Thanks to modern technology, the way we work is changing. With a fast Internet connection, a good portable computer, online document sharing services and collaborative software tools, you can often work remotely with no impact on performance.
In fact, you might even get more done. Remote working (aka teleworking or telecommuting, take your pick) has the potential to boost efficiency, lower stress, save money and increase productivity. Today’s flexible, mobile professionals could represent the future of work.
That said, working remotely also poses its own set of challenges, especially if you want to make it a success.
Challenge 1: Internet connectivity
The key to successful remote working is staying connected. Modern business tools like Slack, GoToMeeting, Trello, Jira, HipChat, Whatsapp and Skype all require a decent, rock-solid web connection, which means investing in speedy broadband at home or making sure you have easy access to local Wi-Fi hotspots or a 3G/4G data plan if you plan to work elsewhere, like a coffee shop or a library.
Depending on how you work, a fast fibre connection like BT Infinity or Virgin Media might not be the best answer. Often, these services have data caps/monthly usage allowances. So if you do a lot of file-swapping or video work, a slower but unmetered plan could be a better solution.
Challenge 2: Using the right equipment
If you only work from home, then a desktop PC or a traditional laptop will usually suffice. But for true flexibility, think about the software you need to use for your work and the device that will best support it. New 2 in 1 Windows 10 PCs like the Asus ZenBook UX303UA and the HP Spectre offer an ideal blend of computing power, long battery life and mobility, enabling you to use them as full laptops or lightweight, touchscreen tablets. The best of both worlds.
Challenge 3: Access to your ‘stuff’
Can you get access to the documents and services you need to do your job remotely? Online file sharing services like Dropbox, OneDrive and Google Drive are a great way to make your documents, spreadsheets and presentations accessible wherever you are and on whatever device you’re using. Instant messaging apps, Google Hangouts and Skype can keep you in touch with the office, while project management environments such as Basecamp, Trello and Jira can keep you plugged seamlessly into team tasks.
Challenge 4: Don’t be a loser
Many firms will equip their company laptops with VPN connections, enabling remote workers to connect directly to office-based networks and resources. The flip-side of this telework-friendly access is that data can be put at risk if you’re not vigilant.
According to a recent survey of 1,000 office workers from the UK and Germany, “nearly two in five of respondents, or someone they know personally, have lost or had a device stolen in a public place. Three quarters of these devices — such as laptops, mobile phones, and USB sticks — contained work-related data.”
Challenge 5: Staying productive
Working from home or in a public place has its own distractions. If you work at home, you might need to avoid the demands of family or resist the multi-screen lure of working in front of the television in your PJs. Coffee shops, meanwhile, can get crowded, noisy and there’s often no easy way to leave your laptop if you need the toilet.
The bad news? There’s no right way to telecommute. Everybody needs to find a way that works for them. The good news is that, whether you like working in a coffee shop or from your kitchen, there are lots of remote working tips and tricks you can use to get more done. We take a look them in part 2 of this article, coming this week. — Dean Evans (@evansdp)