I'd like to know what experiences others have had telecommuting full time? What software tools and processes helped maintain cohesion and maximized collaboration & productivity?
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Due to health issues I was forced to telecommunicate for over an year - luckily my then boss allowed that (possibly because I'm by nature a work-a-holic?!?!).
Here some experiences I had and some tips I can pass on - and amazingly enough they work out for me today, with our national company being from coast to coast:
1) the telephone is your friend. Call, don't just email / chat.
2) If the sysadmins/network guys are cool with it (and company policy allows), use a chat program to keep in CONSTANT touch with the 2-3 associates that you work closely with. You can fire off a quick question at them, and they ditto to you - really is a great way to stay connected. Optimum would be an inhouse chat, due to data-security issues. If you do use google talk or msn (etc), make sure to always think before you type - no pwds, no IP items, no sensitive data.
3) A secure VPN connection is a given, and I liked to use a remote desktop session into a physical box located in the office - that way you don't have to install every piece of software at home that you require, and sensitive connections to DBs etc are handled from the remote box, thus not passing over the internet. Many different solutions, but the principle is that the core of your work is done (virtually) in the office, not local at home.
4) email of course, especially if you work across many time zones, but follow up emails the next day with #1: the phone.
5) Keep a daily log of everything you do (excel is fine). Two fold reason: one you can look up issues & resolutions you had in the past quickly, and (more important) pass it on to you supervisor to show that you are delivering value even though off-site. I personally use a new file each month, to keep things neat, and have 4 columns: date, status (opened, in progress, delegated, complete), task, and comment.
Hope that gives you a good base to working virtual!