Today’s burgeoning flex work movement wouldn’t be possible without the burst of technological development that has accompanied it.
In fact, the two are so intertwined that some argue technology’s role in allowing people to work anytime and anywhere has led to people working all the time and everywhere, destroying the work-life balance they originally sought to achieve.
While it can be challenging to navigate such work-life integration, many people still want to explore the possibilities. That’s especially true if it means they have more flexibility regarding the hours they spend in the office or whether they work in a cubicle at all.
If you think you’re ready to venture into the world of flexible work, and your job offers you those opportunities, your first step is to make sure you have the necessary technology and tools. Here’s a how-to guide to help you decide what you need.
- For starters, make sure you have the right computer. This probably seems obvious, but if you don’t have a dependable computer—likely a laptop—you’re not going to be able to work from home or other remote locations. Even if your flex work consists of shifting hours earlier or later in the day, you’ll want a reliable device that won’t necessitate repeated calls to your company’s tech support when they might not be available. Whether your computer is provided by your employer or you buy it yourself, make sure it can handle any apps you may need for document sharing or video conferencing.
- The right smartphone may be even more important. Realistically, you’re not going to succeed at flex work if you’re using an old-school flip phone. As charming as those devices may be, they’re not going to cut it. Because working flexibly depends on the ability to communicate outside of normal working hours or locations, you absolutely must have a reliable smartphone, access to a powerful network, and a good selection of productivity-enhancing apps. All of the various phone companies have plenty to offer in this area, so find what works for you and learn how to use it well.
- High-speed Internet access is another must-have. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to have super-fast Internet at home, although you’ll likely want to invest in that if you telecommute often. But wherever or whenever you’re working, you’ll need access to the web, and you won’t want to wait forever for documents to download, or try to hold a video meeting without enough bandwidth. Check websites like workfrom.co to help find good Wi-Fi locations when you’re on the go.
- Make sure you can collaborate…. If you’re working a flexible schedule, you’ll need to find ways to complete projects with colleagues who may not be in the next cubicle. To help, use some of the many collaboration tools that are available today. In a previous post on this blog, mobile worker and 1MFWF supporter Edmund Tee suggests using tools like Google Docs, Google Drive, DropBox, Box, and OneDrive for collaboration on specific items. For larger projects, some of his favorites are Trello, Asana, and Wrike.
- … and that you can communicate. You also need to be able to talk to people when they’re outside of shouting distance. Skype is a great option for communication, as almost everyone has access to it, and it’s usually quite dependable. Beyond that obvious choice, Edmund Tee again had some good suggestions in the previously mentioned blog post, including using the messaging functions of Facebook, as well as other tools like WhatsApp, Slack, HipChat, GoToMeeting, WebEx, and JoinMe. Explore the different options, find out what works best for you and your colleagues, and then become an expert in its use.
- Don’t forget the peripherals. Once you have secured these basics for flexible and remote work, consider nabbing a few other items that will make your life easier. For example, an Entrepreneur article suggests investing in a mobile hotspot for those times when you can’t find good Wi-Fi; a wireless headset to allow for hands- and cord-free communication; and battery boosters to keep your smartphone and/or laptop charged and ready to go. If you’re working from home often, and you usually use two monitors when you’re at the office, you’ll likely want to invest in the same set-up for your remote environment. And investing in a good printer/scanner/fax machine for your home office is also a wise idea, to help with document management.
Of course, getting the right technology and tools in place is only the first step in finding flex work success. But if you don’t have to worry about hardware and software issues, you should be able to focus on the tasks at hand while collaborating and communicating effectively with colleagues, no matter where you, or they, may be.
What other technology or tools would you add to this how-to guide? What apps have been especially useful to you as you’ve explored flex work? Please share your ideas in the comments section.
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