Go Green, Go Remote – But How?
No matter what your opinion is on global warming, it’s clear that we need to get off our dependencies on fossil fuels. Everyone needs to put forth effort to go green, including companies and how they manage the employee work processes.
Over the years I have commuted long hours and I have worked remotely. Working remotely has obvious green benefits by saving on gas and emissions, providing more hours in the day that are not devoted to cursing out other drivers, and lends to a better personal balance of home and career. Yet, in talking to folks in various online communities and in person, I come across some resistance to working and running a business remotely.
Some resistance is based on fears of doing things slightly differently. I stress slightly here because the changes in one’s work day isn’t that different than from the office, except for some distinct benefits. And habits are hard to break when it comes to certain routines. The most common resistance to avoiding working remotely though is simple lack of knowledge of how the remote model works.
The software development industry has provided a great model for working remotely, yet many, many people are still in their cubes, pounding away at the keyboard when they could be kicking back in an easy chair with their laptop. Instead, from their desk, they pass emails, instant messages, use the phone, and only on occasion, do they leave the uncomfortable desk. Why? All the work is being done in a somewhat distributed fashion anyway, and certain tools can make it all the easier.
I’m currently working two days in the office and the other three I remotely from home. This gives me just the right amount of face-to-face with key people I work with, and the rest of the time I am happy to be off the road and have the extra time in my day. For my job, it’s a comfortable balance.
The key to successfully working remotely is collaboration. The software development industry helps us in heaps here. For a long while now, teams have been distributed throughout the country and globally. Companies like CollabNet make working remotely with distributed teams easier by providing a platform (TeamForge) with all the tools necessary. We can have discussions, share wikis and documents, and track each others progress on projects or tasks.
Of course, some face-time is necessary, discussions sometimes are better in person, and it’s good for team morale to have a face to attach to an email address.
And in my experience, meetings, especially large ones, are more productive and clip along at a better pace when people are remote. In person, I’ve noticed some time is spent on arranging chairs, getting a projector to work, chit-chat to catch up with people, etc. before the meeting even starts.
But when folks call into a meeting remotely, or use something like WebEx or Go Meeting, people tend to be ready and get right to the point. There is less time wasted, and gabbing is saved for during technical glitches, which do happen no matter whether you are remote or live, or when in person meetings come along.
The key to working remotely successfully is collaboration, having the right tools for employees to connect with each other and share data, and to track progress, and to understand that remote working does NOT hamper progress or work quality. Less office and cube space is needed for employees, less time is wasted on travel and commuting, and people’s attitudes tend to be better when they have enough home time. By only meeting in person once or twice a week, it becomes a treat to get out of the house and out into the world.
We have the technology to work remotely and collaboratively, and distributed software teams have provided an excellent model for those of us who are not crunching code daily but do work on a computer the majority of the time. Of course, there are jobs that just have to be in person and don’t fit this model. But so, so many jobs are ideal for working remotely, and I hope to see more businesses taking advantage of going green for the planet and all living on it.
I am grateful for my online job, and the fact that I work for a company who provides an ideal platform for distributed teams, including non-developers like myself, to collaborate with the rest of the company. Because CollabNet was founded on creating tools just for collaboration, the mind set was already there to work with employees in a distributed fashion. But your company does not have to develop a software development environment in order for you to work remotely.
I’m curious, if you don’t work remotely, but work on a computer most of the day, what prohibits you from working remotely?