Practical advice on work issues
In theory, work can be done just as easily out of the office, when you’re on the move, as from behind a desk. Technology means we can. The reality is a bit more complicated, however – not least because technology has the unfortunate habit of letting us down at crucial moments. It takes a while to get the hang of constant travelling and working and you have to be a lot more organised than you do when going into the office each day.
1 Be organised
Good organising skills are essential when working on the move. You don’t want to be caught on the hop 30 miles from the office without a piece of crucial information. You need to know what you’re doing, where you’re going, how to get there and have all the necessary information with you.
2 Manage your time
Good organisational skills tie in with good time management skills. In fact, Angela Baron, adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, thinks the two can’t really be separated. “You do need to be good at time management and planning your work schedule when working on the move,” she says. “You need to know what you’re going to do where. You need to plan your time well – for example, leave your reading for any train journeys.”
If time to catch up on reading or writing up case notes is short, then use any spare periods such as train journeys wisely.
3 Keep in touch
The other thing Baron at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development thinks is essential is staying in contact with the office. “If you’re out and about a lot you have to keep in touch with people,” she says. “You need to pass information back to the office about what you’re doing and where you are.”
People who travel a lot sometimes complain that they feel out of the office loop, so it is important to maintain regular contact so that you and your colleagues can keep each other informed.
4 Be realistic
Don’t overestimate the amount you can get done in a day or an afternoon and commit yourself to too many meetings. Or, another classic trap that people fall into, leave insufficient time between meetings so that you’re always rushing and running late. Not only is it stressful, but it won’t look professional either, so only arrange as many meetings/visits as can feasibly be done in a day or an afternoon. If you schedule your meetings so that there is always adequate time to get from one place to another you can always catch up on telephone calls, reading and writing up case notes or other such work while waiting for your next meeting to start.
5 Keep it confidential
It is surprising how many people let slip sensitive information in public, whether it’s reading out credit card details over the telephone or telling a colleague about someone’s case history. Don’t do it. Anyone working and travelling on public transport has to be extra careful about maintaining confidentiality and being discreet. “Don’t having a sensitive conversation on your mobile on the train,” says Baron. “Save it for somewhere private.”
You also need to make sure you keep hold of all your work and IT equipment. The great thing about laptops is they are portable, but the downside is they are all too easily forgotten. Even M15 agents have been known to make this mistake.