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Flexibility, Respect and Fishbowls

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Riding in a fishbowl with wings to finish a three day work trip, looking out into the world with a hazy glaze, realizing I don’t really have much control at this point as the world goes by outside this enclosure of metal and glass. I found myself needing a distraction from a mild fear of flying and the desire to stay creative and sharp. And to also stop writing this posting like a Philosophy 101 student. You know the type.

“Hey look! A cloud!”. Shoot. My focus is already flickering.

I started pondering on the recent wave of companies coming out with their controversial announcements to nullify the ROWE / telecommuter / work at home / ‘respect me like an adult and I will do great things for your company without sacrificing more of my personal life’ policies….I had to pontificate to take a glimpse at how technology and mutual respect keep me focused and engaged from anywhere.

Day 1: I headed out the door at 5:00AM to catch a 7:00AM flight for a conference. Armed with only my Microsoft Surface Pro, Plantronics Voyager Legend Bluetooth headset, a newly acquired ATT hotspot and Microsoft Lync 2013 to stay connected. This may seem like a shameless plug for gear but in my work, I have the distinct ability to try the industry’s best and choose what I like…the above list is what I carry. Oh, and my Bluetooth Plantronics speakerphone, which by the way doubles as a great ad hoc speaker system for audiophiles looking at dual purpose devices on trips. Also for those with young children, my family loves it for playing the continuous installments of “The Wheels on the Bus go ’round….” and “No more monkeys jumpin’ on the bed”.

You’re singing them now, aren’t you. Sorry.

After standing in a long security line before 6AM (honestly, how many people take 7AM Monday flights on Tier II carriers anyway…well, besides me) I grabbed a cup of Tier I coffee and headed to my gate. I fired up my hotspot and was instantly connected to the interwebs. After checking email, updating a couple of documents and posting back to our portal (SharePoint btw), I shutdown to avoid FCC regulators and flight attendants calling me ‘that guy’ again. On the plane, I paid the nominal $8 inflight wireless to keep forward momentum with my clients and coworkers. Not the snappiest connection but it gets the job done for emails, Instant Messages to ground based colleagues and necessary content creation.

Once we landed I fired up my hotspot again while on the plane, jumped on a conference call from my Surface while walking down the jet way, using the Lync client to not only talk but also see a business partner share his desktop for a product demo, all while I walked through the terminal to find a quieter place to sit down. And by the way, for those thinking ‘how good could a Lync call sound through a mobile hot spot, on a Bluetooth headset, while walking through the airport’? The feedback from those on the call were, “You sound crystal clear.”

For those non-believers, “No more monkeys jumpin’ on the bed.” You’re welcome.

After the call, I hailed a cab for a short ride to check-in at my suspect hotel (long story here…short story involves major plumbing issues, visions of being visited by three spirits and that nagging feeling that large, converted 1860’s orphanages don’t make the best guesthouses). Now faced with finding alternative accommodations through our stellar travel agent / front desk greeter / face of our company (Thanks again Lu), I setup shop at my new, non-haunted hotel and continued my day, finally shutting down around 6pm. No, really. Thanks Lu.

Day 2: While at the conference, I left my hotspot on in my bag (OGIO’s RSS Renegade), carried my Surface in hand for note taking, email checking, product demos…you get the picture. I did have to stop after lunch to camp on a coveted power outlet for about an hour to juice up my gear. It’s hard to complain though with the bump in connectivity, mobility and flexibility to the work day I was receiving.

The conference ended for me around 5PM. Why ‘around’ 5PM? Because I don’t have a need to watch the clock with a flexible work schedule. As long as I get to my scheduled appointments, which were done by noon, I have the ability to look at my looming workload and decide best how to tackle it. If that is between the hours of 8AM-5PM, great. If it means I work 6:15AM – 6PMish, spectacular. What matters is that I am meeting goals, completing work and overall, being a responsible person. My company gives me that respect and I generously return the nod.

“The wheels on the bus go ’round and…” Shoot.

Day 3: Return to home, 10 inches of fresh snow (I forgot to mention I flew out at the beginning of a snow storm and am returning after it stopped, sorry honey), flowers and takeout to relieve my tolerant but understanding wife from nonstop care of our 4 month old son.

The day involved two flights with a layover that left me just as connected as any other point in the past couple of days.

To Summarize: This is simply a quick example of how technology and mutual respect helped me stay productive and engaged during an extended business trip. There isn’t anything to say that this ‘work from anywhere’ philosophy doesn’t transfer to those of us who are also located close to our brick and mortar offices but do not need to be there to do creative and productive (not to mention money making) things.

I had the opportunity to work at a very large and successful international company where 8AM-5PM onsite was the culture. I eventually made a conscious decision to leave but did not see anything inherently wrong with being onsite 8AM – 5PM. It was predictable and comforting in the way fish swim in a tank….with glass walls and boundaries, looking out into the world with wanton expressions as a hazy glaze overcomes their once attentive and engaged minds that drop into a routine of swimming round, and round and…

“Hey look! A cloud!. Bubbles, bubbles, bubbles…”

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Brian Caauwe

Brian Caauwe

Brian is a SharePoint MCSM who has been working with the SharePoint platform since 2007. He works with and manages a team of consultants that are specialists in Office 365 and SharePoint helping to build business solutions for clients. Brian's background in system architecture, security, migrations and integration strategies help provide holistic solutions with Avtex.

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