We’re sitting in the airport waiting for our flight home after a week out of the office for leadership training.  Doug and I have been learning to work remotely over the last couple years.  It sounds great in theory, but I am recognizing and despairing how tied I am to my traditional tools and habits.  Let me begin by talking a little bit about the system we’ve been building to allow us to work from away…

With the help of Dan at Columbia Networks (columbianetworks.ca), Pinnacle has build a “private cloud”.  Our file server resides in a secure facility and is monitored by professionals, and our desktops (loaded up with all our accounting software) are also virtual.  So effectively, we can logon from anywhere, anytime and do our work.  If only it were actually that easy…

The technology is working great.  I’ve recently switched from a PC to a Mac and have found the remote desktop feature equally user friendly.  We’ve been coached well along the way, and have the ability to hookup to local printers and other resources if necessary.  But the biggest problem we’ve encountered is internet access.  Yes – it is available in most places.  Some slower and patchier than others.  But more often than not, when we’ve been travelling over the last couple years, everywhere we go, internet access is ridiculously expensive.  Get this…this week, we were charged over $60 for 100 minutes of access.  Sounds okay.  But 100 minutes is actually Doug and me sitting down for less than an hour each.  And with upload speeds of…well, let’s just say I was reminded of dial-up, those 50 minutes each tick by pretty quickly.  My visions of reviewing files, posting blogs, researching issues, well, those visions were quashed in less time than it took to download my calendar reminder of the staff meeting I forgot to reschedule before I left.

So.  What to do?  I’m absolutely dedicated to continuing our foray into the remote working world.  We’ve had to be creative at times (prowling residential neighbourhoods hoping to find someone’s unsecured network, keeping a log of frequently visited city hotel wi-fi passwords and noting which ones have the most “workable” lobbies, parking in McDonalds parking lots hooking into their system while typing away – laptop perched between stomach and steering wheel, preparing a cost analysis of tethering to the phone and using Telus’ overpriced international data package vs. $3.00 per minute at the overpriced internet cafe…you get the picture).  Regardless, I’m willing to engage in the challenge of connectivity in order to enjoy the benefits that working remotely can bring…benefits like, well, not needing to be in the office.

I do need to mention that we have hit other challenges.  One is my dual-screen addiction.  We decided to purchase huge monitors for all the work stations in our office.  Two huge monitors per work station in fact.  There is research that concludes that working with dual monitors makes you 25% more efficient.  I know this is true.  I would argue it’s even great than 25%.  The challenge is moving back to one tiny laptop screen after all that indulgent efficiency.  It’s mind warping.  Truly.  Another challenge is Doug’s predilection for printing.  I love to tease him about his “old school” tendencies…printing pages for reference, working off printed copies of general ledgers and tax returns (working on dual screens eliminates a lot of the need for printing the material you’re referring to as you work on something else).  Clearly it isn’t practical to print all sorts of documents while working remotely – not to mention impossible at times.

So what?  Nothing really.  I didn’t get as much work done as I had planned this week.  But I did have the freedom to focus on the leadership training we were out to attend.  And part of what I learned is that a group can only move as fast as its leader.  And where I need to be is pulling my team into new technologies, keeping the “why” of our business strong, and training myself to really mean it when I say “there are no emergencies”.

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