Monday, September 06, 2010

Getting out of the office

This post is about getting out of the office and working remotely. With my 3 weeks in Ontario coming to a close, I've had plenty of time to practice working from abroad, I’ve also worked from Australia, Turkey, NZ and the UK. Our flexible working policy at Spiral means that on any given day you might see anyone on our team working from a number of different locations. There have been a number of challenges in setting this up and I am happy to share our experience if you want to contact me.

3 tips for effectively working remotely
  1. You have to have a great team to do this so tip #1 is build a great team so you can support each other
  2. Stay up to date with emails and avoid the email avalanche when you return to the office
  3. Use web based tools that make your job easier
We are experienced in all these areas and especially creating, evaluating and setting up web based software. You can use web based remote access tools to work remotely but this article covers the purely web based tools and methods you can use. Pure, web based software runs in your browser so theres no software to install.

What do you need to work remotely?
  • Good hardware, that is your laptop or mobile device.
  • Wireless Internet connection or WiFi
  • Mobile phone
Web base software tools
These are the software tools we use:
  • Nautilus for updating our websites. Nearly all our clients use Nautilus which was designed by us to be a stress-free way for business owners and marketing professionals to use. Because its web based it can be used from any computer connected to the web.
  • Mailroom,  our easy to use, powerful solution to creating beautiful email marketing campaigns, managing subscribers and tracking the results.
  • Skype for staying in touch with clients and talking amongst ourselves - its free, easy to use and doesn't tie up our phone line. We also use Skype with video for team meetings.
  • Basecamp for managing our projects, collaborating with our team and with our clients.
  • Highrise for tracking our client contact details, deals and followups.
  • Xero for invoicing
  • Blogger for writing articles
Ways to get online
If you take your laptop or internet enabled mobile device with you, e.g. iPad, iPhone, Blackberry then you will be looking for WiFi access for your device. If you are traveling light then you need to source internet cafes and public internet access points along your route before you leave.

Using Wifi abroad
Check the data plans in the country you are traveling in and what your current NZ data plan charges for data roaming. Data roaming can be expensive depending on the country you are in, I have found data roaming on my plan in Austalia costs the same as here in NZ.

A good option in some countries is to purchase a prepay plan for data on one of the local networks. Again, you need to check before you go as each country can have very different options. For example, there are good plans available in the UK but in Canada (in Sept 2010) none of the networks offered data and international calls on a prepay plan.

Other tips

Having organised your software, laptop and WiFi access, there are a few little extra tips that will improve your experience of working remotely.
  • Make your phone calls at mutually agreeable hours - check the timezone differences and watch out for weekeknds
  • Use headphones with a microphone for best sound quality 
  • Use video (available with Skype) to personalise some of your calls
  • Try to set aside a regular time each day to work
and finally .... keep up the communication with regular phone calls, it reminds everyone they are part of a team and gives us all an opportunity to discuss small issues before they turn into big problems.

Welcome to freedom!

Send me your own tips.