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Be in the Office Without Being in the Office

Be in the Office Without Being in the Office

By Terrence Russell, a regular contributor to Wired Magazine and the How-To Wiki

So, you’ve got a stack of files from the office and license to telecommute? Good. Here’s the secret to being productive without being present.

Choose Your Weapons

Working outside the office isn't hard -- it just requires digital omnipresence. Our advice? Outline the tasks that fill your average workday and find corresponding web-based tools and services that let you perform them remotely.

Email and phone solutions are no-brainers, but also familiarize yourself with live collaborative services like video conferencing via Skype or Google+ or even IM and Group SMS messages like HipChat or Campfire. The aim is to recreate your office productivity suite in a remote setting without creating too much of a headache for the in-office employees.

Pro Tip: It can't hurt to run your selections by the office IT guru. On top of addressing possible technological hurdles, he/she will likely have recommendations for additional tools and services that are compatible your office's productivity suite.

Prepare the Troops

Empty chairs make the worst meeting attendees. Before leaving the office make sure to alert any need-to-know personnel or colleagues that you'll be both remote and working.

The goal here is twofold; setting that expectation not only dispels the passive assumption that you're playing hookie, but it also lets you outline your preferred "out-of-office" contact methods.

And remember: even if you are conducting a legitimate business meeting on a tropical beach, it's still important to function as a communicative member of a team. Transparency makes everyone's life easier.

Pro Tip: Manager or co-worker still uneasy about the arrangement? Offer to spend a half-day stress-testing your arrangement.

Respond Quickly and Over-Communicate

All the connectivity in the world means nothing if you're asleep at the wheel. While it's occasionally permissible to let email pile up when you're in the office, it's almost never okay when working outside the office.

Try to respond to every reasonable request (i.e., a status update on an on-going project) with a sense of urgency. It's perfectly fine if you don't have good news, just as long as you're able to show that you're on it regardless of your location in the world.

This not only builds confidence in your ability to function autonomously, but also lets you manage a workplace crisis from afar without comprising your work ethic or overall effectiveness as a member of a team.

Master the Surgical Strike

No matter how much remote e-work you do, you'll probably still have to venture into the office to complete some tasks. Try preparing a shrewdly efficient to-do list before venturing into the workplace -- it'll help keep the soul-sucking to a minimum.

The point is to maximize your face-time without getting bogged down in the unnecessary minutiae that comes with an office setting. Meetings with higher-ups and boardroom brainstorming sessions with other departments should go high on the list. Discussing Game of Thrones spoilers by the water cooler should rank fairly low.

In general, try to keep your interactions brief and remember that momentum is key. At worst you'll seem like a somewhat pushy but incredibly industrious employee. At best you'll fly through your to-do list and be back on the beach by lunchtime.

Be in the Office Without Being in the Office” was originally published on's How-To Wiki.

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