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Working Remotely: Balancing Productivity vs Staying Connected…

August 28th, 2013

It seems that no matter how much I think there should be a normal daily routine in corporate finance, there never is. Whether it’s the latest ad hoc reporting need, vendor emergency, or employee related issue…there just isn’t a normal day. I have a hard time accepting this since I have multiple family members who worked in Law Enforcement and I hear them talking about how there is NEVER a “normal day”. Using that same line seems a bit trivial for the work I do compared to them.  However, it really is the case and with the lack of a standardized schedule comes the challenges of fitting in the necessary daily operational tasks, as well as the countless extras that come with working in a start-up environment and wearing a half-dozen hats. Don’t get me wrong, I love all my hats I wear and they’re a necessity in our current environment. However, there is also a point reached where the daily tasks are backlogged, as are the ad hoc requests. At that point…time to consider alternatives.

It’s not something I resort to often, but I’ve taken the approach of basically going into “monk mode” and taking a 3-5 day out of office remote effort. No meetings, very few calls, and just focusing on the backlog of tasks. I have to say, this is a rather unique and somewhat uncomfortable approach for a Finance person. While the majority of our staff takes this approach within our company, it’s a very foreign approach for what I’ve become accustomed to. While it may only happen once every 1-2 months, it’s still a weird feeling. However, I have to say that it provides not only a nice balance to the constant Mach-5 speed we seem to be working at, but the break from meetings and calls provides a fantastic ability to focus on the list of deliverables and make some progress on key items that get bogged down in the daily minutiae.

Even more strange to consider is that almost all of our systems are cloud-based, which allows me to have an even higher level of productivity out of the office in the absence of constant schedule deviations. Provided you’re  not choosing a location where you’re hitting the local night spots, watching your favorite shows on cable, or some other distraction, you basically have nothing more to do than get caught up on the backlog…and write that past due blog 🙂

In all seriousness, with a cloud-based systems structure, I have the ability to stay connected and work on all accounting related needs, HR needs, monitor the progress of bookings, address important emails within minutes, and maintain the same dynamic systems structure I have at the office. Pretty darn amazing! All without the need of utilizing a VPN or being onsite for physical systems access. It’s certainly not an ability, or luxury, I would have envisioned even 5 years ago. To think I can have the same level of productivity on a remote basis is quite an amazing opportunity. The key is infusing a personal level of discipline that if you are going to work remote….you’re really going to get it done. As with everything else in my life, tasks are measured and my ability to deliver is measured.

Regardless of the progress, it’s still a strange & foreign feeling working remote. While I appreciate the gains in productivity, I can see how working on a remote basis would leave one feeling a bit disconnected from the energy and culture of the company. For me, doing this every 1-2 months would give me the edge to maintain productivity while not losing touch with the daily vibe. To do this more would leave me feeling somewhat disconnected from the pulse of the company and team. But then again, that is in perspective to the work I do and needing to check that pulse against the numbers I am seeing reflected in the system.

The challenge of increasing productivity, while working in a start-up, has forced me out of my comfort zones and to find approaches that will allow me to deliver, without taking the easy approach of hiring another consultant or lobbying for another position. Working remote, while absolutely strange, allows for the potential of a fantastic ROI if properly deployed.

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

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