As part of our National Telework Week coverage, we’re looking at how the Lifehacker team makes use of teleworking techniques to be more productive. Today, night editor Elly Hart explains what it’s like telecommuting for an Australian company while living in Canada.
Why and when do you telework? I didn’t really have a choice. I moved to Canada seven months ago, and my publisher came up with an arrangement that allowed me to work from my new location in Vancouver. It actually worked out well since I primarily look after the US content on Lifehacker, Gizmodo and Kotaku. My hours are 2am-11am Sydney time, which means my day starts between 7am and 9am, depending on daylight savings. I currently work Sunday to Thursday Pacific time, which is Monday to Friday in Sydney. It can get confusing quickly.
What are the most important tools (hardware and software) in your teleworking arsenal? I rely entirely on my 2007 20-inch iMac, which is very un-Lifehacker of me. I was so shocked when the hard drive carked it last year that I cried like a baby for two days. I’ve since started backing up regularly onto a LaCie external drive, but I wouldn’t buy that brand again due to some odd connection issues. My next machine will probably be a MacBook of some sort, but I’ve been putting it off because I hate using a trackpad, not having a numeric keypad and having to carry around a battery for it. I’m notoriously bad at keeping my gadgets sufficiently charged and often wish I had a portable battery for my portable battery. I’ve had my old Logitech VX Nano mouse for as long as I can remember, but it’s starting to get pretty old and disgusting.
I have a Motorola RAZR from Australia that I’ve pretty much customised to death (literally). It’s currently running Android 4.0.4 and MIUI 2.10.26 (best custom ROM ever for customisation). I also have an HTC HD7 running Windows Phone 7, but I only use it for App Deals. I recently purchased a 32GB silver iPod Touch because I wanted to get in on the iOS experience without ditching Android. It’s a nice change after using nothing but Android for many years. In fact, I like it so much I use it for everything except phone calls. I even tether it to my Android phone when I’m out and about.
Like Angus, all I absolutely need is a browser (preferably Chrome) and an internet connection to get my job done. I also rely quite a bit on Evernote for story ideas and HTML snippets, PhotoShop for resizing images, Apple Mail for my work email, and Sublime Text 2 for editing text. The good thing is that cable internet in Canada is really fast (compared to Australia). On the flip side, mobile phone plans suck. I pay more than $60 a month for calls, text and data that would cost me less than $40 in Australia.
Angus also mentioned Campfire as a communication tool for the team. Along with our regular Skype meetings, it’s a crucial part of me not going completely insane. Sometimes, there are two or three days in a row when the only person I have a conversation with is my boyfriend. It can get very lonely telecommuting full time, and it’s hard not feeling somewhat detached from everything that’s happening. Campfire and Skype go some ways to alleviate the problem.
How do you stop yourself getting distracted by the comforts of home? I usually split my day into two or three sessions, with short breaks between each one. I try not to be too hard on myself when I get distracted while I’m working. Some telecommuters have children and multiple projects; my distractions are limited to doing laundry and my boyfriend being a clown when he comes home from work. I also have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which I choose to manage without medication, so I’ve had plenty of practice learning how to manage distractions instead of trying to eliminate them altogether.
Do you ever telework in your underwear? I try not to because I’m afraid that someone in the office building next door will take photos of me and then post them online or try to blackmail me. Now that it’s getting colder, I sometimes put on my cow-print onesie.
Which one teleworking annoyance would you like to see fixed in the future? Time zones drive me crazy. My calendar is set up for Pacific time and Australian Eastern time, but notifications still seem to pop up too early or too late. When I send emails, I have to append dates with the time zone and convert them when necessary. I just can’t seem to be able to memorise the time conversions, and the software and tools currently available require too much clicking.