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Interview with a Workshifting Newbie

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Four months ago, my mother became the third member in my immediate family to become a Workshifter. As a consultant in the localization industry, she works with organizations outside the US, most of the time working out of her home office in Iowa.

As a new Workshifter, I thought it would be interesting to talk to her about her experiences so far.

Interview with a Workshifting Newbie

What have been the most challenging aspects of Workshifting for you?

One of the hardest things for me has been adjusting to the fact that I can’t see people when I communicate with them. It’s hard getting used to the lack of visual cues when you’re talking. You have to rely completely on words – no facial gestures or body language. Since I work with many people who are not native English speakers, this is even more challenging. Online meeting tools have really helped me address this challenge.

The other thing that I’ve found challenging is that it can be hard to generate a sense of urgency – in terms of pace of work and priorities – when you’re in the peace and quiet of your own home. At times it can be difficult to accommodate what might seem to be arbitrary deadlines when you’re not surrounded by seething activity in an office.

What do you think people should know before they transition into the Workshifting world?

I think it’s very important for new Workshifters to have a good grasp of their technology and networking tools. And if they don’t have that understanding themselves, it’s critical to have a reliable support team you can rely on. Things can turn ugly quickly if you cannot access networks or lose connectivity. Also, it’s critical to have a fast and reliable VPN connection.

Another thing that’s important to think about before you become a Workshifter is your office hours. How are you going to organize your workday? Are you going to keep fixed office hours or be flexible in how you structure the workweek? When are you going to start the day? Since I mainly work with Europeans, I usually start my day early, around 6:30 a.m. to accommodate the time difference. I think it’s important to consciously set a schedule and stick to it. If you don’t, your work will end up taking over your personal life.

Also, clarify with your employer how you will be reimbursed for office expenses, such as phone bills, Internet, office supplies and other things. It’s important to establish a framework for those costs in advance.

What do you like most about Workshifting?

That’s easy: not having to go the office on Monday morning or commuting when the weather is bad. Of course, conversely, you also don’t have that Friday-afternoon-weekend feeling when you work remotely.

What has surprised you about working remotely?

One of the things that I find interesting is the bond that is formed with other Workshifters. I’ve found that I’ve developed very close relationships with other colleagues who work remotely – more so than those who work in the office. It’s like a new alliance!

What are your favorite Workshifting tools?

One of the first things I do when I turn on my laptop in the morning is to log on to my IP telephony and video service provider. Although not everyone I work with has a webcam, I think it’s important to communicate in real time with your colleagues.

Another thing I think every home office should have is a scanner. You will need to scan receipts for your expenses and provide your signature on documents along with many other things.

Photo Credit: churchbrat

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  • Glenn Dobson

    If you have pets (especially cats), make sure they have beds near your work space. That way they’ll be more inclined to lay down there and not in your lap or on your keyboard.