Today’s tools and strategies offer a myriad of ways to work remotely. Even considering this, working remotely has many technical challenges.
Think of it, this way: IT at most companies has the network and machines setup to work on-site. Additionally, they might also have setup ways for people to work off-site, on occasion, such as when they travel to conferences, go on vacation, or are merely working from home on an evening or weekend. This is not the same as having a strategy for long-term, off-site work.
There are many things that can go wrong for an off-site worker. In most corporate networks, if your password expires, you must be on-site to change it. The network is usually setup to send the person a reminder ahead of time. This works fine when the person goes away for a week or two. For most people on the network, the reminder is sent far-enough ahead of time that the person will either be able to change their password before they go anywhere or, if the reminder comes while they are gone, there is enough lead-time that their password won’t yet be expired even when they return to the site. But when a worker is primarily off-site, they can get the reminder right after a visit and long before their planned return. If the person is an hour’s drive from the site, it’s easy to drive over to repair this situation. When the person is coming from another part of the world and a trip costs the customer a few thousand dollars, it’s not as easy to remedy. It’s compounded by any other travel restrictions that would prevent the person from returning to the site (as my project ran into when volcanic ash prevented ALL the remote team members from returning to the project for awhile).
That’s just the tip of the iceburg. There are many other technical issues I’ve run into and had to deal with. Just when I feel complacent about the fact that I know how often the passwords change and have plans for that (I have a reminder to myself to change my password every time I’m on-site, for example), it is just at that point when I discover some new twist or item I hadn’t previously run into.
This is why good help is critical. The current Help Desk I work with is not specifically equipped to deal with this. However, with that said, they have found ways to get me help. So, while it is not what they’re setup for — to assist someone who works off-site, regularly, and is too far away to come back to fix their issues — they have managed to get around it. Not every Help Desk has this willingness or ability, though, and this can be one of the keys to having this type of off-site situation working – or not.