Who knew working remotely could be so fun?
As many of you know, I left the staff of a church here in Des Moines to join the team at Monk Development. Thankfully, the leadership at Monk and I worked out an arrangement where my family and I can stay in Des Moines, yet still maintain an everyday role at the company. The best of both worlds! (And nothing beats a 30-second commute!) So far, so good, as they say.
Yet, working remotely is not without its challenges. You don't get the benefit of face-to-face interaction everyday. You must be be focused, disciplined and motivated to support your team in whatever capacity they need. It takes a little bit more work, but is completely doable in this modern, hyper-connected world. Here are a few of the tools I use everyday to stay sharp as a remote worker.
- MacBook Air. This is the brain of my remote working operation. Without this bad dad, work does not happen. To put it another way, as long as I have this guy, I can work. I'll save you the boring details, but I use this to create content, stay social, write, edit, produce webinars and, of course, a whole lot more. I went from a MacBook Pro 17″ (way to big and clunky) to this guy and haven't looked back. I share in the accolades of the Air: It is the best computer I've ever owned. Lightweight, powerful, fast and fun.
- Skype. Skype certainly has its detractors, but it's what I use to stay in touch with a good portion of my team throughout the day. Other chat clients are good, but none can equal the professionalism, ubiquity and flexibility of Skype. Using AIM still feels like I'm in junior high and GChat is, well, ugly. The verdict is still out on Facebook Video Chat, but for now, in my world, Skype rules the roost.
- Things. I have an on-again, off-again/love-hate relationship with Things. On one hand, it's a to-do list manager that hasn't quite come into its own yet. It has mega sync issues between devices and, worst of all, it doesn't sync to the cloud. At least, not yet. Despite these glaring flaws, Things remains a trusted companion in my remote working roundup. I can group tasks by projects, areas or dates. Plus, it has a nifty shortcut command that lets me input a task from anywhere. Things can only get better and the cats at Cultured Code, ultimately, know what they're doing.
- Plantronics headset. “The speaker phone guy.” You know that guy: Always seems to be yelling into the phone; you can hear everything that's happening in the background; guaranteed phone echo (a huge “no-no” in conference call etiquette). That's who I was before our COO sent me one of these bad boys. Seemingly nondescript, this headset lets me wander throughout my whole house (even to the mailbox!) all without losing the call. A must if you're a phone-talker-pacer like me.
- IKEA Galant desk. This little desk looks paltry, but it pack a powerful remote-working punch (nyuk! nyuk! nyuk!). I picked one of these up in the Twin Cities after my friend showed me how you can cradle cables to the bottom of the desk. I'm a huge cordaphobe, so hiding messy wires is a must. It's sleek, stylish, sturdy and adjusts to just the right height for my 6'4″ frame. The endless add-on options makes this a desk that can shift with your changing needs. Without this desk, I don't think I'd look forward to work as much as I do. It makes starting on time everyday easy!
- BONUS! Keurig B60. Oh yeah. You knew it was coming! My wife is not a coffee drinker (gasp!), so our old drip maker used to sit sad and lonely after my first few cups of the day. Not to mention how much coffee I dumped at the end of the day. Solution: Keurig. I got one of these for my birthday and loved every minute of it since. Nothing wrong with a hot, fresh cup of coffee whenever you want it. Downside: K-cups can get expensive, but the tiny filter attachment you can buy lets you brew pretty much anything. Otherwise, Keurig is the way to go!
Remote working is a challenge, but can be one of the most rewarding employment experiences if done correctly. Working with people across the country, as a single entity, is now possible thanks to some of the tools I've mentioned today. With 100 million US workers telecommuting in 2010, the trend is clearly on the rise. Shouldn't you take some time to get prepared?
If you work remotely, in any aspect, what are some of the tools that you use to stay productive? Please share in the comments!