Hurricane Sandy has turned tens of thousands of Wall Streeters and other financial services professionals into working nomads. I should know. I'm one of them.
With commuting into the city a nightmare, and power outages and flooding making a return to many offices not even worth the trip, investment bankers, financial advisors and others who toil in various financial sectors are having to fend for themselves.
For the past week, I've staked out a chair and an electric outlet at my local Starbucks in Stamford, CT. Next to me is an investment banker from Credit Suisse, who rather than making the gauntlet-like commute into Manhattan is doing her deals over a cup of latte and her computer set on Skype.
Another acquaintance who works at Morgan Stanley, and whose home is without power, is doing his online content creation out of a hotel in Summit, New Jersey.
Those lucky enough who live in homes where power has been restored have turned their dens and family rooms into make-shift offices.
In a timely article, The Wall Street Journal offers a few tips to those of us who are being forced to work remotely by writing about what it takes to operate a home office, something the Journal says 3.1 million Americans already do. Here are some of them:
Making room for work
Have a quiet, dedicated space to do work is key for productivity. This may not be possible for us nomads, however. So I use ear phones that plug into my music files and shut out the chatter around me.
Tip two is probably more relevant for the working nomads. Find a coffee shop, hotel lobby, or any place that has internet access and power. Libraries are great too. According to the Journal you can locating places to do work using the Twitter hashtag #sandycoworking. National workspace locaters Loosecubes and LiquidSpace, and workspace provider Regus, also have databases of available.
Staying in constant touch will not increase your feelings of closeness to their co-workers, according to Kathryn Fonner of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, who co-authored a recent study on this topic. Chatty interruptions even caused workers to feel more stress and cut into their work flow, found Fonner.
Mind the communication gaps
Without in-person cues, such as gestures and facial expressions, managers need to be on the lookout for miscommunications, such as confusion over assignments, and should be willing to pick up the phone or schedule a video chat with staffers—especially when there are delicate issues to resolve, Wharton management professor Sigal Barsade tells the Journal. If it looks like the office will be down for some time, consider signing up for a number via Skype.
Make regular efforts to connect with managers and peers for status updates and to keep projects—and your career progress—on track says Joshua Billington, of Telework Advocacy, a group that advocates for remote workers.
Set office hours
Working remotely lets you pretty much set your own hours and during these unusual times of crisis and challenging situations you may need to be on a very flexible schedule. I divide my day between Starbucks, my mother in law's (which has power but intermittent web service), and a few restaurants that don't care if I have extended meals and where I can use my laptop. This serves two purposes. I can vary my locations and avoid stiffness from sitting in one place too long. And vary my diet. You can only eat so many Starbucks pastries before your belt rebels.
Go out for lunch
Even though you're already out, go somewhere different for lunch. Plus, in my case, Starbucks tends to get over-crowded, with people leaning over my laptop and giving me critical looks, as if they didn't like what I was writing. "Give me a break, Pal, I'm working here!"
Drop us your comments and let us know where you worked during the days following Sandy.