By eavave • January 15, 2010

Office shmoffice - tools for working remotely

Physical offices are a thing of the past... or so is the case here at Empire Avenue. We're a new breed of company, casting off the cold and oppressive shackles of costly office space in favor of the warm, liberating embrace of remote working. Not that we would oppose any of the team choosing to work in an oppressive office. We'll happily provide a nice pen mug for your cubicle.

When I tell people that I work from home, I can hear the faint sound of their brains exploding as they stare blankly into my eyes. The very concept seems ludicrous to a lot of people. Several of us on the Empire Avenue team have been working remotely for some time -- myself for the past five years -- and the quality of life it affords is worth any minor inconveniences. If I need an escape from a stressful day of work, I can grab my dogs and go for a walk. I can make my own lunch, which is almost always healthier than what I would have eaten at "the office." I can spend more time with my family. It's a life full of benefits. And so, we've opted to let our team work from wherever they'd like -- home, Starbucks, the beach.

It wasn't long ago that the idea of working from home was little more than a pipe dream, but all sorts of technology -- new and old -- make working remotely easier than ever. Here are some of the tools we use to make our telecommuting lifestyle work.

This lovely bit of technology is one of our primary communication tools. We keep in touch with other team members via instant messaging, and also hold internal conference calls over Skype. It's ridiculously easy to set up and use, and the low rates for using Skype to call landlines allows us to reduce our costs, as compared to using a regular phone line.

Dim Dim or WebEx
A lot of people have probably heard of WebEx. If you haven't it's a tool with which you can conduct presentations or group meetings. While I've had some issues with the voice component you can just use WebEx for the presentation part and Skype in to the call. Lately we've started using Dim Dim which is an open source competitor to WebEx and we've had great success.

Setting up a virtual office can be annoying because you'll need to deal with people trying to call you, support lines and routing telephone calls. Our preferred choice in this arena is RingCentral who provides excellent remote telephony services, answering machines and call forwarding. All at a very reasonable cost for those office-less companies like us.

IRC - Internet Relay Chat
Okay this is a bit out of my way of working, but this is something Dups is very familiar with. We have an IRC server (running IRCD-Hybrid) that the the team can connect to. He swears by it and claims that his life at MySQL would have been dead without it. I have yet to use it for our internal purposes -- I've spent a lot of time on IRC debating the merits of underpants, video games and all sorts of other trivial stuff -- but as we grow into a larger team, this is a great way to communicate with people in various timezones. It's also a great office cooler. Or so says Dups. There is a wide variety of IRC clients that you can use to connect to the server, depending on your OS. Just hit up the Google and find one that works for you!

E-mail, Online Documents, Google Rules Our World
I, for one, welcome our Google overlords when it comes to online office applications. We are constant users of Google Documents, Spreadsheets and E-mail. In the future I could even see us signing up as a premier customer for these services.

Social Networks
A relative newcomer to the long-distance collaborative-work scene, social networking helps us communicate with staff, as well as our audience (you). So yes, we're on Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn, and you can expect to see us in lots of other places. We're very social, you know.

Just to prove a point, Empire Avenue is now spread across the entire country of Canada from coast to... umm... almost coast. Our staff and consultants are available from St. John's, Newfoundland to Edmonton, Alberta. Recently Dups worked his way across Europe to Asia, and I'm off to Europe soon myself. Will work slow down? Not at all, not in the Empire Avenue "office." The online-advertising revolution isn't going to sit around and wait for us.

Disclaimer: Our owners, writers, and/or guest post authors may or may not have a vested interest in any of the above projects and businesses. None of the content on this blog is investment advice nor is it a replacement for advice from a certified financial planner.