For many of us, there is a routine: we wake up, we go to work, we leave work, repeat. We're effective at work. We have meetings, we work with team members, we focus on work (not laundry!).
What if you couldn't do that? What if you had to work remotely?
There are many reasons that you might have to work remotely. Maybe it's snowing and getting out of your driveway isn't going to happen. Maybe you have a sick child who needs to stay home. Maybe it's simply a weekend and you just don't feel like coming in.
Can you work effectively when you're remote?
There are a number of simple things you can do while you're in the office that will make working at home easier:
- Create an online team forum. Even in the office, use chatrooms (Campfire, IRC, or the like) to keep in touch. It feels silly to IM with a colleague who is 20 feet away, but when one of you is home, you'll be glad you can IM.
- Make lists electronic. The whiteboard has its place, but you can't see it from home. For basic status and metrics, it's fine to leave them there. Tasks, designs, etc. should be made electronic so they can be accessed by the team remotely (or if the white board gets erased by an overzealous officemate!).
- Get the VPN working. You probably have a VPN. Use it. Make sure you can get to your work machines remotely, with VNC, Remote Desktop, SSH, or whatever. Try this before you need it. Many IT departments have external network connections you can use to test this while you're in the office.
- Find a fast connection. In your house, or in a local coffee shop, or wherever you're remote, make sure the network connection is reasonable. Laggy work is frustrating work.
- Set up your home workstation. Install the VPN. Install either your work tools or methods to get at those work tools. For example, I use Transmit to sync files back and forth transparently. That way I can work on them locally and every time I save, it gets saved to my test servers. A simple SSH session later, and I'm running tests in my work environment, without having to remember to transfer files manually.
- Remember you're working. Remote work is still work, so don't pretend you can do laundry and work, or make dinner and work. One or the other gets done, but generally not both. (I can't tell you how many dinners I've burned this way!)
Even if you have an office job, working remotely is likely to come up. Make sure you're prepared, and you can be effective, wherever you are.