This group is for teleworkers and telework managers…and anyone else who is interested in discussing telework!
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What’s your telework secret?
February 8, 2011 at 1:41 pm #122455
Some people don’t understand what teleworking is. I think most Teleworkers give off the impression that they are sitting at a desk at home for 8-9 hours straight.
I don’t buy it!
I usually don’t tell anyone this, but I’m productively teleworking all day in other ways.
So what’s your teleworking secret? What haven’t you told people about the way you telework?
February 8, 2011 at 1:43 pm #122533
1) I love taking walks while on a conference call
2) I’ve always spent most of my teleworking time not in my home office (mostly a coffee shop) if I don’t have calls
3) I go into weeks where I love having TV on as background noise while teleworking.
February 8, 2011 at 2:15 pm #122531
I think my key to telework is to divide up my day into manageable/achievable tasks. Print out my Calendars and To Do lists and use them to prioritize my day. It can also help to have tools such as conference call lines or webinar/web conference software ready to use as a back up to your regularly scheduled in-person meetings. Just because you can get to work, doesn’t mean you have to cancel status meetings or collaboration.
One myth is that a telework day means you have to be alone all day. Technologies today allow you to be just as social in a virtual manner. Sure there is no coffee pot or water cooler to stand near by, but a few phone calls and web conferences can provide you with a healthy dose of interaction. Or perhaps you will enjoy the silence at home, and this allows you to get some quality writing done, complete that annual review or brush up on your long awaited training development plan. Telework days are most certainly not a day off, but very much a day on, to achieve results and prove that work is becoming social and can be done from anywhere at anytime. Just look at the rise in discussions around the Results Oriented Work Environment.
In fact, a great discussion on Social Business kicked off today and is being hosted by IBM. Join us over at the Social Business Jam to gather ideas on how concepts such as Telework can truly work for you. I know a lot of GovLoopers who would really add some great content to the Jam.
February 8, 2011 at 2:19 pm #122529
I telework fulltime, remotely. And almost all of my work is on the computer, so I really am at my desk much of my work day. However, to keep the brain fresh and the energy flowing, I:
1. keep binoculars next to my desk so I can check out the birds and other wildlife passing my window;
2. use my morning break to walk the dog around the block;
3. start a slow-cooking dinner at lunch time;
4. sit in the sun in the kitchen or on the patio when I’m on a conference call;
5. play whatever music I like whenever I like without worry of disturbing anyone else;
6. get coffee, water, tea whenever I want–just the act of walking from my office to the kitchen and back is enough of a computer-eye break; and mostly…
7. think often of how fortunate I am to do work I enjoy in an environment I love.
My bias is that if you value the benefit, you work to keep it.
February 8, 2011 at 2:27 pm #122527
1) Mute button on teleconferences
While background sounds in the office can be OK, some home office sounds are not. My office dog announcing the arrival of the UPS truck is not.
2) Pool your information resources.
Yes, you can watch The View, or NFL RedZone while teleworking, but Why? CNN, or CSPAN can often augment your information sources while you are working on that Security Report.
3) Listen to your dog.
Reading a boss-slamming email to your office mate (BEFORE you send it) is just as important on Telework, as it is in the office. While your co-workers may say it’s OK, they also may just want to to screw up so they can get your window cubicle. One look from Wayman Wynn, my obstinate Catahoula, will often convince me to chuck the ranting email, and get back to work. He knows where his dog biscuits come from.
4) Move around while on the phone
Most teleconferences could use a good dose of back yard, to help keep them in perspective. Just watch where you step.
5) Stay on task
I have been teleworking in various environments, for about 15 years, and if you use the extra travel time you save, and the comfort and quiet of your AWS (Alternate Work Site), to dig in to the task, you will find that the work goes fast, and you can get tons done. (and in the process, earn the thanks and respect of a grateful nation for your tireless service)
February 8, 2011 at 3:07 pm #122525
Hi! Well, I think maybe the title question is part of the problem itself – there shouldn’t have to be “secrets” per se. If a person had to be tied to their home computer for 8 or 9 hours, then what “work-life balance” would be involved – may as well be at the office, tied to the desk.
The important points are – Responsiveness: do you respond promptly when work needs your attention? Productivity: do you get the work done and done well? and Communication: do you communicate well with everyone that needs you? Are your boss, customer(s) and co-worker(s) happy with you? If yes, then the “secrets” are a moot point.
I can start a load of laundry in less than 5 minutes – and then be working. I can transfer it to the dryer in less than 5 – and then be working. I can vacuum a room, with my cell phone in my back pocket on vibrate – and be immediately available if anybody needs me. I can let a repair man in the front door, point out the oven that needs to be fixed, and then back to work. I can then take a 5 minute break later and fold the laundry. According to the laws of good work habits, we are supposed to take a 5 to 10 minute break every hour we work, get up and move around, etc…. so with telecommuting, we can take care of some minor item that needs care in that 5 minutes, without having to take vacation time from work for half a day to meet a home repair person, for example. But if there is an important meeting, and I know I need no interruptions, then it is my telecommuting job to make sure I can do that. If I am working with a child at home, I need to make sure she is off in her own area, and well-occupied, and understands I am in my office working – and she needs to NOT need constant supervision (this is totally separate from sick-child telecommuting: taking care of a sick child and getting work done while sick-child is resting) . Saying that we have “secrets” implies we are doing something “wrong” — and I think that misses the point of officially endorsed telecommuting — we can take care of our work commitments and help balance out the home life – that is the point, I believe.
So, I say – no more secrets! Meetings in jammies – yes! Laundry – yes! Work-life balance – yes!
February 8, 2011 at 3:50 pm #122523
1. I often hit the mute button during conference calls I’m not leading to either work the heavy bag, run on the treadmill, or work some weights on the weight machine. I plan for this. The talking keeps my mind occupied, and if someone says something I don’t like, I simply hit the bag harder, run a little faster, or do a few more reps. Win/win! Rarely, someone catches me out of breath when they ask me a direct question.
2. I work multiple computers at the same time. One of them is government. The other two have big screens where I do most of my computer related work – then transfer my work back to my government computer for delivery under my govt email address.
3. If I work on things at odd hours (like 1AM), I will often send my email with a “do not deliver” time of 7 AM the next morning.
4. My staff and I often use non-government resources like Skype or Google Chat to collaborate
5. I sometimes walk around outside while talking on the phone.
6. I sometimes slip my dog a scooby snack when no one is looking.
7. I don’t report time I work on the weekends. It’s embarrassing and I shouldn’t be doing it. See item #3.
I guess these are not secrets anymore.
February 8, 2011 at 5:03 pm #122521
You are so busted…
February 8, 2011 at 5:24 pm #122519
I regularly schedule webinars to coincide with telework days, have mutiple devices for backups and for streaming music (Pandora), and stretch every time I have to check my voice mail. I try to get outside at lunch, usually walking the dog and try not to start before 6:30 and I have to make myself stop working at 4:00 to walk the dog (again).
February 8, 2011 at 11:28 pm #122517
Will try to jam later this week
February 8, 2011 at 11:29 pm #122515
I like the binoculars…good idea
February 8, 2011 at 11:30 pm #122513
Love #1….I forgot to add mine – I have an Iron gym and try to do 5 sets of pullups a day randomly
February 9, 2011 at 12:44 am #122511
I find TV too distracting so I like to stream old radio shows from Live365. I need a certain level of noise to work and will sometimes spend the afternoon at the Starbucks up the street.
February 9, 2011 at 4:54 am #122509
Lots of good ideas here. I am an avid fan of telework, since it allows for “anytime anywhere” work which is what the NASA CIO is advocating as a vision.
I also work at odd hours, round the clock and round the weekend, and just assume it all evens out in terms of time and attendance. I work far more hours than I am officially paid for, but it’s fun for me and very rewarding, so I don’t mind.
No real secrets other than i sometimes work in my pjs and don’t get dressed until noon or later! 🙂
February 9, 2011 at 12:50 pm #122507
I work remotely most days, from my home office. I love to use my weights while I am on conference calls, then I get some exercise in while I am listening! I always have something on, movies, etc. as background noise because I work better with the noise!
February 9, 2011 at 1:19 pm #122505
Seems like there are a number of us who do this.
Great combo of 2 trends – healthier living + telework
February 9, 2011 at 1:19 pm #122503
Reading these responses, I suspect that one secret to telework is that it is a well organized, grand conspiracy by a dog union. Walks, snacks, counseling jobs… they’re cleaning up.
February 9, 2011 at 2:50 pm #122501
1) I don’t have to waiste the 1.5 hours in the morning that it takes to get dressed and drive to work…so when I wake up at 7:00 ish…I roll over grab the lap top and go to work.
2) I’m not interrupted during the day, so I can accomplish as much in 4 hours as it takes for me to do in 8 hours at work.
3) I multi-task…it helps clear my mind and brings fresh perspective to the projects I’m working on.
4) I have tied my work e-mail to my blackberry before so that I can a) travel, b) run errands, or c) meet up with another govie to network…all while working.
5) I don’t waiste time chatting in the break room…there is nobody to chat with by my coffee pot.
6) If I get tired or brain fried..I head to the thinking tank…aka my shower.
All in all, I’m happier, more productive, and probably healthier when working from home.
February 9, 2011 at 2:51 pm #122499
OK, I’m not sure this qualifies as a secret but as @Emi declares “no more secrets” —
As bad as last February was, DC’s snopocolypse 2010 did one great thing for telework…it showed our bosses that we could do it and keep things running. Since that time my non-Federal bosses have started to discuss formal teleworking agreements based on our contract bosses’ versions. As much as we like to be in front of the customer, with reduced budgets for office space (ever try to get a cubicle in a Federal department with no space as a contractor?), travel to site, and the advances of distance equipment (our phones, computers, data access, etc.) I think we’re breaking down the entrenched organizational and perception barriers that have been in place.
I get a ton more done without my commute time. I spend 1/2 of my former commute teleworking as I enjoy the ocasions I get to. I have to learn to send those delayed emails though… they catch me working at odd hours on top of my normal 40 way too often!
February 9, 2011 at 3:16 pm #122497
I wouldn’t necessarily call them secrets, more like perks:
1. I get to sleep in 2 more hours!
2. I stay in my pjs until almost noon.
3. My dog keeps me company all day by sleeping under my desk and poking her head up ever so often for a good head scratch.
4. On nice days in the spring, I move my computer out to my patio and work.
5. I go to the gym or walk my dog on my lunch break (or just watch some bad TV)
6. I get so much more done because for some reason people are less likely to call you while teleworking for trivial things.
7.I’m much happier because I’m not fighting an hour commute each way and I’m saving gas!
8. While on a conference call or webinar that I’m not leading, I can mute my phone and prep dinner or start some laundry.
February 9, 2011 at 4:59 pm #122495
#4 is the best.
February 10, 2011 at 2:51 pm #122493
I’m going to go with the threads focusing in on the perks:
- like others, in the warmer months (much less up here in Ottawa) I also move to the patio, but I typically throw in an afternoon cigar with coffee. it’s essentially the perfect working environment.
- when traffic is bogged up from snow, rain, cold, accidents, bus strikes and so on I’ll either pull off the road at the nearest starbucks to work, or just stay home. by their very nature those types of days are most productive for me.
- repair man or special delivery with 8-4pm windows – no problem – take your time sir. Goes for kid’s sick days too.
- got a cold or the sniffles where you’ll get the stink-eye from co-workers if you show-up, but you’re fine to work, no problem, just make a nice breakfast and sit at the kitchen table. No need to waste our tax payers’ money using a sick day.
Now the bad parts:
- many conference calls (where you are the one calling into a room) do not work well. I’ve been on calls where I maby caught 40% of the verbal dialogue not to mention the 0% of non-verbal that I picked up, i.e. who rolled their eyes at my last suggestion, and who liked it, but won’t say it. Conference call etiquette definitely needs some work, including callers muting their phones, and people in the room prompting the callers for comments or questions (goes for me too).
- the gym at work is much better then the one I don’t have at home. sometimes I go to the office just so I can use the gym.
- i don’t think I could handle full-time work at home – nice to have some sort of home at work, and face-to-face time solidifies relationships in ways emails and phone calls can’t
- web-meeting software is a must.
Now, since my son missed his bus this morning I had to stop at the starbucks to get to work on time, and it hasn’t stopped me from discussing teleworking options with colleagues.
February 10, 2011 at 3:03 pm #122491
If only there was consistency in the ability to telework!
I hate that we have to beg and are only allowed twice per week.
We also have to jump through many hoops and itemize every little thing we do.
There has got to be a better way!
February 10, 2011 at 4:05 pm #122489
LOVE the idea of listening to your dog! I’m fortunate that my wife, an accomplished PR writer and former magazine editor, also works at home a lot, so I’ll bounce the occasional email, and almost all of my blog posts past her.
Also, moving around on teleconferences is a must – a *good* Bluetooth or other wireless headset is a must for me. As a matter of fact, I’m on the phone so much, that I’ll be springing for the custom ear mold for my headset soon – comfort when you spend a good portion of your day on the phone is a must.
February 10, 2011 at 4:13 pm #122487
I’d respectfully suggest that if you have to jump through hoops and itemize things, your management chain doesn’t ‘get it’ with regard to telework. 🙂
I often like to counter these arguments (from my federal colleagues, as my commercial company is in complete support of my teleworking) with the question: ‘How much time is wasted in frivolous conversations in break rooms, hallways, etc.?’
I don’t have any of those problems when working from home – I can consciously choose the times I’m engaged with home things and work things, and as a result, I get much more done at home – the office is (for me – one day a week) far too much of an ‘interrupt driven’ environment.
February 10, 2011 at 4:55 pm #122485
I agree – no secrets – just lots of perks.
I work wirelessly when at home, so mostly I sit on the couch with my laptop.
I also sit outside on my back patio when the weather cooperates.
My dogs cuddle with me.
I don’t have the commute time, and I take the extra time I have in the morning and go to the gym first.
I can do a number of quick tasks around the house at various times throughout my day, so I don’t have to do them all on the weekend.
I also don’t get interrupted or called as much by coworkers.
I can concentrate much better at home.
Right now, I telecommute one day per week, and I wish I could do it two or three. I think in time, it will come to that.
February 10, 2011 at 5:32 pm #122483
They won’t even begin to let us work wirelessly!
We know the technology is out there and used, so why can’t everyone do it??
February 10, 2011 at 6:04 pm #122481
Having a clear set of tasks is key – keeps you from going in multiple directions. This is great advice.
February 10, 2011 at 6:06 pm #122479
For some reason, scores of birds were in our front yard the other day…it was an amazing (and inspiring moment)…and I was able to watch from the window of my office! That never happened in the office 😉
February 10, 2011 at 6:11 pm #122477
Here here! In the South, we had Ike to thank (hurricane Ike) for wiping out our offices, so we could prove just how much we could get done teleworking! Now, if we could just get those few individuals who abuse telework privileges to shape up…. !
February 10, 2011 at 6:13 pm #122475
Yep, porch swing helps too! From an employer perspective though, we just have to promise not to sue them if we twist an ankle on our patio while working, and we can’t apply for workman’s comp either. But I know I am willing to bear those burdens alone, for the benefits of telework, gladly!
February 10, 2011 at 6:21 pm #122473
And sadly, part of the reason we do have to jump through hoops has to do with people who “telework” but then miss company or worse, customer meetings; who do not respond to urgent work requests for hours because they were doing other things while supposedly teleworking; who do not return phone calls for hours but charge work for the time, etc. We need bosses who trust us, and we all need to be trustworthy — sadly, enough in both groups don’t and make it tough for us all!!
February 10, 2011 at 6:40 pm #122471
I’m twice as productive when I telework; here’s my top 10 joys of telework:
1) No non-work related tasks that seem to find their way into every workplace,
2) Blissful silence, or the sound of the birds and the warmth of the breeze brushing my face through the open door,
3) A chance to pet my dog upon completion of major milestones,
4) Much shorter walk for coffee/snacks and bathroom breaks,
5) Checking e-mail only once an hour=less distractions from a task,
6) No wasted time getting dressed up for work (jeans, a sweatshirt, and a ponytail, thank you!),
7) Time saved driving to/from work=more personal time and less stress,
8) I turn on my computer as soon as I wake up, get connected, and start downloading e-mail. While that’s going, I can start my usual routine: run with the dog, shower, make coffee. No wasted time on computer bootup and connections,
9) I feel energized, never drained, after a day of telework,
10) Better lighting, better ergonomics, better food, better vibes at HOME!
Telework ROCKS 🙂
February 10, 2011 at 7:31 pm #122469
You all have great reasons for why teleworking works for you. What about your employers? How should s/he ensure there is a critical mass in the office to deal with projects/tasks/problems that need immediate resolution? How do collaborative meetings get scheduled when government offices are not well equipped with the technology to collaborate digitally? What about your co-workers who are at the office and need your face-to-face input on something to move on with their own tasks?
I’d love to hear some discussion on how your offices make these and other issues work.
February 10, 2011 at 7:46 pm #122467
Many in this discussion know my “secrets” of playing the stereo or enjoying the patio during the workday. Telework has enabled me to stay better connected to my community and keep better tabs on the news. I spent much of my career creating broadcast news so – even though much is available on the web – I like being able to check the TV buzz on the flat screen at home. In the time I’d normally commute, I can have an impact on others’ lives by volunteering in my child’s class or improve my health and find inspiration with a good walk or bike ride. While I do have a desk, I can sit anywhere I want to edit or conference with the office. We even had a successful art meeting online this week.
But enough about me, the spring issue of The Public Manager will offer a whole lot more from Deloitte experts about how telework improves productivity.
February 11, 2011 at 1:59 pm #122465
One thing I failed to mention before-
The real “secret” to telework is when people don’t even realize you’re teleworking!
With all of the technology out there, I connect to my work phone through my computer. So I can dial out when I’m at home and my work extension pops up on the receiver’s phone. They have no clue I’m not in the office (unless the UPS man pulls up and I don’t have time to get my dog locked in the office before she sees him!). Teleworking should be seemless. When it is, that’s how you can prove to your employer that teleworking not only is a value added benefit to the employee but to the employer as well.
February 11, 2011 at 3:15 pm #122463
Interesting! Is there a certain program you use to connect to your work phone? I guess I’m not up-to-date enough on technology 🙁
February 14, 2011 at 1:47 pm #122461
Our DIT office installed this program called Avaya Softphone. When I click on the icon on my desktop when at home, it overrides my office telephone and forwards calls to my home phone. However, a pop up box pops up on my screen showing who is calling. Its a great program.
February 15, 2011 at 11:36 pm #122459
I am responsible for three Divisions, Barbara. In my experience, it took some getting used to.
Today, I telecommute four days per week myself. By taking the plunge, I forced myself to find ways to connect. My staff reach out to me and I reach out to them. We’re in each others “mind space” when we need to be.
I actually prefer my staffs to telework. I get better results. When my staffs are left to themselves to beat a subject to death, they often talk themselves out of action. The “committee” breaks up without assigned check points. Drives me nuts. When they work from home, we have to set clear objectives and deliverables that we agree to go over at our next check point.
Going into the office subjects my staff to office politics, nonsense interruptions, distracting “agendas” that don’t jive with mine, office-borne sickness, etc. I generally find that the folks “in the office” tend to move a lot slower than the folks “out of the office.” They are usually more focused on Sara Who and Johnny BooBoo than they are about our customers or the work that needs to be done.
I think the resistance we saw elsewhere in my organization was due more to the supervisor’s lack of experience than it was to teleworking or the staff. If a supervisor doesn’t know how to manage to outcomes, telework will only magnify this. Telework can become a problem if management 101 isn’t strong.
All that said, there are – and always will be – a valid reason to include face-to-face contact into your management strategy. Personnel actions and complex negotiations, for example, are best handled face to face. As a general rule, however, I’ve found that face to face isn’t needed every single day.
I spend one day per week and basically “round” on everyone. The entire day is spent walking around, connecting with staff, with colleagues, catching up, signing leave slips, etc. I look at my computer that morning, and don’t look at it again until the next day. The entire day is dedicated to full contact.
I’ve found that the fact that the day is all about contact actually makes me focus on and appreciate the contact more. Those are trust building days. Days for laughing and re-connecting, rewarding and private chats. The task productivity that happens during the rest of the week is so much better that I don’t feel like I am missing anything.
After some adjustments are made (supervisor training and coaching, installation of mushrooms and conference lines, employee training and coaching, clear outcome-based objectives and agreed upon check points) – as a general rule (there are exceptions to every rule) I feel like I get much better performance out of my regular teleworkers than I do from my staff who sit in the office every day.
As far as immediate issues are concerned: I send a broadcast – usually with a challenge. “The first one to find me X wins bragging rights…” The staff love these. I think it breaks up their day and gives their hearts a little jolt of adrenaline. They jump on it and try to beat one another’s time stamp with the answer. If someone missed the broadcast and response, they tend to be bummed & offer to catch the next one.
One of our branches uses Twitter to collaborate. We were once sitting in a high power room with senior folks. One of the senior folks posed a question and a request for an action to be done. We hit the Twitter group and the answer (and the action) was complete before the meeting was over – and those are short meetings.
It does work (and can work better), but it does take some new thinking.
February 17, 2011 at 12:59 pm #122457
Thanks for taking the time for such a detailed response — it’s very helpful. Our office is a mix of knwledge workers, for whom teleworking is a realistic option, and skilled workers who maintain buildings and facilities, must therefore be on site, and who are not used to being self-directed. This kind of mix is challenging, but you’ve provided some excellent food for thought.
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