Are You a Workshifting Newbie?

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It’s no secret that working remotely is becoming increasingly popular. Millions of people are now teleworking, and that number continues to grow. Working from home is known to boost employee morale and increase productivity. In addition, fewer commuters means fewer cars on the road, which has a significant environmental impact. It also allows us more flexibility to manage work and family commitments, helping us to achieve a better work-life balance. The good word on workshifting is spreading, and that trend will only continue.

If you’re new to remote working, you may be wondering how to make the shift. It’s not always as simple as just packing up your laptop and wandering home – there are a few things you need to consider to smoothly transition into working remotely. So before you walk the kids to the bus stop and then come home to don your bunny slippers and get to work, try some of these tips:

Connecting to the Office

By far the thing that interferes the most when people want to work from home is inadequate technology. So do some groundwork beforehand to ensure that you really can just turn on your computer and work from home when the time comes.

First, consider how you’re going to access your work files and systems remotely. Do you have the ability to access your email outside the office? What about any intranet sites or work-specific software? Sometimes companies make web-based tools available for employees, and in those cases, just talk with the IT team to find out how to access the software. Always test out your web tools from home ahead of time so you can be sure you can get access (depending on the tool, the IT team may need to set up a new account for your remote access).

Sometimes, web-based tools aren’t an option, but you still need remote access to your company’s computer network. Many companies will use a technology called VPN (Virtual Private Network) to enable remote workers to securely access the company network using just a small piece of software installed on the home computer. Once you are connected, you’ll be able to use your tools and even view, open and save your files. This all needs to be set up by the IT department ahead of time, so if you need to use VPN, it’s important to talk to them and get the instructions. (I can’t stress enough how important it is to get on friendly terms with the IT department if you’re a workshifter. Treat them well and be grateful, and they’ll always be happy to help!)

Moving Files Around

Back in the olden days, if we were going to work from home, we’d pack some file folders with paperwork into our briefcase and take it home. In this digital world with most of our files on our computers, “packing up” can mean saving the files you need on a USB stick or emailing them to yourself before you leave the office. Like the briefcase scenario, it’s important to make sure you grab ALL the files you’re going to need (or think you’re going to need). And unfortunately, the time will inevitably come when the very file you need will be the one you don’t have. I think all of the best workshifters have had a workday ruined by not having the right files.

It doesn’t have to be this way! Set yourself up with a cloud-based file sharing system, and you’ll never be without your files again. Cloud systems work by sharing folders securely across computers, so you can have a folder connecting both of your computers – just drop files into the folder at work and retrieve them from the same folder at home. You can even share files and folders with your colleagues so you all have access. I recommend Dropbox for personal use, as the free basic account gives you 2GB (plenty of storage for all your documents), and ShareFile for professional use, because it allows for more advanced and secure syncing.

Consider Your Mobile Options

One of the best things about workshifting is that it allows us to have more flexibility in our schedules. We can be home for our kids before and after school, and we can pop out to run an errand midday. But despite how much work-life balance this allows for, the boss still needs to be able to reach us if we aren’t at our desks.

If you’re going to get serious about working remotely, then I think having a reliable and functional mobile device is key. I don’t just mean a plain old cell phone but rather a smartphone or a tablet. Choose your weapon (BlackBerry, iPhone/iPad, Android or another type of device), but make sure it allows you to access email, chat tools, and ideally your files (Dropbox and ShareFile let you access files on mobile devices, too). That way, when you’re standing at the bus stop or in line at the grocery store, you can keep up on what’s happening during the work day and deal immediately with any issues. Plus, you can wander down to the coffee shop with your work in tow for a change of scenery and not lose a minute of productivity!

These are just a few ideas for making the transition to remote work easier. I’d love to hear your tips, so please share them in the comments!

Photo Credit: ilike