Tools for Effectively Performing Remote Work

Jeff Zbar

As a home office-based working journalist and corporate copy writer, my job sometimes takes me on the road. Last summer, for example, I gigged as a reporter for a private organization’s trade show daily. Not sexy, but a nice gig amid the otherwise doldrums of summer.

Think of it as a remote work gig for a remote worker.

But how did  I make sure it happens seamlessly and without jeopardizing existing projects? And how did I make sure I worked as effectively as possible from the road?

First, I cleared it up front with this client: Between work for you, I’ll need to do some work for my other clients. They were cool with that. They have to be, or else the gig won’t work.

Next, I set expectations for my existing clients. I told them I’d be on the road, with limited timely access to e-mail and phone calls. They knew I’d have my BlackBerry, and I’ve kind of spoiled them by responding too quickly at times (or at odd hours). Not this time, I warn. “If you need me, it might take a while to get back to you.”

As for my gear, that’s how the work really gets done. My Oakley backpack, which generally is packed and ready for remote work on a moment’s notice, becomes my mobile office. In it are my…

- HP Tablet laptop. Small and portable with fairly long battery life, this has been a workhorse of my remote-work life.

- Verizon broadband USB card. I’ve been told I won’t need my own Internet access – that the press room at the event will have Ethernet or wireless. But the size of my thumb, it’s better just to bring it along and be safe and connected.

- Mini Surge Protector and power strip – with four outlets and two USB jacks for charging. I won’t have my camera to charge (an extra BlackBerry charger is always packed in my bag). You never know when power outlets will be at a premium. And I’ve learned that power in hotels and cruise ships can be “dirty” with spikes and surges. Best to clean it up with a good protector.

- Laptop cable lock. Always. Small and portable, its high tensile-strength cable and compact size mean it never leaves my bag. There will be times I will want to leave my laptop behind – if only for a few moments. I just make sure to loop it through something secure.

- Laptop desk. My LapWorks folding tray/desk has turned awkward situations into more comfortable work settings. Weighing less than a pound, it folds to stash beside my laptop. When open, it can be a laptop desk, or a angled, desktop perch.

- Analgesics. I go nowhere without my Excedrin (in a small Dramamine travel tube) and little vials of saline for my contact lenses. Headaches can be the curse of any creative existence.

What’s not in my bag? My USB headphones for Skype, my card reader and portable accessories kit, simple tools, and a few other things. We’ll get to those in a future post. But I generally bring things I know I must have. Anything else can be purchased at the hotel gift shop.

This Workshifter exclusively uses Gmail, Google Contacts and Google Calendar for all my email, contact management and scheduling. So it’s as pervasive and close as my access to The Cloud. For those projects I’m working on while away at this gig, they’re never farther than my online back-up account. Everything on my desktop is backed up – and accessible from – “out there.”

With my bag packed and assuming my Cloud’s intact, my office is ready to go anywhere. If you need me, leave a message. I’ll get back to you – even if it’s 2 a.m.

Jeff Zbar, The Chief Home Officer
Copyright 2011, author retains ownership. All Rights Reserved

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