Working Remotely

I don’t normally talk IT on a Sunday but I’m at work today because we have a 3-day horse sale in Sydney which I am monitoring from 480km away. I could be doing it from the beach but it’s not a great day for the beach and the sand is a problem. I have fixed problems in Sydney from MacDonalds in Cooma though.

The technology to do it is definitely there and has been for some time. Even before ADSL I was working remotely, using ISDN. I didn’t find the speed to be an issue generally except when using network intensive things like remote desktop access to manage servers. I likened it to working underwater – you moved the mouse and then waited for the pointer to catch up. I put up with that for 3 years but just accepted it as one of the few downsides of living in the country. Now with ADSL2 remote access is virtually transparent. And my speeds here are slow compared to what people in metro areas get.

In terms of software applications, my number one tool is my email client. Most of my work comes via email. The telephone is second. I do all of my development locally, just accessing databases and other resources over the net when I need to. When it’s finished I upload the compiled code and other files to a server in Sydney and deploy from there. We use standard source code management tools and remote desktop access allows me to interact with those as if I was in the office.

I think the biggest issue that most people wanting to work remotely are going to have to hurdle is the simple problem of attitude to it from employers and clients. When I first relocated down here, I was told to not mention it to anyone until I had some “runs on the board”. That way if anyone objected, we could say “well, he’s been down there for 3 months”. Why would anyone object? It’s beyond me. Even when I was based in Sydney and commuting in to Martin Place every day, 99% of my contact with clients was via telephone or email. In fact I have never met the majority of the people I do work for. Most of them still think I’m in the Sydney office.

But there is always going to be the trust issue. I’ve been doing this since March 2003 and I attribute that longevity to the fact that my employers trust me (the fools!). But seriously, if I didn’t deliver, then I would not be doing this because the extra problems that long-distance employees cause would not be worth their while.

It suits some jobs and not others. For people who are inherently on the road or running their own business, it’s a no-brainer. But I think it will be a while before Bega cheese allows the extruder operator to telecommute.

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