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Telecommuting at UCT

telecommuting

Telecommuting - or working away from the office - is becoming popular worldwide, spurred on by the rapid rise of technology and fast Internet connections. It's an attractive option for those who want a better work-life balance, need to cut transport time and costs, or for those who need flexible working hours.

Will it work for you?

Telecommuting isn't suitable for jobs that are hands-on or require physical presence (lab research, medical services, front desk administration). The arrangement is, however, suited to computer-based or self-directed work.

But just because you can telecommute, doesn't mean you should. Before making the jump, consider these key factors:

  • Self-discipline: Can you maintain a high level of productivity with the comforts and distractions of home close at hand? And without your manager physically present, do you trust yourself to work hard without direct supervision? 
  • Environment: You'll need a place in which you can concentrate and get your work done. It doesn't have to be at home, though. With a laptop and a cellular data connection, you could work in any peaceful environment - such as a library, a quiet coffee shop or even on Table Mountain. (Though you would probably have better things to do up there!) 
  • Management approval: Your manager needs to be OK with you working from home. While some managers may readily agree, others might need a bit of reassurance about your work rate away from the office. One way of alleviating their fear is to suggest a supervisory mechanism - like sending them a list of tasks you work on each day. Or you could propose a mixture of being in the office for certain periods or events, but working from home at other times.

The UCT telecommuting toolkit

If you do work from home, you'll need the right tools and technology to operate effectively and efficiently away from the office. Here are some of the key elements you’ll need to work remotely:

Security

Before doing any work (either online or offline), ensure that you're running an up-to-date antivirus program. McAfee is free to all UCT staff and students.

This software protects your work, your computer and the UCT network from viruses and other cyber threats.

Connection

If your home Internet connection is slow or inconsistent, or you can work without the Internet, take the files home on a flash drive.

If neither of these are an issue, you'll be using your own personal Internet connection (ADSL or mobile data) at your own cost.

Communication

Access your UCT email and your calendar via a web browser - using the Outlook web app.

And if you need to have group discussions or meetings, use Skype for Business on your laptop or desktop to set up video or voice conferencing, instant message group chats, or even screen-sharing with colleagues.

As for your UCT phone, use the same application to divert your office phone number to your home, mobile or another number.

Or install the mobile app - which enables your smart phone or tablet to act as your work phone (along with other functionality like video calls and instant messaging). Using the app, you can also make phone calls to UCT and other numbers free of charge - with the only cost being your data connection. (See Skype for Business quick guide for details.)

Your files

If your work documents are stored on the UCT network (your personal F: drive or your department's G: drive), use Netstorage via a web browser to access these files.

If your department uses cloud storage, such as OneDrive or Google Drive, then access these files via a web browser.

Software

Install Office 365 on your personal laptop or mobile device to get access to Word, Excel and other Office products. Alternatively, use your UCT details to log on to Google's G Suite for Education - which includes a wide range of similar applications.

If you manage a departmental website or a blog, you don't need to be on campus to update the site - simply log on via your web browser.

UCT software licences also entitle you to install applications such as EndNote, Nvivo, SPSS and Statistica. And for more specialised software, use Remote Desktop Connection to access software without installing it on your computer.

For research facilities such as Google Scholar, journals and other UCT library services, log in remotely via EZProxy.

Learning

If you want to learn new skills or enhance your knowledge about other work or personal topics, take advantage of UCT's subscriptions to lynda.com and the Microsoft Imagine Academy.

Alternatively, explore other self-training resources that allow you to learn at your own pace.

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