Having worked at home for 5 years and now beginning my third job as a telecommuter, I have acquired some opinions about how this is best arranged. My new boss asked for some tips and I thought I might as well share them with the world. Here is my guide to effective and enjoyable telecommuting…
Instant Messaging is absolutely essential. Think of it like sticking your head in someone’s office or running into someone in the hall. Have colleagues create specific ID’s using a common IM protocol so that they can appear “away” to the outside world but still be available to co-workers (or vice versa).
Hold regular staff meetings on a predictable schedule with a consistent call-in number. Put a good speaker phone in the meeting room so that telecommuters and traveling colleagues can join the meeting by phone. Be sure check in with phone participants periodically to ensure that everything is audible.
Hold periodic in-person meetings on a predictable schedule. These could be staff meetings, or special meetings such as longer-term strategy sessions and/or individual check-ins.
If possible, give telecommuters a phone extension consistent with on-site workers. This makes inter-office calling easier and presents a unified front to external contacts.
Use a shared calendaring system such as Outlook or iCal, that allows users to see others’ schedule and send meeting invitations. (Both are also able to sync with Palm calendars.)
Use an intranet where colleagues can systematically share files, notes, and contacts via the web. Also, consider shared project management tools that allow workers to assign tasks to each other and keep up with their own and others’ progress.
Web mail is essential to telecommuters and traveling workers, but a regular IMAP e-mail account is more effective for daily use.
Suggested equipment to be provided for an ideal telecommuting office set-up:
– Wireless-enabled laptop, including a “dock” and duplicate power cord to enable mobility.
– Headset for phone and/or computer.
– Cell phone (if traveling for work).
– Ergonomic keyboard and mouse.
– Fast Internet connection.
– Multi-function fax/scanner/printer (unless you implement a “paperless office“).
– Web cam for meetings.