No Snow Day For Me! The Benefits of Being Virtual

This is a guest post authored by Jessica Levin, professional speaker and principal in Seven Degrees Communication.

It snowed today. Again. Schools are closed. Offices are closed. Many, many people are losing productivity and many businesses are losing money. I, however, am toasty warm working from my office. Sure, I had a meeting canceled today, but I am still am able to get all of my other work done. Why? Because I work 100% virtually.

I didn’t set out to be virtual. It started when I worked in NYC and would occasionally work from home. It then turned into Fridays. When our office was closing and we needed to move buildings, it didn’t make sense for me to get another office. When I think back to that commute and how unproductive it was, working virtually was one of the best decisions I could have made.

A lot of companies don’t want employees working from home for various reasons. I think trust has a lot to do with it. I also understand that this structure doesn’t work for all job types and not everyone has the discipline to “go to work” while they are in their home.

Here is a little glimpse of how I operate. I hope it helps you to understand how easy it can be.

  1. I have a dedicated home office. I come to work when I enter this room. I don’t spend a lot of time in this room when I am not working.
  2. I use a Vonage phone line. This internet-based phone line goes with me wherever I am. It will forward to my cell phone if I want it to. If there is an issue with the internet then my calls go to voicemail which I get via email. Not only do I get them via email, but they are transcribed so I can easily read the message.
  3. All of my files are stored on my laptop and on Dropbox. I can access my files from my PC, my Mac, my iPad and my Android phone. And I can also visit the Dropbox website and access them anywhere. This is my favorite application…ever!
  4. I use Skype for video calls. I have a handful of external webcams and one built into my Mac (I only use one at a time). Sometimes it’s just easier to see someone’s face and their body language during a conversation. Skype is free and easy to use. It also has a chat feature that allows for quick messaging during the day.
  5. Since not everyone is on Skype, I also use Instant Messaging. On my PC I use Digsby, Adium on my Mac, Ebuddy on my Android and Imo.IM on my iPad. These are just IM aggregators. I have accounts on Yahoo, GTalk, MSN and AOL. This allows me to connect with people regardless of which IM system they use. I use IM everyday to connect to friends AND business associates.
  6. I have a stupidly big copy machine. This is not a recommended feature, but contractual obligations left one in my possession. Sometimes it comes in handy. I affectionately call it my monster.
  7. Since I travel quite a bit, I have a Verizon card in my PC laptop. There isn’t always a WiFi signal available and sometimes the connections are quite expensive. This allows me to work just about anyplace that I have a cell signal. I work on long car rides, in airports, on trains and in hotel rooms.
  8. I bake cookies for my mailman and my UPS delivery guy. This goes a long way when I am traveling and need someone to take care of my important deliveries. Plus, they appreciate people being nice to them.
  9. I have upgraded internet and just bought a new wireless router. Bandwidth is everything.
  10. I am transparent about where I work and try to manage expectation about people that I work with. It’s always funny to me when people assume I’m in a big, fancy office.
  11. I try and have lunch or dinner plans several times a week. It’s very important to to maintain human contact in person.
  12. I use social networking to connect to others so that I don’t feel isolated.

I admit that there are times when I throw a load of laundry in or perform other domestic tasks. Several times a day I play with my cat, Pumpkin. Hanging out with her during the day is definitely one of the better benefits of being virtual. And that’s OK. My work gets done in a very productive manner. Today while much of the Northeast is digging out, I’m GETTING IT DONE.

I hope this is helpful for people that are looking for some ideas on how they can work from ANYWHERE. Happy Snow Day to everyone!

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