My week as the IT Survivor on Magnetic Island was pretty radical. Apart from getting to soak up the sunny shores of tropical Queensland, I also found myself getting a whole lot of work done — and pushing the boundaries of what's possible with technology. As someone who works remotely on a regular basis, I'm pretty experienced with completing tasks and connecting with clients on the go, but I also picked up a few new tips along the way. Here are some ideas to help make your remote working experience more productive and enjoyable.
1. Connectivity is king
Without a decent internet connection, you'll be hard-pressed to get much work done. However, I quickly found that you don't need huge amounts of bandwidth. VMware's Horizon 6 ran fine even on a regular 4G wireless internet router, allowing me to connect to my virtual desktop, corporate apps, and all the client data which we regularly use as part of our analytics work. Instead of focusing on bandwidth, try to find as stable a connection as possible — being uninterrupted is far more important than your network capacity, especially when using leaner apps like Horizon and View.
2. Device and OS choice don't have to slow you down
As the IT Survivor, I used a Dell Chromebook and an iPad to connect to a Windows system back in Sydney. That included editing a presentation in PowerPoint through my iPad while on Picnic Bay Jetty — not a bad choice if you're looking for a "creative working environment". Virtual desktops have reached the stage where you can load your apps, data, and profile settings through any device or operating system. And because they're all running on the corporate server, security remains tight no matter your device choice (in fact, your data never actually leaves the secure Horizon container). Expect to see a lot more employers opening up to personal devices in the workplace once they get wind of this.
3. Location = inspiration
I took video conferences by the pool, provisioned servers at the bar, and ran some pretty intensive mapping software while on a bush hiking trail. In each case, I found myself working faster and more effectively than I would in the office — perhaps because I wanted to get back to enjoying what Magnetic Island had to offer! In any case, employers and employees alike need to start looking at fresh air and sun as enablers, not hindrances, of productivity. You just feel far more motivated and creative when you're in a vibrant natural space rather than a sterile office.
4. Make yourself asynchronous
The only challenge where we struggled was with our video conference — not because of Horizon (which connected perfectly), but due to connectivity drop-outs and intermittent call quality. When it came to managing email and collaborating on documents, however, I was able to get these done in my own time — meaning I didn't struggle with synchronising with my clients and team. "Asynchronous" communication channels which let you respond in your own time (like email or shared documents) are the way to go for remote working: they give the impression you're always available while letting you work in your most productive way. When you enable this sort of flexible communication, you start to get really powerful collaborative outcomes no matter what industry you're working in.
5. Sweat your hardware
The great thing about virtual desktops is you can conduct processor-intensive tasks with only the barest of hardware. I was able to run exhaustive data-crunching apps with only the Chromebook, which runs lean and fast but isn't really built for analytics. But by logging on to Horizon 6, I was able to run all those tasks on our systems back home, where all our data is securely stored anyway. If you're worried about working remotely without the latest hardware, don't be. I got around the island in a 1987 Daihatsu and even boosted my own working fitness with a few sneaky push-ups and dips on the beach.