The ability to work remotely with the assistance of technology is a common occurrence in today’s world. In a small business, being able to work remotely, from home or while on the road, makes many things possible which were not previously possible. Being able to travel, or work at home without interruptions, are the most positive aspects of working remotely. Being effective or efficient while not sitting in the office is good for business as long as one carefully considers the ramifications of the working arrangements. These ramifications include some obvious issues, such as the stability of the technology involved. Technology is wonderful, until it isn’t. Working remotely, via the internet, can be smooth and easy, until there is an internet problem or the remote connection to the office computer quits. Thus, working remotely involves being ready to work out a “Plan B” – an alternative way to get the job done. Unfortunately, this sometimes requires help from someone at the office meaning that there are inefficiencies when someone is needed to help with the work around, restart the server, etc. And, as someone who has worked remotely, there is another problem; being out of sight is being out of mind. For the employer, there is an increased challenge of supervising the work of the employees (the cat’s away issue). One specific challenge I experienced was having to train employees to know that even if I am not sitting at my desk, I am available and phone calls should be transferred to me as if I were at my desk. For employees working remotely, the problem is being excluded from the day to day workplace environment and not being as much a part of the organization. (I believe this has made it easy in some large corporate restructuring to eliminate workers who are not seen daily and thus not “as real” as those who are present in the office.) It is important to recognize the tradeoffs in working remotely and anticipate issues to avoid problems and surprises.
I have been traveling and, therefore, working remotely, for close to 25 years. Things have evolved during this time to make working in places other than my office almost as simple as if I were there. In the old days, my cell phone was so big it had to be carried in my briefcase; now it is so small it gets lost in my purse! In the old days, I had to send directives to my staff via fax; now I just type a memo on my phone. I am usually the person who travels, leaving my spouse/business partner in the office to manage the day to day activities, including ensuring the employees are kept on task, and I have learned to perform my rather high level job duties anywhere, including airports, in dimly lit hotel rooms, in taxis, and of course, in courthouses. I have spent countless hours in courthouses, including inside courtrooms, on benches in hallways, and in small conference rooms, diligently doing what I need to do to perform my job as a trial consultant. I also have the luxury, as the owner of the business, to work at home when I have just arrived from traveling or when I am supervising someone who is performing household labor for my spouse and me. This arrangement has always worked for me because I am self motivated and I check in frequently to stay abreast of developing situations at the office. I agree with my spouse that there often has to be a “Plan B” and perhaps, a “Plan C to Z,” but because my job requires me to be out of the office on a frequent basis, the only way I can keep on track to meet deadlines is work, work, work wherever I may be.