August 2008


Written by Lori Thiessen

There are a lot advantages in being a java commuter: better opportunities to focus on the work, fewer interruptions, no commute to an office, reduced stress, tax breaks, reduce your carbon footprint, …the list goes on. But there is always a thorn amongst the roses.

According to the Canadian Teleworkers Association (http://www.ivc.ca) some of the challenges can be:

  1. Reduced social interaction potentially leading to social isolation and greater risk of reduced mental health (e.g. depression) and emotional well-being
  2. Reduced professional contact
  3. Fewer career and promotion opportunities
  4. Reduced influence in office/business matters
  5. Potential for extended work hours
  6. Potential for imbalance between life and work
  7. Reduced IT support
  8. Reduced access to resources that are only available at the office
  9. Potential for more distractions, depending on the alternative work environment (e.g. home: kids, spouse, chores, tv, etc.)
  10. Potential for weight gain because of increased sedentary lifestyle, and greater access to more food (ie. the refrigerator is right there)

I would also like to add to this list that there is a potential for teleworker’s business expenses to increase because, depending on how the company’s telework program is established, the teleworker could be responsible for supplying his/her own stationery supplies and computer supplies as well as the additional cost of heat and electricity if the teleworker chooses his/her home as the alternative work environment. Tax breaks are available but the requirements to be eligible for them are very specific. Please contact your accountant or Revenue Canada to find out how to qualify.

Of course, if you run your own company, a number of these challenges disappear. But there are still challenges to being an independent java commuter.

  1. Reduced social interaction
  2. Potential for reduced professional contact
  3. Increased sedentary lifestyle
  4. Potential for extended work hours
  5. Potential for imbalance between life and work
  6. Lack of professional space in which to meet potential clients

In the next few blogs, I’ll be suggesting some coping strategies for these challenges. Stay tuned!

Q: What other challenges have you faced as a java commuter?

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time.

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Written by Lori Thiessen

As with any endeavour, it helps if you have a good support system. Having your family’s support to work from home is critical. This can mean everything from a space dedicated to work in the house which is sacrosanct from any intrusions to having your loved one(s) understand that you can’t run a multitude of errands during the work day because you are working.

Beyond the immediate support on the home front, it is helpful to have some wider support networks out there in the form of colleagues, fellow java commuters, and even associations.

A way to meet with fellow java commuters is, well, to talk to them at your local coffee shop. You can swap information and helpful hints on how to be an effective java commuter.

For associations, there seems to be two main players at the moment: The American Telecommuting Association and the Canadian Telecommuting Association (Innovisions Canada).

The American Telecommuting Association’s mission is to support teleworkers with information and handy hints on being an effective teleworker. Started in 1993, the ATA claims to be the oldest telecommuting association. There is a membership fee of $10 (USD) which will give you access to the ATA’s resources. Be sure to mark your calendar for the annual “Telecommuters’ Appreciation” week taking place, March 1-7 2009. Check them out at http://www.yourata.com.

The Canadian Telecommuting Association (InnoVisions Canada) http://www.ivc.ca, which began in 1997, dedicates itself to promoting telecommuting as a viable alternative to working in a centralized office structure. It also wants to build a community of individual telecommuters so that we can share our expertise with each other as well as creating strategic partnerships with all sectors and levels within those sectors to develop telecommuting programs for a wide variety of companies, agencies and institutions. There is currently no membership fee for joining the CTA and they want to keep it like that.

Q: What other support systems do you think are necessary to being a successful java commuter?

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

Written by Lori Thiessen

What comes up for you when you think of the word ‘discipline’? I think of routines strictly adhered to. Some of you may have other connotations of the word but this is a family blog, mostly.

To be a java commuter requires some discipline. Bottom line: the work needs to get done, get done well and on time. How you achieve it doesn’t really matter; it’s the result that counts. So I’m not about to tell you the best way to work. You need to figure this out for yourself.

That said, I do think there is some usefulness in keeping somewhat regular hours. Though the office may be disappearing, office hours aren’t. But I also think it is important to put firm boundaries around your hours so that you can have a personal life. Discipline is not only important for work but also for your ‘real’ life.

Personally, I think it really helps to have a coffee shop that I go to just to focus on a particular project. At home, I can get distracted by stuff and some folks think that if you are working from home you aren’t really working. The caller id option is a great way to postpone calls to those people who just don’t get that you are actually working during the day.

Another great way to keep focused and on track is a to-do list. I’m a big believer in to-do lists. Not everybody is, but I find putting a check mark beside an item is enormously satisfying. If you aren’t into to-do lists, you might want to look into mind-mapping. It is an alternative way to organize your thoughts around a project. A guy I met built his successful home delivery grocery business from using an enormous mind-map. Check out mind-mapping at http://olc.spsd.sk.ca/DE/PD/instr/strats/mindmap/index.html

I think finding better ways of working for you personally takes time as well as trial and error. It can be frustrating at times but in the end it’s worth keeping at it so that you can live the ultimate java commuter lifestyle. Here’s a video of what we java commuters dream of.

Q: Which time-management strategies have you found to be the most effective for you?

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

Written by Lori Thiessen

Corporations, large and small, are adopting a green attitude. They are considering their carbon footprint and the environmental impact of running their businesses (e.g. Paper consumption, heating and air-conditioning the office, etc.). Part of this ‘greening’ is downsizing or completely getting rid of a central office.

What this means is that there are fewer people driving to their offices or using buses, ergo a lower carbon emissions. Using a coffee shop close to home as an alternative office keeps a java commuter green and gives him a place to go when the four walls of home are threatening to close in.

As an added benefit, Revenue Canada allows the entrepreneur and the teleworker (java commuter to you and I) a certain tax deductions for working from home so long as the home workspace usage meets certain criteria. Check out InnoVisions Canada (IVC), which is dedicated to promoting teleworking and flexible work schedules, for more information. http://www.ivc.ca/taxes.html.

Yet, if I can play the devil’s advocate for a moment, I can see a few flaws with this wonderful plan. There is the carbon footprint of the coffee shop for a start. All that electricity and heat to make buckets of “fuel” for the 24/7 workforce has a certain environmental impact. We could even take a step back and look at coffee bean farming and its environmental impact but this falls a bit out of the scope of this blog.

The more environmentally aware java commuter will bring his or her own ceramic mug or travel mug, but there are those who still prefer the wax-covered cardboard cup which lands in the landfill.

Even though the corporation may save money on running a centralized office, does this mean that the remote will be paying instead? If you are at home all day, it costs to keep the heat up, electricity on plus having to supply whatever office supplies yourself, especially a printer, ink and paper.

Going to a coffee shop can save the java commuter the cost of running a home office. And at approximately $5.00/cup per hour for a 7.5 hour per day, it is a pretty dang good deal.

Q: Do environmental considerations figure into your choice of using a coffee shop as your alternative office?

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

Written by Lori Thiessen

I have a confession to make: I’m stuck between the paper world and the paper-free world. Writing on a computer is so much easier than the old IBM electric typewriter (complete with bouncing ball type cartridge) on which I learned to type or just using pen and paper.

But I haven’t made the jump from the old-fashioned pen-paper daytimer to a blackberry or even just an online calendar. Somehow, I feel more in control and secure if I have my calendar in my hands. My to-do lists are carefully composed on large post-it notes and pasted into it. The downside is that if I lose my paper calendar, poof! That’s it, gone, finito.

With an online version, there is still the chance that someone may hack into my calendar (although why anyone would be desperate to know my next dentist appointment is beyond me) or that a deadly virus would destroy the calendar. However, there is a sense that the online calendar could be reclaimed with the help of a clever geek.

In an attempt to wean myself off of paper and onto online, I’ve looked at a few resources. I hope my fellow java commuters find this useful.

Calendar – Google Calendar (http://www.google.com/calendar) is free, share-able, and provides a quick way to input events. It also has windows for a single day up to a month. So long as your mobile device can handle iCal or XML files, you can receive notifications, but watch out for text costs from your mobile device company.

To-do List – Remember the Milk (http://www.rememberthemilk.com) is a free service that can be easily added to your Google Calendar to help you keep on task and manage your time more easily.

Document sharing – PBWiki (http://www.pbwiki.com) is a free wiki service that allows you to share and edit documents with your colleagues or other project team members. It’s easier than sending stuff over the email and can track changes. Google also has a document manager app.

Trivia: Apparently, the word ‘wiki’ is Hawaiian for fast.

Of course, the biggest key to having these resources work for you is you have to use them and regularly.

Q: Which online resources do you use and why?

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat for next time!

Written by Lori Thiessen

Like many people working from home these days, I love the fact that I don’t have to brave the traffic or the bus and sit in a hermetically sealed building for 10 hours. However, home can sometimes be a place where you get the least amount of work done. There are just too many distractions at times.

I seem to have morphed into something like a gerbil, content to scrabble around in mounds of paper, making a reasonably comfortable nest in a place away from the wheel. When I started working from home, it wasn’t really a conscious decision. It just sorta happened. So I didn’t prepare a proper workspace in my home to accommodate this transition.

Gradually, I’ve found it harder and harder to work at home and then also to relax at home when my workday is done. Most of my working life, I have worked out of an office so my work and home spaces were clearly defined by that commute. Now the boundary has really blurred because I’ll move from the computer to the couch to read to the diningroom table to write … well, you get the picture. My entire home is my office.

That’s why I like getting out of my cage and taking my wheel to a new place. A coffee shop allows me to join other workers who’ve run away from home. There is usually a good amount of table space to write and depending on which coffee shop you choose, the place is quiet. There generally aren’t any distractions except when your coffee mug becomes magically empty. Again.

I’m working on making a good working space in my home but it ain’t easy. I share the 2nd bedroom-cum-office with my husband and so space is at a premium. I’m thinking of getting rid of the bits and pieces of furniture that we use and buy a proper two-person office modular set so that each of us has a work surface, file drawers, etc. I think this will help stop me roaming about the house, scattering papers in my wake. It will also help that the door on the room can be shut when the day is done.

Maya Angelou, the poet and writer, takes herself off to a hotel room when she is in the middle of writing something. It’s a defined space, apart from the rest of her life where she can focus. Someone else comes in to clean up the mess. To me, that’s what a coffee shop office is all about.

Q: How do you manage your home office?

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll safe your seat until next time.

Written by Lori Thiessen

The main reason businesses are cool with their staff working out of a coffee shop instead of their offices is simple: money.

Offices cost money to run. In bizspeak, it's called overhead. Think about it, there's rent, cleaning, electricity, coffee, heating/cooling, furniture, computers, printers, telephones, etc. Businesses are now starting to take a serious look at their real estate costs. Is it worth it to have an office if most of your staff and do their work from home or the coffee shop or wherever they chose?

Meetings can happen over the Internet on chats or via conference calls. If a face-to-face is really called for the group can meet oh, at a coffee shop for instance. No office necessary, really.

What about supervising staff? How do you make sure the work is being done and being done to the deadline requirements? Cell phones (or as I like to call them, electronic leashes) make keeping up with your staff really easy. As for the work, it is either turned in on time or it isn't. Granted, being in shouting distance of your work team members is much quicker in some cases if you need to check a point or two, but if there is a need for a collaborative work session cuddling up in a cozy corner of your local coffee shop can fit the bill.

The whole idea of downsizing seems to be moving from people to places. Instead of laying off staff, lay off the office.

Q: What are your thoughts on not having a centralized office?

Thanks for stopping by and I'll save your seat for you until next time.

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