*”I challenge NASA leaders at all levels to create an environment*
*that embraces and supports telework*
*for employees who are eligible and interested.”*
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden
**I love teleworking.**With members across four time zones, the freedom
and resources to work from wherever (and whenever) we are has been vital
to the success of our small, distributed team. Instead of a cubicle, a
workstation, and a desk phone, members of our team have a laptop, a cell
phone, and permission to go and create the work environment that best
suits them. **Work becomes what we do – not a place where we go.**We all
started as ‘digital natives,’ bringing hardware and technological
experience to the work before us. Familiar with what works and how it
works, the challenge became finding the best ways to apply that
experience to our professional assignments. There were all kinds of
great software and hardware out there, and we wanted to take full
advantage of them.
Here are a few of the tools we use to make effective teleworking
possible. Some of them we use on our team; some of them we are working
to use in the future. Every app has ‘competitors’ that serve similar
- **Skype**: a web application that allows chat as well as voice and
video calls. Skype allows distributed teams instant access to each
other to ask questions and share updates.
- **Adobe Connect**: a web application that creates an integrated
virtual environment where participants can share audio, video, chat,
references, and screens. The platform provides workers everything
needed to host or support a regular meeting from anywhere that you
- **Asana**: a web task-management application that supports
efficiency among distributed teams. Tools like Asana allow teams to
keep track of who is doing what and where they are investing our
time and efforts.
- **Google Docs**: a web application that allows for real-time
collaboration to write, edit and store documents online. Workers can
use Google Docs on a daily basis to write and edit together, saving
multiple emails with updates and version control. (We’ve recently
joined one of the agency’s pilot efforts with Google Apps and are
enjoying trying out many of its capabilities!)
- **Dropbox**: a web-based file-hosting service that syncs across
machines and operating systems. Dropbox and other similar products
allow distributed teams to host a library of documents and
presentations in the cloud so that they can all have real-time
access to the latest versions of anything they might need.
Teleworking adds value and efficiency to our work as well as quality to
our lives.Teleworking allows me to **choose the environment most
suitable to my work** that day. I will often head to our collaborative
space for meetings, a comfortable option where a group can diagram out
ideas on white boards. If I need to write, I will often stay home and
sit on the porch where it’s quiet, and I have easy access to my own
kitchen. On days where I have numerous tasks and administrative work, I
tend to engage the best at a coffee shop with a little music and other
people.While my teammates and I are rarely located in the same city, I
think I **engage better** with them - more frequently and more
efficiently - than I did with coworkers who were co-located in a
traditional office. The tools make it easy to access them and their
expertise while making the best use of their time and resources as well.
Teleworking flexibility is a huge investment in **work-life balance**,
allowing employees the opportunity to work around their unique needs and
situations, whether it means avoiding the worst commute times, being
available for their children as needed, or collaborating across
The opportunity to work remotely also **brings NASA out into the
community**, making us visible and available to many more people in the
neighborhood. People frequently see my computer (covered with NASA
stickers), see my NASA fleece or overhear my obviously NASA-related
conversation and come up and talk to me about space. This is an
opportunity to be accessible and be an ambassador.
**Tips for new teleworkers:**
- Be available. You can’t disappear; the trade-off for being remote is
- Overcommunicate what you are doing to your team, at least at the
beginning. Relationships shift when you don’t see each other; be
sure that you are providing the connection and the content everyone
needs to keep working together, as well as being accountable to your manager.
- Figure out what you need to stay focused and stay organized. If you
tend to slack off and sleep late, find a coffee shop or coworking
space. If you are easily distracted, define a home office space.
It’s different for everyone. Let your colleagues find their space
and routine, and you find yours.
- Learn what technology can do! Become an educated user. Get familiar
with the capabilities of your laptop, smartphone, tablet. Explore
your options. There is very little that can’t be accomplished remotely.
- Be sure that you have whatever tools you need to access your data
and your systems, whether it’s an RSA token or something else.
- Appear in the office regularly, and if your team is distributed,
schedule times to work together in person. Our team tries to cowork
together at least once a quarter, and it becomes incredibly fruitful
time for us professionally and relationally.
- Enjoy it! Teleworking is a privilege that allows you to do your job
better. Your management is telling you that they trust you and
believe in the work you do. Take advantage, and let that show in
your passion, your commitment and your productivity.
Go [here] to learn more about NASA’s official teleworking policy.
The [Telework Exchange] is an interesting resource on the status of
federal teleworking, and includes GRC/Tony Facca’s great presentation
on [teleworking at NASA]. He also wrote a [nice article] on
teleworking in this past spring’s IT Talk magazine.
**What has your teleworking experience been like? What have you learned
that you can share?**
*(And thanks to NASA’s amazing Jim Hull for the use of his cartoon and
his inspiration. After all, the astronauts telework every day from the
space station - so let’s follow their lead!)*