Greg Baker is the skeptical CFO of Logicalis International. Yet, when he embraces a concept, he embraces it deeply. Telecommuting is the one most recently on his radar.
Greg’s task was to set the growth strategy for Logicalis. To address the company’s rapid expansion, he let workers start telecommuting.
While he attracted the best talent possible, he also experienced other benefits. There was a reduction of fixed costs, especially long-term leases on space and purchases of office furniture and equipment. Employee retention increased, and geographic limitations disappeared.
By including the mobile world, Greg could hire the best, regardless of their location. This change increased the morale of all Logicalis employees by weaving together both corporate and employee demands.
So how does one prepare for the telecommuting world?
Telecommuters should start with three principal foci.
First, allocate as much time to strengths as the “needs improvement” areas.
Be the ‘go-to’ person for at least one area. Mary Nicholson, now Director at Universal Music Group, was part of Washington Mutual during the turbulent times of the mortgage meltdown. She survived several rocky times there while telecommuting to Seattle from her home in Los Angeles. Her “go-to” skill was the bank’s data dictionaries. She knew more about them than anyone else. She could work where she pleased because she was the best in her sphere of influence.
Second, think strategically about your career by using SMART goals. Managers measure a telecommuter’s tele-commitment, so be SMART. The ability to define goals that include Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Sensitive components is an industry-standard today. It provides a robust career framework, allowing the remote professional to continue towards career goals.
On this, every telecommuter must lead. Managers change during a career. Some do not use SMART goals, but savvy professionals who stay ahead of the game are reliable practitioners of SMART.
Third, know your technology options. The most significant problem professionals face as telecommuters is awareness about the tools they need to get their jobs done effectively. Successful remote professional masters four essential tools. They use them as quickly as a pencil, sharpening them as they dull and replace them when they have reached the end of the cycle.
- Virtual Conferencing: Today, tools like Cisco’s WebEx and Citrix’s GoTo Meeting make it easier to be in the office while working away from the office. With WebEx, I have employed an expert from London, England, to mentor engineers through virtual classrooms. They remained in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, and New York.Still, we were able to do more than we could have by meeting together in the same space.
- We met for real-time joint sessions, then broke into smaller working groups, and came back to report to the larger groups.
- We worked through issues as teams in real-time talked to each other over web cameras.
- We had side conversations on trunked phone lines.
- We could reconfigure groups instantly according to our needs.As you can guess, once you master the hard parts, doing it remotely is a breeze.
- Technological Redundancy:Overlooking the simplest things can set up a disaster.A professional telecommuter will plan for redundancy. A second way to maintain a remote connection is essential.
- Knowing how to switch on a hotspot compensates for those moments when the primary internet connection is interrupted.
- Running large presentations from two computers safeguards the times when one fails.
- Storing email and key documents locally and remotely is essential in creating the professional remote executive.It takes lots of behind the scenes effort to make things look effortless. A professional uses the ability to compensate quickly for failures in technology. Telecommuting demands a mastery of the technology used to stay plugged into the working environment.
- Security:Amateurs overlook this area often because it is complex and takes effort to know how to work with security features.Is it needed? Well, a mismatch in connectivity can cause hours of downtime – your absence due to technical ignorance comes across to others as incompetence. It is essential to understand the configuration of the office and its security protocols. Not knowing whether to choose between WEP40/128-bit hex or ASCII or WPA2 Enterprise over LEAP can effectively make the most brilliant telecommuter the dumbest team player.
- Telephone and Contact Management.In a day of speed dialing and direct calling from contact lists, a professional will always make sure their devices have the people called most often available. And that accessibility is easy.Call forwarding, listing a current number in the corporate directory, and leaving it on voice mail signals that you are keen to help every caller get in touch. When nobody is sitting in the office next to you, you must run this show yourself. There will be times you will need to get a hold of a coworker to resolve a crisis.
Don’t be caught without that most basic of tools – the phone number.
Working away from the pack takes more training than the person in the office needs. Being a go-to person who is available at the same level as those in the office is the foundation of success.
To sum up
- Be the go-to person for at least one skill.
- Know your environment,
- Plan for the “gotchas.”
- Add that bit extra of talent so that people seek you out.
- Follow the adage “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” You’ll find that distance is no longer the barrier to career achievement.