01 May 2009

Working during the Pandemic: Can You Telecommute?

As a telecommuter, I am grateful that I can continue to work during pandemics, snowstorms, and holidays. In the current environment of closures due to swine flu, I am humble in acknowledging that personal impact is slight.

Workplaces are directly affected if there is need to close and they are also affected if employees' children's schools must close. (In Texas, whole school districts are suspending classes. Communities are canceling large public events.)

Should everyone be a telecommuter? Should school children have distance learning alternatives? The realities: no one becomes a telecommuter in one day or one week, and schools must coordinate many systems to accomplish distance learning. (College campuses have similar challenge although Hurricane Katrina provided a wake-up call on the need for contingency planning, also called academic continuity planning.)

Here's my major theme: no one becomes a telecommuter in one day or one week. Or even one month. (Try six months.) The key components of telecommuting can be listed but then must be mastered by the individual. No amount of training can replace personal experience.

1 - Buy-in. That means the boss, the co-workers, and the customers all must believe that you can produce good work at a distance.

2 - Productivity. So, you actually have to produce good work at a distance! It can take months to adjust to a schedule that works.

3 - Communication. And you must commit time and practice to multiple means of communicating with the boss, the co-workers, the customers.

4 - Technology Investment. My personal tools include 3 laptops (2 of which have built-in webcams), 1 desktop computer, 1 high-quality data projector, 1 tiny portable projector of lower quality, Internet access 3 ways (fiber optic, smartphone, air card), industrial-strength laser printer that prints on 11x17 paper, well, you get the idea. If these are the tools for one person, imagine what's needed for an office, a company, an educational institution.

What's my thinking on telecommuting during the pandemic? By all means, businesses and schools should begin the messy process. And when the pandemic is "downgraded" and normal operations resume, they should continue the messy process. Telecommuting part-time is the best protection for the future.

What the graphic refers to: I have a favorite free tool for "face-to-face" communication: ooVoo. I've been using it off and on for two years. But a recent commitment to a wholly online staff project is providing the real work-out. Once a week, I work with two colleagues for a couple of hours, strictly online. Phone is a back-up measure. A goal of the project is to create a comfort zone in desktop videoconferencing so that we can then use the technology with other people involved in the project. So far, we've concentrated on ooVoo and vRoom. We plan to use other platforms, too. How are we doing? After a month of consistent use, we are becoming more skilled. (We are not ready to include other people, yet.)

© 2009 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We're proud of your efforts. Keep up the good work!

The American Telecommuting Association