Are You eWorking

Are You eWorking?

Sacha Cohen writes for – a Ms.Money partner.

To paraphrase Buckaroo Bonzai, no matter where you go, there’s your office. Whether you’re conferencing with clients around the globe, exchanging files online, sharing contact info, or adding tasks to your Web-based calendar, you’re eworking. Time and space become irrelevant. You’re free and unburdened by overstuffed files. Clunky software and hardware become a thing of the past.

Well, almost.

You still need to figure out how and when to use these new tools and services. Chances are you’ve already used Web-based email to check your messages when you’re away from the office. In fact, it’s so convenient, you use it as your primary account. But that’s just the beginning. There’s a whole new crop of sophisticated online tools and services ready to push virtual working to the next level. For example, project management via the Web. Imagine for a moment that you have a project, but no staff. Not an uncommon predicament. In the old days (like a few months ago), you might contact colleagues or an agency. On the Web, however, you can post information about your project so that people come to you. Skills and requirements find each other within a robust database and the matching process becomes streamlined so you don’t have to spend your valuable time chasing after qualified professionals. What if you’re looking for your next gig? Free agents can search through a database (such as the eWork Exchange) to find more projects. It’s matchmaking at its finest.

Baby Steps
Perhaps the idea of uploading your beloved projects to the vast Web-void sounds too scary at first. That’s fine — start out slowly. There’s nothing wrong with a little caution. Dip your big toe into the ework pool by experimenting with some less risky tasks such as setting up a project bulletin board. Or you could hold a short conference online. Gather the key players, set a time (using an online calendar), get the right tools (computer, Internet connection, etc.), and check it out. That wasn’t so bad, was it? In fact, it was much easier than getting your team to meet face-to-face (especially since Vince is in Switzerland, Janice is in Tokyo, and Bertrand is in Miami).

Now that you’re all up to speed on the next steps for your big proposal you can share a couple files back and forth. Next week, you’ll be in San Francisco for a big board meeting. Instead of dragging your files to the land of cable cars and sourdough, you upload them to the Web and store them virtually so you can download them when you get to your hotel. Another advantage of uploading your files to a Web site is that your colleagues can have access to them as well. No more asking who has the latest version of a document, or searching through piles of paper, making copies, and trying to circulate them. Your projects will live and evolve in cyberspace. You can work on them while sipping lattes at Caffé Trieste in North Beach, Vince can add some notes after hitting the slopes, and Janice can edit the document before she flies back to New York. No more chasing down faxes and overnight delivery packages. Beautifully simple, isn’t it?

E! Pioneers
Getting comfortable with this new work model won’t happen overnight. Just like it took years before networked offices were commonplace, it’ll take some time for ework to become integrated into our lives. Early adopters — people who already use the Web regularly and are comfortable with technology — will pave the way. Among the early adopters, soloists and free agents will probably embrace ework first, since it provides the flexibility and convenience so integral to the free-agent lifestyle. But office workers will likely follow close behind. Traditionalists and people who dislike change will be the last to accept ework as a legitimate alternative to the old ways of doing things. That’s too bad. Because as bandwidth limitations erode and communications tools evolve, ework will become faster, smoother, and more convenient. Those who don’t at least investigate its potential will be left behind.