Virtually Anywhere

It’s 7:00am and I’m reviewing yesterday’s sales numbers, after responding to last night’s emails from Europe and Asia, all while talking to my Fiancé while she drives into work.  Just another day for your typically workaholic at their desk in the office?  Yes, except for the critical fact that I’m not in the office, I’m actually resting between exercises at the health club performing all of these functions on my new 3G enabled Blackberry.  What I sacrifice in battery life I more than make up with the ability to surf the web, text, email, and instant message while talking on the phone at the same time.  You see the 3G (3rd Generation) wireless standard allows simultaneous transmission of voice and data, meaning that I am only limited by ability to multi-task, which I am told needs some work.  Point being, I am no longer limited by technology in my ability to do my job from anywhere in the world, literally. 

Last fall I began a new position as the Director of Sales for a Telecommunications company and promptly (second week on the job) went down to Guatemala for some volunteer work about a six hour drive from Guatemala City, i.e. the middle of nowhere.  The town I stayed in had no hot running water, but did have the only things I needed to stay productive and in touch with the rest of the world, Coca-Cola and Wireless.  I could stay in touch with my team via email and instant message, occasionally calling if urgent, and as an added bonus, I could use the online program Babel Fish from my phone to translate phrases from English to Spanish. 

I came to embrace my mobile self years ago when on a business trip to Las Vegas. I was walking back up to my room and I found myself shaking my head at another hotel patron typing away on her Blackberry by the pool.  How silly I thought, to be working by the pool, until I realized that I was going up to my room to access my computer and send that ever critical email that just as easily could have been sent by the pool if I had the correct equipment.  So today, more sunscreen, less time in room and productivity has increased.  If you are interested in joining my journey of increased productivity, coupled with more free time, and an ability to do your job from anywhere in the world, here is what you will need:

  1. Smart phone: Blackberry, Android, and iPhone are the most popular, but any phone that will allow you to connect to your email will suffice.  I recommend 3G because of speed and the ability to simultaneously do voice calls and data (email, instant and text messages).
  2. Laptop: Because you thumbs WILL get sore.
  3. WiFi Access Point and high speed DSL/Cable Modem/FiOS:  As long as you are disconnecting physically from your office, why would you tether yourself at home?
  4. VPN:  Virtual Private Network software will allow you to access authorized information behind your companies firewall, such as your email, fileservers, intranet, etc.  With high speed internet access and a VPN client you are on the company’s network without physically being there. 
  5. Voice over IP Telephone: This is the final step, with this technology no one will even know you’re not in the office (unless your dog barks during your call).  Once your VoIP phone is attached to the network through the VPN you procured in step 4 anyone can dial your extension and it will ring wherever you happen to working that day.  If you really want to take the next step, lose the phone and just get the software on your computer with a headset, now your computer is your phone, when your laptop is off, you can have the calls forwarded to you cell phone, or just have the voicemails converted to a sound file and emailed to you (yes this is possible, just ask your IT dept, they are there to help).
  6. An understanding boss:  Let’s face it, old school managers are not going to understand that you are “Working from Home”.  Your challenge is to demonstrate that you can be more productive working virtually than physically present.  This is easily done by adding up commute time and “water cooler” talk time that is eliminated by your remote office location.

Certainly some professions are more suitable to working virtually than others.  You will not be able to make a double tall white chocolate mocha for a customer from your home office if you are a barista, you will however be able to update at Starbucks while waiting for your next appointment if you are in sales.  With the desire to embrace new technologies you can take that step and go mobile, doing every task required in the office from virtually anywhere.