
- Measure results, not when/where/how work is done
- Make employees owners
- Find a job you love
The second item in particular (about measuring results rather than effort) is one that resonates with us. It’s one of the key drivers of success for a successful Out of Office work environment.
The other three aren’t directly related to Out of Office work styles, but we would certainly endorse them as well.
Many organisations are facing the issue of employees wanting to use their own phones, tablets and other devices at work. This is called “BYOD”, or Bring Your Own Device.
Most of the discussion around BYOD is about how organisations can manage security, access and privacy (One of my friends, who works in IT for a large organisation, calls it “Bring Your Own Disaster”). But it goes beyond that, and perhaps users think these devices are more powerful and more productive than is actually the case.
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