December 2010  
UpWrite Press Writing eTips

Virtual Offices

In the past, working out of the home was like being on an island, connected only by your telephone, fax machine, and modem. But today’s technology has changed that scene. Whether you call it telecommuting, workshifting, or a virtual office, out-of-office workers are no longer secluded. Instead, they are part of a huge and growing business trend.

Telecommuting has advantages for both the employer and the employee. For large corporations, having part of the workforce off-site saves the cost of providing office space and may even avoid certain health risks. Distractions and water-cooler gabfests are minimized, even as a larger talent pool is available. For the worker, the hassle of commuting is eliminated, and hours are more flexible. There’s a new freedom, as freelancers can expand their client base, working for several clients at once. Older workers not yet ready to retire can continue being productive, offering their experience and expertise on an as-needed basis.

In a virtual office, the independent worker actually presents the face of a larger office while operating out of the home or the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot. Such an arrangement allows a person to establish a presence anywhere in the world without the expense of renting a complete office. For those of you contemplating such an arrangement, here are some ways to manage the ongoing necessity of communicating with clients.

  • Mail. Use a post-office box, or sign on with a commercial mail receiving agency (CMRA), which provides you with an official-sounding address, including a suite number. The CMRA also accepts packages that might not be deliverable to a post-office box. You can pick up your mail, and some services will even deliver it to you.
  • Presentation. Look into renting an “executive suite,” a setup that provides a short-term private office with an impressive address for your business cards, a receptionist who answers the phone with your business name, and voice mail. The “suite” may also include amenities such as a kitchenette or an attractive lobby where you can meet clients or get together with other virtual workers to schmooze, compare notes, and brainstorm. After all, while working alone has its advantages, networking is an important part of any business. Many such setups also include copying and faxing services, storage space, and mail receipt.
  • Assistant. A virtual assistant can do anything you need at a fraction of the cost of a full-time employee, working on an hourly or daily schedule that suits your business.

One disadvantage of renting a short-term office is its limited availability. “Your” work space may not be available when you need it. And, of course, you may pay a premium for extras.

For more information, search for Web sites about out-of-office working. One we like is www.workshifting.com.

Teacher Tips

When preparing a training session, consider that the senses are the most direct pathway to the brain. Fill your presentation with sensory cues to make the information vivid and memorable. For slides, use color, shape, and animation to focus your viewers’ attention and distinguish important facts. If you are teaching new skills, separate participants into small groups and allow them to practice what they’ve learned. Also remember that while sight and sound are very important to absorbing information, touch is key to learning manual skills. Include hands-on projects and use repetition to teach manual tasks. Muscle memory is an important factor for success, and repetition is the best way to instill that memory.

That Little Extra

Got a gazillion cables and wires tangling up on your desktop or floor? It’s a problem that is not only unsightly but dangerous. There are many solutions available, from fancy cord retraction devices to covers that hide the mess. The simplest, of course, is to bundle your excess cord and anchor it with a twist tie, or wrap the cord around a popsicle stick and tie it with string. Whatever method sounds best to you, make the effort. A neat work space looks better and will help you be more relaxed, efficient, and safe.

   

December Writers' Forum Topic

Here’s your chance to tell us how your work environment operates. Send us your responses to the forum question below, and we’ll print the most interesting in our eTips Mid-Month Mini.

Apps, or software applicatons, are big business nowadays. What are some of your favorites? How do you use apps to improve your professional life or business?

E-mail your response to writersforum@upwritepress.com. Write “December Writers’ Forum” in the subject line, and you could see your reply in the eTips Mid-Month Mini.

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