Archive for the Telecommute Category

The Future of Writing at Work

Posted in Telecommute, Web2.0 Productivity, work with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 30, 2011 by Lance Strzok

As more and more people are writing and professing their opinions across more and more platforms of information sharing, one thing remains true across all of them – Content it King. Yep, what you say, its validity, conciseness and tone are all part of good content that will keep people coming back. In a world where people value every second of their time, if you can not provide that content consistently, then you can make it look pretty all you want, and tweak formats all day, but that won’t bring them back to read you again.

I suspect the future of writing in the office place will shift from Word and Open Office to open platforms where the words that you write are what is most important, and computers and editors will apply style, images and links to related content to enrich the content as a workflow process following its initial creation.

This makes the transportation and transformation of the words from one product into another so much easier, and style can be changed quickly and easily for past and future content. It is also easier to use and re-use it again in other products.

Think about it, how many times does the Word file you spend half an hour tweaking just so it looks right end up in several places and different platforms looking completely different? My own experience in this has lead me to writing in blogs, because it is just so easy to do. The files are small, transportable, accessible, open with a simple browser (no special or expensive software) and have some of them have built in spell checking as I write – not as a separate function. I can write from my desktop, laptop, phone, or TV and the content can be styled in any way I or someone else pleases. Not to mention that people can index it and discover it, as well as comment on it and share it with others quickly and easily. It also fits with my hope of where things will go in the future with regard to IT and work. Simple really, all I should need is an internet connection and a browser. Which is also why my recent work has been focused on browser wars and how they are doing against one another.

So to wrap things up, spend that extra half hour working on the content, collaborating with colleagues, checking your sources, and making your inner author voice shine through, and give a blog a chance – you might just come to like it for the same reasons I do.

-Lance.

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Telework – Telecommute – Tell me more…

Posted in Telecommute, Web2.0 Productivity, work with tags , , , , , on January 27, 2011 by Lance Strzok

***Readers – This is a draft starting point, not a finished piece of work – I want to incorporate your good ideas (please add them to the comments section). Tell me which of the ones I have listed are ones you would have mentioned, and which ones you have issues with. If they are not listed and you share them with me I will add them to the post with attribution. Thank you in advance. – Lance.

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Two concepts of telework;
1) Work from home (the main thrust of this article)
2) Work from a location close to home that supports work activities (lease a desk at another building that has the network connectivity and access required – a second article if desired)

Business Pros

– Maternity
– Sick leave
– Phone call costs
– Food choices are your own, not what is available in the cafeteria (save money in food costs/ healthy choices).
– Handicapped workers have options from home
– Parking
– Savings to analysts ($400) per month in my case in gas alone
– Time saved in commute 2.5 hours in my case
– Tools required for the job – Software that helps make analysts more productive is available at home
– Bandwidth at home may be better than at work – and is subtracted from business bandwidth use, therefore bandwidth at work is better
-Hiring incentive
– Retention incentive

Business Cons

Source = http://fcw.com/Articles/2010/04/08/Teleworking-evolution.aspx?Page=1
-“There are challenges: you get less face time, you can’t do all the work from home, there can be limited accessibility, people might think you aren’t really working,” said Steve Koenig, director for industry analysis at the Consumer Electronics Association.
-Bandwidth constraints through the technology used may cause slowness
– WRT facetime, how much facetime do you really get with your manager?

Enabling technologies

– Google Voice
– Unified Communications
– DC Telework Solutions
– VM ware
– Google Docs
– Drop Box

Employee Pros

Employee Cons

Business savings (money)

-More savings are expected over time because of the hires the county won’t have to make — due to the increased output from its existing workforce.Source=
http://faribault.com/news.php?viewStory=104640

Business costs

– “A lot of information in an office is passed passively or informally,” he said. “So we are still adjusting and addressing things.” Source=
http://faribault.com/news.php?viewStory=104640

Shaw estimated a 25 percent increase in productivity, but that does come at an up-front cost.

Startup costs are $1,500 more for those working from home, according to county documents. Those estimates are based on a total of 50 county employees telecommuting. Once 100 users are added to the current system, an additional $18,000 is needed in infrastructure improvements to the county’s computer system.

“I’m definitely a supporter,” said IT Director Melissa Reeder. “But costs do not go down when you add large numbers of users to the system.”

After the initial start-up costs, telecommuting is not, as a whole, less costly. During a standard four-year technology cycle, those employees working from home still cost several hundred more dollars in upkeep.

She also said the pilot study did not factor in overall technology maintenance for telephones, computers and Internet — including licensing and labor.

But the commissioners saw those costs as manageable compared to the “real” cost savings: Labor and space.
Source=
http://faribault.com/news.php?viewStory=104640

Additional ideas related to telework-
– Keep even spread across the week, rotate to keep it fair, and lottery or luck for initial days
– If you telecommute 1 day, rotate on an annual basis by two workweek days Friday goes to Tuesday, etc…
– Traffic congestion
– Statistically, fewer accidents
– Educate managers and workforce on how the program is run – add to cornerstone
– Hiring benefit
– Retention benefit
– CO2 emissions
– What does being distributed mean to hacking attempts?
– Telework success improves COOP success
– Bad weather options
– Average commute? 37.7 miles (one way) Source = http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policy/2008cpr/chap15.htm#5
– Wireless
– Reduce command footprint within the building, and lease out additional space – potentially for the case two situation in which local Federal Employees that work for someone else can access networks not available from home. Unintended consequences of employees from diverse agencies co-located could prove to be amazing!)
– More flexible work hours
– Reduce heating and cooling costs
– Reduce electrical energy consumption
– Reduce the total number of machines and the per unit cost of replacing and maintaining them
– We will have to look closely across the organization to determine which jobs can be done remotely and how many days a week that job can be done remotely
– Telework should be framed as a privilege, not an entitlement, and it is maintained and revisited every year to determine effectiveness
-Planning ahead and having some work related projects that you can work on pre-defined should be a part of that plan
– Must be results based, monitored, and a part of the employees annual performance evaluation
– Lockers at work that allow desks to be universal when employees come in. Grab your picture, leave your lunch, have a seat, log in, and get to work locally.

——
Source=
http://faribault.com/news.php?viewStory=104640
“All the participants said their quality of life improved, they were more organized and got more done,” he said. “I would call it a success.”
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Source = http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/217919

When you pay workers for their time, they’re willing to give you as much of it as you are willing to pay for. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re maximizing productivity during that time. If you told workers that they can have the rest of the week off as soon as they complete their assigned tasks and meet their deadlines for the week, you would find that five days of effort can probably be compressed to two and have a very empty office after Tuesday while everyone is out golfing.

Workers know, though, that they have to be present in the office from 8am to 5pm, Monday through Friday regardless of how quickly or effectively work gets completed, so instead the work gets dragged out. Finishing quickly is likely to result in additional assignments to fill the time, so there is no incentive to maximize performance. Instead, the work week is filled with unproductive time — chatting with co-workers, reading personal e-mail, surfing the Web, smoking breaks, long lunches, etc.

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Home > Human Resources > Managing Employees > Telecommuting Is Good for Employees and Employers
Telecommuting Is Good for Employees and Employers
Many managers struggle to embrace telecommuting, but it makes happier workers and has many benefits for the company as well.
By Tony Bradley | January 21, 2011
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Comments (8) Share 92
PCWorld

As technology evolves, many of the barriers that have traditionally limited telecommuting continue to disappear. The tedious standard of spending 40 hours a week sitting in a cubicle is fading as employers and workers both embrace the benefits associated with telecommuting.

When you pay workers for their time, they’re willing to give you as much of it as you are willing to pay for. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re maximizing productivity during that time. If you told workers that they can have the rest of the week off as soon as they complete their assigned tasks and meet their deadlines for the week, you would find that five days of effort can probably be compressed to two and have a very empty office after Tuesday while everyone is out golfing.

Workers know, though, that they have to be present in the office from 8am to 5pm, Monday through Friday regardless of how quickly or effectively work gets completed, so instead the work gets dragged out. Finishing quickly is likely to result in additional assignments to fill the time, so there is no incentive to maximize performance. Instead, the work week is filled with unproductive time — chatting with co-workers, reading personal e-mail, surfing the Web, smoking breaks, long lunches, etc.

A research study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and published by the National Communication Association found, “Employees who telecommute the majority of the work week are more satisfied with their jobs compared to those working mostly in the office because working remotely alleviates more stress than it creates.”

Kathryn Fonner, lead researcher for the study, explains, “Results of the study pointed to multiple reasons why telework is linked to high job satisfaction, namely that employees working remotely are, on average, shielded from much of the distracting and stressful aspects of the workplace, such as office politics, interruptions, constant meetings and information overload.”

*

Home > Human Resources > Managing Employees > Telecommuting Is Good for Employees and Employers
Telecommuting Is Good for Employees and Employers
Many managers struggle to embrace telecommuting, but it makes happier workers and has many benefits for the company as well.
By Tony Bradley | January 21, 2011
Print Email Share
Comments (8) Share 92
PCWorld

As technology evolves, many of the barriers that have traditionally limited telecommuting continue to disappear. The tedious standard of spending 40 hours a week sitting in a cubicle is fading as employers and workers both embrace the benefits associated with telecommuting.

When you pay workers for their time, they’re willing to give you as much of it as you are willing to pay for. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re maximizing productivity during that time. If you told workers that they can have the rest of the week off as soon as they complete their assigned tasks and meet their deadlines for the week, you would find that five days of effort can probably be compressed to two and have a very empty office after Tuesday while everyone is out golfing.

Workers know, though, that they have to be present in the office from 8am to 5pm, Monday through Friday regardless of how quickly or effectively work gets completed, so instead the work gets dragged out. Finishing quickly is likely to result in additional assignments to fill the time, so there is no incentive to maximize performance. Instead, the work week is filled with unproductive time — chatting with co-workers, reading personal e-mail, surfing the Web, smoking breaks, long lunches, etc.

A research study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and published by the National Communication Association found, “Employees who telecommute the majority of the work week are more satisfied with their jobs compared to those working mostly in the office because working remotely alleviates more stress than it creates.”

Kathryn Fonner, lead researcher for the study, explains, “Results of the study pointed to multiple reasons why telework is linked to high job satisfaction, namely that employees working remotely are, on average, shielded from much of the distracting and stressful aspects of the workplace, such as office politics, interruptions, constant meetings and information overload.”

Think about it for a minute. Even if the amount of non-productive time is the same to the employer, working from home enables workers to put the “wasted” time to better use. Instead of just chatting or surfing, the worker can take care of household chores and tasks that have to be done but normally fill up “personal” time — laundry, dishes, prepping dinner. That also means that when the work day is done, the worker is free to actually use the personal time for more enriching activities than simple mundane chores.

There are a variety of other benefits for both the worker and the employer. No commuting enables the worker to avoid the stress and dangers of rush hour traffic and reclaim many hours of time that weren’t even being compensated anyway. Not sharing a work environment reduces the chances that a cold or flu virus can spread throughout a department and cripple productivity, and not having to get up and drive to work enables even marginally sick workers to continue being productive from the comfort of home. (sick leave)

Businesses can also reduce costs associated with the office itself — the size of the office, the furniture, the electricity used, the cost of heating and cooling the office space, etc.

Small and medium businesses in particular should embrace cloud-based productivity and collaboration platforms such as Google Docs or Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Services (soon to be rebranded as Office 365). Services like Box.net, Dropbox, and Syncplicity also provide a means of sharing information between remote co-workers, and even online tools like Skype and Facebook enable communication and collaboration. Bottom line — the tools are out there and they are free, or at least very affordable.

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Source = http://venturebeat.com/2011/01/25/5-reasons-you-should-care-about-the-flexible-workforce/

Flexibility as a recruitment tool – Quickly do a mental check of how many people you know, either at the office or personally, who require “flexibility” as a key requirement to their job. They may be caring for an ailing parent, work two jobs, move often with their spouse/partner, or have young children. Regardless of why, they make decisions on where to work not just based on pay and benefits. Rather, they balance those items with how flexible their job can be in terms of hours, days of the week, commuting requirements, etc. Be flexible, because it has value in the minds of the candidate you are trying to hire or the key employee you want to retain.

It’s only getting bigger – Demand for comprehensive, real-time communication with a company’s labor force will continue to grow. Companies large and small are managing a larger, less rigid network of employees, contractors, and part-time labor. More team members are working odd hours, or working in different cities, or rarely work in the office. Companies that provide seamless products and services to tie together those distributed workforces together, allowing them to collaborate and communicate via web and mobile platforms, will have a lot of market to run with.
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Source = http://fcw.com/blogs/john-klossner/2011/01/john-klossner-federal-telework-policy.aspx

In reading about this year’s resolution one item in particular caught my attention — “Currently, 102,900 of the 1.9 million federal employees regularly work remotely. Of the total workforce, 62 percent are eligible to telework. To encourage the practice, the Obama administration has set a goal of having 150,000 government employees teleworking on a regular basis by 2011.”

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Source = http://gcn.com/Articles/2010/11/01/Telework-NMCI-Access.aspx?Page=2

The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Software Protection Initiative has produced Lightweight Portable Security, a tool created in-house that essentially creates trusted endpoints for remote access. It is a bootable CD developed with open-source software that works with most Windows, Mac or Linux computers to create a nonpersistent trusted node for secure Web browsing, cloud computing or network access. It boots a Linux operating system from a LiveCD and installs nothing on the client computer, running only in RAM to bypass local malware and leave no record of the session.

The LPS-Public edition is small, with a 124M image that can fit on a mini-CD. It is available to government and public users as a free download and is intended to be used for casual telework and on untrusted systems needed for sensitive tasks. It also can be used to access CAC-enabled websites. The government-specific LPS-Remote Access creates a virtual government-furnished equipment node on a private computer and is available for all federal agencies and contractors. It was developed in 2009 to provide a telework tool for continuity of operations in anticipation of a possible flu pandemic.

Approved by DOD’s CIO in December 2009 for continuity of operations, LPS-Remote Access has since been adopted by more than 30 DOD organizations with more than 58,000 employees. More than 35,500 copies of LPS-Public have been downloaded from the Software Protection Initiative website since 2008.

A far cheaper, more portable, and more secure solution is SPI’s Lightweight Portable Security – Government Remote Access Edition (LPS-Remote Access). With only a CD and smartcard reader, you can have your enterprise or NIPRNet desktop appear on almost any computer in the world. Its accredited and usually free. See spi.dod.mil.
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– Primary resistance is from managers Source = http://gcn.com/articles/2010/11/01/telework-technology.aspx
However, security doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. Virtual private networks, network access controls and virtualization, which can separate data from the hardware using it, can provide adequate security. “The technology is mature at this point, but it is still relatively recent,” Quillin said.

USPTO is one of the pioneers. The agency has been promoting telework for 10 years, and as of Sept. 30, 5,654 of its employees regularly worked outside the office. Speaking at a recent conference hosted by the Telework Exchange, Turk said 75 percent of the agency’s workforce is eligible to telework, and 80 percent of those eligible employees are doing it.

To ensure security, teleworkers use remote desktop connections and save their work in USPTO’s data center rather than on their laptops.

“There should be nothing from work on the laptop they use,” Turk said. The laptops also are encrypted so that any information on them is inaccessible. “It’s a defense-in-depth process. Our risk from loss of a laptop is small.”

“Security was a big deal for us” because of the sensitive personal information that the agency maintains. “But it turned out that there was better security on the laptops than anything we could have gotten on the desktops.”

The Dell laptops that CMS uses have webcams built for videoconferencing, in addition to VPN clients, hard-drive encryption and support for two-factor authentication, including the government’s Personal Identity Verification card.

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Source = http://www.teleworkexchange.com/teleworker-12-10.asp
Today’s workplace, Berry noted, has changed and the Federal government must change with it by adopting more results-focused management and telework. “In example after example, it leads to happier, more productive employees,” he said. “And organizations that are slow to adapt will miss out on being able to recruit from among the best and the brightest.”

‘Why aren’t you teleworking?'” she told the audience. “I would rather hear about the obstacles that we need to remove, rather than all the justifications for why somebody should (telework).”

The agency is considering a boost to the number of days that most employees can telework. “We really are beginning to understand that it isn’t just a one-day-a-week thing that makes the benefit,” Johnson said.

A GSA pilot program in Kansas City seems to bear out that theory, she said. The program involves 42 colleagues from the same office and 66 percent of them now work from home five days a week. In just a few months, 77 percent of participants reported significant productivity increases, and absenteeism was down 69 percent.

The program also offers some initial lessons about how co-workers can remain connected with colleagues even while working remotely. Those who telework as a group seem to pay better attention to keeping in touch, Johnson said.

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Source = http://www.teleworkexchange.com/teleworker-05-07.asp#p3a

“My message to managers is to try a center for one day. See how productive you can be. Let others try telework, and watch what happens to productivity and morale. It is a real eye opener.”

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