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Here’s 6 reasons why remote workers are valuable.

guy telecommuting
Remote work is great for remote workers because it’s always Casual Friday. ūüôā

I was re-reading an article I had posted on Facebook years ago, namely “More Companies Turning To Virtual Employees” found on the Huffington Post in early 2012, and saw that technical writers were among the top positions listed to be good remote positions and positions for independent contractors. Back then, I thought, “Great! Sign me up!”

Four years later upon re-reading this article, I was thinking, “Great! Sign me up!” However,¬†I’m wondering if things have changed since that article has posted. The reason I ask is that I’ve been looking for those remote positions, and I’ll be damned if I can find one, or find one easily.

Now, keep in mind, I’ve had the opportunity to be a remote worker, and I did it for about three¬†years. The small consulting gig I have after hours that’s an extension of that job is still done remotely. I know what it takes to be a successful remote worker.

So why is it so difficult to find these remote positions? When¬†Marissa Meyer of Yahoo took away telecommuting privileges in 2013 (a year after the Huffington Post article), did it scare everyone else to do the same? I protested that move then, and I protest it now. ¬†I’ve seen many positions listed that could be done remotely, or mostly remotely (like an occasional visit to the office would be okay), but everyone insists that workers need to be in the office. I’m all for teamwork, yet I’ve been on several teams remotely without any problem.

I have a feeling that there are several misconceptions about remote working on the part of employers. Perceptions I have heard include:

  1. Workers will get more done in the office workers who work remotely goof off and regard the time as their own.
  2. Working from the office costs will be less expensive.
  3. You can keep a closer eye on workers/micromanage when they are in the office.
  4. There’s nothing like the social aspects of being in the office as part of a team.
  5. Being in the office with your fellow co-workers will instill more teamwork, and more company loyalty, and more productivity. (This was an argument of Marissa Mayer.)

Rubbish, I tell you!

I have found from my own experience, and the experiences that others have told me, all these are not true. This is not to say there isn’t some truth to some of these preconceptions, but they are based on the worst in class workers instead of the best in class.

Here are the 6 reasons why employers should consider hiring more remote workers:

  1. Remote workers actually put in more hours than office workers.
    Since we don’t have to commute to the office, we often are starting work earlier and finishing work later. Good remote workers will usually have a home office so they can be removed from household distractions, and distractions are actually fewer than in an office setting. Even if we have to step away for a doctor’s appointment, pick up the kid from the bus stop, etc. we put in more quality time in those working hours. In most cases, we keep the same business hours, but are at our desk more than someone moving around the office.
  2. Remote workers take on a good chunk of the operating costs.
    Since we work from home most often, we pay for the space, electricity, heating/AC, and the internet connectivity. All the other potential costs, like a VOIP phone, network box or VPN, and a company computer would be the same as if you were at the office. In some cases, the remote worker uses a VPN connection, and it’s the cost of using their own computer or equipment being used. The employer doesn’t have to pay for the occupation of space at the office.
  3. Good remote workers don’t need to be micromanaged.
    Remote workers can keep themselves busy, and are more productive if they don’t have someone constantly looking over their shoulder. If details are important to an employer, remote workers have to deal with details to ensure that communications about projects are understood well¬†as a result of being¬†remote. They ask clarifying questions as needed. Just relax!
  4. Social time¬†isn’t going to get the work done.
    Being a remote worker can be lonely sometimes, and some of the social aspects of working in an office can be missed. But thanks to social media tools, web conferencing, and good old email, being remote isn’t anti-social. Work, after all, isn’t about hanging out with your friends. Work is about getting a job done, and if you become friendly with your teammates, that’s great. I’ve seen plenty of situations where workers at the office socialize more than they actually work. You don’t have that problem with a¬†remote worker.
  5. Remote workers work harder to be a valuable member of the team than those in the office.
    While there is some validity that face to face events help to foster teamwork, it’s not a must-have. Remote workers can feel out of the loop a little bit when there are small chats across cubicles that are missed out, but when phone meetings or web conferences are going on, remote workers will go out of their way to integrate and ensure that their contribution is at least on par with the office teammates and¬†that the other teammates know that you are pulling your weight–sometimes more. This is especially true of global or cross-country teams that all meet remotely whether they are at the office or not. By being allowed to work independently as a remote worker, and by being allowed to work in a way that best suits that worker, this situation allows for more worker satisfaction, which can lead to more loyalty to the company, and further productivity.
  6. Here’s a bonus for prospective employers–you don’t have to limit your search to a local commuting radius or pay for any relocation for the right remote¬†worker.
    The best person for the job might be 100, 1000, or more miles away, ready to adapt to time differences if needed, and ready to work!

Not everyone is cut out to do remote work. And yes, some jobs do require that you need to be in the office, or at least every now and then. ¬†But in this digital age when we can connect in so many ways, I don’t understand how this hasn’t taken off more. I have Skype, WebEx, AdobeConnect, and other web conferencing tools at my fingertips. I also have email, social media, and internet access. I have most of the standard tools such as Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Cloud on my laptop.¬†What’s stopping me from getting another remote position? ¬†Oh yeah…it’s that I can’t find where they are, and they aren’t many of them out there.

What do you think? Should remote working or telecommuting be happening more? It was predicted that more people would be telecommuting by now, but I haven’t seen it happen yet. What are your experiences? Include your comments below.

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Book Review: 8 Steps to Amazing Webinars by Sharon Burton

8StepsToAmazingWebinarsIn less than a week from this writing, I will be doing a new webinar that I was asked to do by one of the STC Special Interest Groups (SIGs). I was really honored to have been asked, and it’s about a topic that I think I know a little something about–blogging. After all, this little webspot has been going strong for about 21 months now.

But in putting this latest webinar together, I realized that while I felt that I could whip something decent together, it’s been a while since I had to craft a webinar presentation. This, in turn, reminded me that I had a promise to fulfull, as I sought out a reference in my personal library written by one of my tech comm knitting buddies. Pulling this reference out reminded me that I’ve been meaning to write this review since last spring, but had been side-tracked several times until now–when I really needed it most.

Sharon Burton’s book, 8 Steps to Amazing Webinars, is a slim volume of only 81 pages (and that’s the end of Appendix B), but it’s loaded with very concise information. 81 pages is all you need! Considering that this is a short and concise how-to book, it shouldn’t have taken me this long to write this! I truly try to read any books that I’m asked to review cover to cover, and this was a quick but highly informative read!

There are several things I like about Sharon’s book. It’s short and to the point, as already mentioned. For busy presenters who have many things to do other than solely doing webinars, this is great resource because she gets straight to the heart of what needs to be done. Additionally, one of the things that I’ve found that Sharon and I have in common with our tech comm perspective is that our views are highly customer service-oriented. Before my life in an IT/tech comm world, I came from a customer service/client services background, so much of her advice on the how and why webinars can be great marketing tools geared towards customers made a lot of sense to me.

Sharon’s eight steps take the reader from the point of understanding what a webinar is, through every step of the process of creating and following-up with the webinar, including choosing presenters, topics, technology needed, advertisting the webinar, and all the other preparation steps to creating the webinar. She even includes pointers on how to set up the presentation slides that are most likely going to be used in the presentation.

As I read the book, I was quickly reminded of the first webinar that I did back in 2012 for Adobe’s Technical Communications group (you can find the link on the right-hand column of this blog). I remember not knowing the first thing about how to put together a webinar. At the time, Maxwell Hoffman, who is one of the evangelists for Adobe TCS, guided and coached me through the process, and it ended up being a great success. Looking back, I would not be surprised if Maxwell was already well-versed in the steps that Sharon outlines in her book, because I’m fairly sure that we followed every single step. When I also look back to the first in-person presentation I did, which lead to a recent webinar on the same topic, I realized that I had followed much of the same steps again, and got a great response as a result. These steps are practically foolproof, so I can assure you that if you follow Sharon’s advice in the book–and much of it is really common sense, you should have success in presenting a webinar.

Sharon’s viewpoint in this book is from a marketing perspective, in that webinars are used to drive people to a brand, increase leads, and provide resources to your customers. And for 99.9% of time, this is a main focus for most people who would read this book. But even for people who are academics, for example, who are not necessarily trying to create a brand, but rather disseminate valuable information, this book is still helpful because it put the reader in the right mind-set to create a virtual presentation that is meaningful for his or her audience. For example, while I am promoting my “brand” of TechCommGeekMom, I’m not really selling a product or service the same way that a software company or communications service consultancy would be. (At least I’m not at that stage yet!) Even so, I know that when I present the webinars that I’ve done, there is some sort of value based on the type of information that I’m providing. By referring back to 8 Steps to Amazing Webinars as I prepared for this upcoming webinar, I knew that I was on the right track to maximize the information that I will be delivering. It also made me reflect, based on these steps, what made for a bad webinar, and I’m sad to say that I’ve attended a few of those in my time. I think I even remember one that Sharon and I attended at the same time, and I remember us talking about how disappointed we were with that one webinar, and we had the same sticking points about it.

I highly endorse this book for its strong content and its easy-to-read, straightforward language. Anyone who is doing a webinar–or even an in-person presentation–can gain some great pointers and advice following Sharon’s advice. Hey, it’s such good advice that the book is endorsed by the STC itself, and I know that many of their best webinars follow Sharon’s methods. So that says something right there!

You can find the book on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and XML Press websites. And be sure to follow Sharon on Twitter too– she’s @sharonburton, or on her blog found at sharonburton.com. She always has good information to pass along that goes beyond just how to do webinars!

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I’ve hit the “Big Time” in Tech Comm!: I’m an Adobe Webinar Presenter now

It’s been rather exciting in the last week or so for me. Much like being in Times Square where there are so many lights and sights and sounds that one can’t possible keep up with it all in one outing.

Last week was a big week for me. My much-publicized webinar that was hosted by Adobe was presented last week. It went by so fast that it almost feels like a dream! But now I have evidence that it really happened, as Adobe just published the recording of the webinar presentation on its Technical Communications Suite -OnDemand Seminar ¬†website today. ¬†I’d been waiting all this time to comment about it, but wanted to have the link first.

You can find my webinar–now an Adobe OnDemand seminar here:

Transition from Content Consumer to Content Creator: Dual Viewpoints.

(There is a sign in at the Adobe site, but it’s free.)

I need to thank Maxwell Hoffman for his guidance in the process. He gave me a lot of fantastic advice and things to think about, as well as some great editing of the drafts for the slideshow that accompanied the talk.  If you ever have the chance to work with him, you will definitely enjoy yourself and learn from a master.

I also need to thank Adobe and especially Parth Mukharjee for the opportunity of a lifetime to do this. It was Parth who read my posting here and contacted me through Twitter to make it all happen. ¬†Thank you, Parth! Another Adobe “shout out” to Saibal Bhattacharjee as well for his assistance in this process. I have to say, all I did was use my voice, and to know that people at Adobe were listening, well, that feels rather great, and again, I appreciate this fantastic opportunity. I was already an Adobe fan, but this experience made my loyalty to the brand even deeper. I would readily welcome the opportunity to do another webinar or any other opportunities that Adobe might bring my way. ūüôā

I also can’t forget to thank Mr. Mobile himself, RJ Jacquez, blogger of The m-Learning Revolution blog. In the past few months, this former Adobe evangelist has become my friend and a mentor, and I felt that before I took on this endeavor, I needed his blessing. (I didn’t really need his blessing, but it felt right to talk to him about it first.) He definitely supported me and encouraged me to take advantage of this webinar opportunity, and I’m glad he did. So, thanks RJ. You da man. ūüėČ

And then there are the other friends from all walks of my tech comm life that attended–many thanks for your support as well!

I’m proud of the work I did for this presentation, and I hope that anyone who takes the time to listen and watch it will get something helpful out of it, and learn something. I will never claim to be an expert on anything, but as this entire experience has taught me, it is worth it to try new things out by doing and not be afraid to use your own voice now and then to express yourself. You never know what good things might happen. ūüėÄ

(Update 9/17/2015 – The links to the webinar have been updated as Adobe has archived the presentation’s location on their website.)

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TechComm Event of the Year! Please attend my first Webinar presentation!

OK, I don’t know that it’s THE techcomm event of the year, but it is to me!

Please come attend my first webinar presentation, “Transition from Content Consumer to Content Creator: Dual Viewpoints,” graciously hosted by Adobe Systems.

It’s tomorrow, 5 June 2012, from 1:00 PM- 2:00 PM US/Eastern / 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM US/Pacific.

Here’s the description for the webinar:

The technical communications world is changing quickly with technological advances. It can be a difficult transition from content consumer to becoming a content creator. If you are new to the technical communications field and trying to find some direction, how do you make that transition and learn the tools of the trade? Join technical communicator Danielle Villegas, who blogs and tweets as TechCommGeekMom, as she discusses the challenges of being a content manager, pursuing a professional course in Technical Communication, and moving ahead in a technical communications career. Danielle will concentrate on content for mobile devices while sharing her first hand experiences learning about the most desired skills. She will be discussing how visual and web design, technical writing and editing, and content management skills come together to create good technical content.

I am very excited to be doing this, and truly hope that you will attend and hear what I have to say. I’ve been working hard to create a presentation that will be . It’s merely based on my own experiences, and I hope it opens up some great discussions in the tech comm world. ¬†Registration is free, too!

You can sign up by clicking on the link above for the title of the webinar.

See you there!

(Updated 9/17/2015 – The webinar link has now been archived, so the link in the article to the webinar has been updated.)