February 2009

written by Lori Thiessen

Dear Readers,

My apologies for the long silence on this blog, but I’ve been in Cuba researching remote working possibilities there as well as taking a wee holiday in a warmer part of the world than the Canadian West Coast in February.

For those who haven’t been to Cuba,  I found it to be a beautiful country inhabited by very gracious and friendly people.

I wasn’t able to blog from Cuba because the tour I was on was so jam packed with interesting and absorbing daily excursions that I didn’t have time or energy to blog. More on that in later posts.

At the Havana Libre Hotel where I was staying, there was a well set-up business centre from which you could be on the internet from 8 am t0 8 pm. The cost was a minimum $3.00 CUC (convertible pesos) to $9.00 CUC for the hour.

There were about a dozen machines in the centre so there was little trouble getting immediate access to one. Getting on and off the internet was easy and the connection was steady.

If you brought your laptop and wanted to work from your hotel room, you could do that too. But the hotel charged $25.00/day for this privilege. I didn’t bother to bring my laptop because I generally don’t when I’m on holiday and I knew that there would be internet access at the hotel.

Most of the larger hotels in Havana do have internet, but because of the US Embargo Cuba doesn’t have the most sophisticated or updated computer equipment.  A large fibre optic system is currently unavailable in Cuba so sending large data files might be a problem.

But I’m pleased to say that most Cubans are keen to learn more about computer science and they are definitely interested in having greater, faster access to the internet.

I’ll end here for the moment but I’ve many more stories about Cuba, coffee and remote working there.

Hasta Luego!


Written by Gregg Taylor

I haven’t been able to get to my coffee shop office this week, and may not, due to other work and life commitments. As I came to realize this, I felt sad, and a bit out of sorts, and decided to make those feeling the subject of this today’s post. What are these feelings? Are they normal? Am I just a coffee and coffee shop addict? Or is there something more to this, something of greater significance?

Part of what I’m feeling, I realize, is the disruption of my routine – and working at the coffee shop once or more per week has become just that. I like routine, and knowing I can get away from the office, and work near home, is quite comforting. It’s time carved out just for me; time to work quietly away on projects that are difficult to get done when competing with interruptions at the office and chores to be done at home.

Another dimension, I realize, is that I’ve made friends and business acquaintances with the people who frequent my coffee shop too, and I feel like I’m somehow missing out on connecting with my neighbourhood community. With some people, I have the simple and low key ‘friendly smile and nod’ relationship – we’ve seen each other often, we’ve perhaps traded brief pleasantries, but otherwise we leave each other to our work. Others I have spoken to about work, life, and of course, this blog, and each time we meet we trade a quick update about our work and progress, and feel good about connecting, even if only briefly. And then there are those few that I’ve had a chance to talk to on several occasions about work, life and challenges, people I feel an affinity with, perhaps even as casual friends.

In earlier posts, Lori and I have written about the social concept of Third Spaces, those places that are not home and not work, but other comfortable meeting places where you feel an affiliation, community connection and sense of belonging. It’s the bar on Cheers, the diner on Happy Days.

Life is made up of many social networks and relationships. Perhaps these are not as significant as those with my family, or as important to maintain as my long term colleagues and staff at work. None the less, I’m glad to have my coffee shop office and the people who hang out there as a component of my sense of belonging in a world where knowing your neighbours no longer happens as naturally or freely as in times gone by.

So – – somewhat addicted to coffee? Yes.  Am I normal? Yes, and happy to recognizeand appreciate  those little things that make life good.

Q: If you are away from your coffee shop office for a few days, do you suffer from withdrawl?

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

Written by Lori Thiessen

Even though our current economy is putting the employer back in the driver’s seat, so to speak, employee retention is still important.

One way to retain a high performing, valuable employee is to offer a flexible work schedule or remote working option.  Paul Brent of Workopolis.com interviewed Rena Chenov who is the Global Program Manager of Work-Life Integration for IBM.  According to Chenov, 42 percent of IBM’s workforce is mobile and 10 percent are full-time “at home” workers. Those numbers are also expected to grow in the coming years.

The new generation of workers, Gen Y or Millenials, are expecting flexible or remote work options as part of their regular employment package.  In order to attract the next group of top performers, companies need to be open to remote working programs.

In a 2007 internal survey, IBM found that the second reason people left the company was due to a lack of flexibility in their work schedules.

Surveys have also found that employees who are allowed a flexible work schedule or given a remote working option are generally more productive than their traditional office colleagues.

Far from seeing the remote work option as a way to force an employee into a 24/7 situation, progressive companies are seriously looking at the work-life balance as critical to employee retention.

I find it intriguing that work-life balance is finding such strong support in a big corporation like IBM by the creation of the role that Rena Chenov occupies. Sun Microsystems apparently also has taken remote working so seriously that there is a vice-president dedicated full-time to overseeing that company’s remote working program.

Though remote working may seem to some companies as an invitation to lose control over their employees, in fact implementing a well-thought out and managed remote working program may end up creating more employee loyalty in the end.

Q: If your employer came to you with an option to either have more money or to have a flexible work schedule or work remotely, which would you choose?

Share your remote working/cafe commuter experiences with us through our survey at www.coffeeshopsurvey.com.

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

written by Gregg Taylor

In my last post, I made reference to a couple of cool gifts that friends and family had given me this Christmas in support of my cafe commuting habits. I thought I’d share share more about them with you today.

The first is the USB Computer Vacuum– a handy little thing if I ever saw one! Small enough to fit into your laptop bag pocket, this baby will suck those cookie, muffin, and sandwich crumbs right out of your keyboard. (Perhaps the reason behind why som of yur key don sem to wrk!) It comes with two attachments – one round brush, and a flat head to reach between keys. Take a look for yourself….

Laptop VaccuumThis is the kind of thing I’ll use, although probably not as often as I should. The screen cleaning cloth I have in my laptop bag only seems to get pulled out when I can no longer see my desktop through the dust. But this is better than shaking my laptop upside down.

The second handy gift was this Combo Coffee Mug Warmer with USB Ports. Depending on how many USB ports your laptop has already, the base of this thing is very useful. Do you find yourself synching your iPhone, while using a mouse and saving to an external drive? Well you’re wired for action with 4 extra USB ports.
Coffee Cup warmer with USB Ports
Now, the cup and warmer seems like a nice idea – nothing like hot coffee while you work. Unfortunately my coffee shop doesn’t serve 4 oz coffees, which is about all this little cup will fit. So unless I decide to use it to warm up the last drops of my stale coffee, I think I’ll just keep the base handy for those heavy USB use days.
So, between my laptop, my added USB port gadget, vacuum, iPhone, muffin and coffee mug, that typical tiny coffee shop table just won’t do. I guess I’ll have to wait for the corner table that’s the size of an office desk….. I hope that guy leaves  soon….  Now where’s the power outlet?….
If you haven’t already filled out our survey, then Lori and I invite you to share your cafe commuter experiences at www.coffeeshopsurvey.com.  We’ll be including the results of the survey in our upcoming book and through this blog! Thanks for dropping by and we’ll save your seat until next time….