Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I’ve been working remotely for over a year

I just published a post in which I linked back to a previous post.  In looking a some of my older posts I was shocked to realize that I’ve been working “remotely” for well over a year. 

In this case working remotely means that I spend the majority of my time outside of a company office.  During that time I’ve worked as both a manager of staff and an individual contributor. 

As a manager I managed a small group that worked with staff supporting data centers around the globe and guided them through a process we created which allowed them to demonstrate compliance with ISO 27001 (Information technology — Security techniques — Information security management systems — Requirements) and become certified under that standard.   This was no small feat as it involved 25 different data centers globally and in the case of 2 regions the scope was expanded to include the entire technology support operation in those regions.  This process took nearly a year to organize, plan, and document and was implemented in under 11 months.  When the dust had settled and all the audits were completed and the reports submitted there had been no nonconformities found during any of the audits.  Around the middle of this project I began to transition my staff to allow then to work outside the office 2 days a week and by the end of the project they were working remotely 3 days a week.   Because of the varying time zones involved in a global project like this the ability to work outside the office made working a more flexible schedule more palatable as well, which was particularly important when working with the Asian region where their work day does not overlap that of workers on the US eastern seaboard.

This year I turned the BAU process and the team over to another manager and became involved in ensuring a clean and secure divestiture of two of our foreign divisions to two other companies.  The difficult part of this project was not to be removing these users from our environment, but rather, since we sold the divisions to  companies we contracted with to perform the services these division previously performed, to remove them from our network but provide a safe, secure way for them to perform the same services while on the other companies’ networks and connecting to ours.  To date we are winding up the divestiture of the smaller division and the solution we implemented for them serves as the prototype for the larger division and for future divestitures where the divested entity will need to access our environment for an extended period.  Since nearly all of the work to divest the smaller entity took place in Asia the flexibility of working from home greatly enhanced my attitude.  For status calls during Asia’s evening I was able to roll out of bed in the early hours of my morning, grab some caffeine (I like mine cold, carbonated, and in a can or bottle) and head straight to my desk in my home office.   Working this way has also allowed me to attend, virtually, day long work shops held during the daylight hours in Asia.  And where I’ve had to attend a meeting in the middle of my night (their day) I’ve set my alarm, gotten up, joined the meeting and at the conclusion gone back to bed.  The real bonus though is that if I have been up especially early I can set my alarm and grab a couple of hours sleep during the day.  My management and my peers are well aware of the hours I am keeping and understand when I tell them I am going off line for a few hours.

Obviously this has been a win for the company in that it has allowed me to be involved in projects around the globe without damaging my morale by dragging me out of bed in the middle of the night or early morning and then requiring me to make the commute to work to attend more meetings or worse yet wake up extra early because I need to be in the office before the first meeting starts because I have back to back to back meetings.  In addition to this I save wear and tear on my car, save on gas and don’t spend a horrendous amount on lunches.  It has however also increased my utility bills (more hours of heat in the winter and cooling in the summer).  

While this has worked out well for both the company and myself in terms of productivity gains I’m not sure they have yet been able to realize the savings they had hoped for in terms of their real estate costs.  Most of my colleagues are working in the office 2 days a week which means the company should have been able to see a savings of 50% in our floor space requirements (not accounting for “public” spaces and shared facilities such as conference and break rooms).  There are however still issues of space consolidation and ultimately the non-renewal of leases or sub-letting and sale of space to be dealt with.  Over the long term however the company could see a a significant cost savings from employees working remotely. 

The major nagging question I currently have is whether I will ever be willing to go back to a 5 day a week, 9-5 office job.  

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