Taking Your eWork with You
Kristin Kane writes for www.ework.com – a Ms.Money partner.
It seems a cliché to say that the Internet allows people to work anywhere, anytime. In reality, however, we are just beginning to explore the possibilities brought by this technological revolution.
For many independent professionals, electronic communication has been a departure point for questioning the traditional opposition of office and home, work and recreation. One of the most innovative results of this questioning has been what might be called the working vacation. This hybrid of pleasure and productivity moves work from the home office to a makeshift office on a mountain or in a Parisian café. Working vacations allow independents to take trips more often and for longer periods, without losing contact with clients or sacrificing income. And while the traditional vacation may never disappear completely, hybrid varieties are becoming increasingly popular.
Working Vacations 101: A Guide for the Independent ProfessionalA productive and enjoyable working vacation requires some planning. The particulars of your travel plans–where you are going, how long you will be gone, whether you will be traveling continually or staying in one place–will influence how, where, and when you can be productive. Try to imagine how work will best fit into your vacation. As you make your plans, you will want to address the following issues:
Which projects will you take with you? One of the first steps in planning a working vacation is determining exactly how much work to do on your trip. Obviously, you will want to decrease your load somewhat, but the precise work-to-play ratio is a matter of taste. Whatever you decide, keep in mind that everything tends to take longer when you are away from home, so it is best to err on the side of too few commitments.
In choosing which projects to bring with you on vacation, try to consider all of the factors that will affect your work. For example, if you will be traveling abroad or plan to be on the move a lot, projects that require a lot of phone time may be inappropriate. Or, if a project requires extensive research or access to particular resources, you may need to do the legwork beforehand. Considering practical issues as you plan your vacation will save both you and your clients from difficulties down the road.
What tools will you need? Every traveling eWorker needs a laptop, but independents vary in their supplementary needs. Depending on the nature of your projects, you may want to bring a lightweight printer or other special equipment. If you are traveling to a foreign country, you will need various adaptors as well (electric and telephone–for Internet access). Finally, a cell phone is essential if you plan an active vacation. It is possible to rent a cell phone if you don’t own one already. This can be especially handy if you are traveling abroad, since it cuts down on long-distance charges.
Staying Connected. Whether you are relaxing on the beach or hiking Mount Fuji, you need to be accessible to your clients if you have told them you will be available. Set aside a period each day when clients will be able to reach you, and apprise them of your “office hours” ahead of time. Check e-mail and voicemail at least once a day. You may also wish to keep a cell phone with you at all times, in case a client needs to contact you unexpectedly.
A Word for Project Managers As more independents take working vacations, project managers will find that adapting to the trend brings important advantages.
Traditionally, people were effectively unavailable while on vacation. If a top-gun consultant was out of town, a manager might be forced to assign a project to a less qualified person. The new paradigm transforms vacations so that clients have uninterrupted access to tried-and-true talent, with no disruption in productivity.
The key issue for project managers working with vacationing independents is maintaining communication. Let the consultant know beforehand how much communication time you anticipate the project will require, and coordinate hours for this to take place. Also, make sure you have a cell phone number or emergency contact number for him or her, in case something important comes up.
Working vacations offer a unique way of combining work and recreation. You may choose not to mix business with pleasure, but for some busy independents it is unavoidable. As a boon to both independent professionals and project managers, working vacations are a welcome addition to the storehouse of innovative work styles emerging today.