By Dr. Jeff Wang
Faculty Member, School of STEM, American Public University
Most people aren’t strangers to remote work. From time to time, you hear your colleagues say “I work from home.” If you visit your company’s job and career website, you are likely to see full-time remote work positions.
Despite the wide dissemination and acceptance of remote work in the IT industry, some companies oppose it. The most famous example is Yahoo banning telecommuting in 2013 in order to improve worker collaboration and communication.
Did that signal a trend? The answer is a resounding “No!” According to the Huffington Post, “Even Yahoo seems to have softened its stance. Workers inside the company told HuffPost that some employees still do occasionally work from home, depending on their job, and some do not have a desk in the office.”
The advantages of remote work have become increasingly prominent. For example, many students choose online universities since distance learning has the advantages of flexibility. For people who work at home, work productivity tends to increase, because they save the commute time and are more familiar with their environment.
With the rapid development of technology, the environmental constraints of a job and the necessity of resources offered by an office have drastically decreased, making the office almost obsolete. For instance, doctors and health workers can now use Google glasses to view patients from afar for quicker emergency consults. By using tools such as Adobe Connect and Inspire, college instructors can teach online students with results that are the same as face-to-face education.
Online Tools Make Working Remote Easy and Convenient
There are a number of tools that facilitate remote work. These tools help you set up a meeting with a face-to-face conversation, organize and share resources, manage a team or stay organized. Here are a few examples:
- Skype: A program that uses a web camera and a microphone in a laptop or desktop to allow you to talk through a live video. Skype makes it possible for individuals to see each other, even if participants are spread out in remote locations across the world.
- Google Hangouts: A communication software platform which includes instant messaging, video chat and voice over Internet Protocol (IP) features.
- GitHub: A web service that not only offers distributed version control on shared documents and source code management, but also assists in team management organization.
Most recently, companies have unveiled virtual reality software with enhanced remote vision. These tools provide a social presence using remote eye contact, body gestures and even remote haptics (tactile sensations). They overcome the shortcomings of remote work, such as isolation and a lack of trust among remote employees.
The success of remote work depends on many factors. While office technologies evolve and studies are open in all areas, here are some suggestions to reduce teleworking-induced stress and for using technology to facilitate working from home.
- Keep a record of all the work you need to do at hand.
- Set up priorities, do important things first and pay more attention to efficiency and results.
- Set deadlines and keep them.
- Set a reasonable timeline. Do not exhaust yourself and take time to rest and exercise.
- Create a quiet workspace.
- Invest in good office equipment and a high-speed broadband connection.
- Try the five technologies that make remote work more productive, including cloud computing and virtualization, virtual private networks (VPNs), electronic document management, modern phone systems, and web or video conferencing.
Even though remote work has been around for some time, it is still uncertain what future remote work will be. But a comfortable working environment is the key to future change, of which technology is the most important factor.
About the Author
Dr. Jeff Wang is an associate professor in the Information Technology Department at American Public University (APU). He earned a Ph.D. in Physics-based Modeling and Visual Computing from George Mason University in 1998. Jeff is a senior member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).