Telecommuting – Its Your Infrastructure Now!

Telecommuting, work at home, virtual office all mean essentially the same thing. Having an employee perform a portion or all of their work from home with the assistance of simple office equipment like a computer and phone line. One can argue its driven by economics more than the beneficence of the powers on high.

The argument would hold a lot of weight. With commercial square footage, power requirements, networking hardware infrastructure, facilities, furniture, liability insurance etc. etc. employers could easily be averaging $100 a square foot and be nowhere near a prestige footprint in a major metro area. Easily $1500 an employee at the low end. In step with the modern age of widely available broadband, vpn networking, instant messaging and there you have a formula for a new workplace in your home. For less than $4000 initial outlay and less than $150 a month the employee is set up in their own home with no excuse for being late for work.

Vunderbar we all say. You get to work from home, you get to keep your job, you save on the commute, the corporate costumes and the dining out that inevitably comes from being away from home.

However, you are also now faced with the logistical challenge of ensuring you have a viable space to work in, productively, effectively and provide your own infrastructure. Someone out there is saying, ‘Huh?!’. Yep, you now have to provide everything your employer provided in you new work environment.

Granted, much of it you have to provide for your own home anyway. Water, food, shelter, heat, air conditioning, and power. All of that will now, to varying degrees, increase. You’ll be running the heat and air, using lights, and running pc’s for 40 plus hours a week(for full time telecommuters), not to mention any dedicated sqaure footage you may use. This should be a minor increase in the total cost of a home, especially when weighed against the savings of daily gas, corporate costumes and the dining out. It’s an upfront cost that can be accounted for with your annual taxes. Its something to be aware of.

Then there is making sure you have a good connection for data, whether it’s via a cable internet, ISDN, DSL connection, using wireless or old fashion phone lines via modem. These will ultimately be your responsibility. By this I’m not necessarily talking about the service provider, but the connections from your provider to where ever you will be working in your home. Whether it’s dsl jacks, lan connector ports or wireless adapaters for your computer it’s something you need to plan on. Where in the home will you work? What kind of construction is your home? Do you have pre-existing network connections or nothing at all in place? Will you be installing the connections yourself? Definitely stuff to consider.

Then there is the more technical stuff. Any outage or difficulties with communicating to your corporate applications and you’re not walking down the hall to the on site IT guy. You’re on the phone with whatever support will help you best. Whether its your PC support group, your broadband provider, your phone provider, the know it all nerd that you used to hang with, you need to know who to call and when. Nothing is more irritating than calling multiple support groups only to find out you’ve wasted an hour with someone that can’t help you. So this is a two point tip. 1) Write down all the different organizations you get support from in one place 2) learn the basics for each element as best you can.

Here in the lightening belt of the ‘Sunshine State’ and host to an annual six month long event called hurricane season continuity of power becomes a challenge. Not to mention if you happen to be a part of any neighborhood that has any level of construction. So, as good corporate citizens, it behooves us to find a quality UPS (un-interruptable power supply) to fall back on for just such occasions that may last for 20 to 30 minutes, enough power to allow you to save that critical document you were churning away on all morning, a last e-mail or call to inform whoever that you are off line and then power down. Ensure it has enough outlets with battery backup to power the laptop/pc, the broadband modem, and any power needs for your phone.

Do you have a choice of what phone service? If you do, I would strongly recommend considering a VOIP (voice over internet protocol) service. You should shop around with the more established ones and monitor reviews and consumer reports. Although still in its infancy as far as large industries go with some of the VOIP providers still learning the ropes and getting their corporate formula solidified VOIP can provide flat rate service with long distance throughout the United States with unlimited calling and losts of extras. They include a large variety of bells and whistles included in their normal costs, that can cost a ridiculous amount with business line services provided by your local phone company. Things like caller ID, automatic call logging, call forwarding, three way calling, on line feature control, voice mail alerts and voice mail audio sent to the e-mail ID of your choice.

An item on the list that I haven’t seen employers provide, a quality phone. The phone must have a mute. You have to have some way to mute out all the background noise of the neighborhood lawn workers, garbage trucks, passing emergency sirens and the occasional Scotsman bagpipes. Other nice to have features cordless (that doesn’t conflict with your wireless network), a speakerphone, memory for saving phone numbers, a voice mail waiting indicator (that work with supporting phone services), and a quality headset for hands free multitasking.

These are key infrastructure elements that can be easily addressed if thought about. Or they can prove to be continuous irritants that cause constant time loss and distractions.

Author: 21Buzzards

Mid-life retired reservist in the corporate IT world parenting a grandchild. Sharing my evolution as age and priorities impact life.

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