As most of us know, one of the biggest culprits in global warming and smog is the automobile. Sadly, most working adults in the U.S. have to commute to work, a drive which averages from 20 to 40 minutes around the country. These commutes result in more burning of fossil fuels, more pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as a loss of time and, according to some sources, personal happiness as the commute saps emotional energy out of many people. But today, technology is coming to our rescue by making telecommuting a realistic, effective option to that long drive down the highway.
Life is Not a Highway
Many companies are allowing their employees to telecommute to work. Some companies allow their people to work from home full time; this is common in online education, numerous accounting and financial management positions, computer drafting and other computer work, among other fields.
Still other companies allow their employees to telecommute one or two days a week, or at least on certain days perhaps during snow storms or mild illness. Most business professionals expect this trend of telecommuting to increase, with working from home becoming more and more common. To make effective use of this telecommuting time, and even to build a case in favor of telecommuting in your work, it is important to understand a few basic tools that can make your telecommuting easier. Let’s look at a few now, specifically in the two most important categories of communications and file sharing.
One of the biggest needs of telecommuters is the ability to communicate effectively. There are actually two parts to this issue: technology and ability. When it comes to communicating, your own ability to communicate effectively in a virtual world is paramount. This means if you want to green your life why working from home you have to learn how to use email properly, and when it is necessary to just pick up a phone. Read up on effective email for a full discussion, but in short you want to be clear and concise. You also want to use tone effectively; be sure to write in a friendly manner and never write a message in anger. Be careful to use “reply all” and “forward” judiciously; many mistakes can happen with misuse of these tools.
The other part of effective telecommuting is good communications tools. Most of the time, this simply means having a dependable email service. However, it can also mean using tools that allow synchronous online chatting, audio or video calling. Skype is one of the most popular ways to do this. With Skype you can type and chat, or do audio calls and even add video to see face to face. Skype now has apps for smart phones, and you can use Skype to call landlines, for a fee. For holding virtual meetings, gotomeeting is a good source. Also, you can get free conference calls from a variety of online providers including anymeeting.com.
Another important part of telecommuting is sharing files with others. This used to be a challenge just ten years ago, when you had to burn a file to a floppy disc and hand it off to someone. Today, most email systems can handle files up to 10 mbs, allowing you to send fines anywhere. If you use the free version of WinZip to zip those files to a smaller size, you can send even more; you can also group files into a single larger zip file for easy attaching. However, for larger files you really should use a file sharing site.
Dropbox is a great file storage site; they even have a free option. With this site you can back-up your own files, access them from different computers, and share them with others. Another great back-up site that also allows you to share with others is SugarSync. Google also has their own file sharing space called GoogleDocs. All of these file sharing sites allow you to upload files which others can then access almost instantly; these are a great option for large files, and for files that multiple people are collaborating on. They also help you if you work from the office computer one day and a laptop the next.
Working from the Couch
With today’s modern technological tools, you really can work from home in your bunny slippers effectively and painlessly. In short, a good email system with dependable internet connection is required, as is a good communications system, such as Skype, and a good file sharing program, like SugarSync or Dropbox. The bunny slippers, of course, are optional.