Caitlin Sykes

Caitlin Sykes is the NZ Herald's Your Business editor

Small Business: Teleworking - Jochen Daum

Jochen Daum, founder, Automatem.
Jochen Daum, founder, Automatem.

Jochen Daum is the founder of Automatem, which specialises in building, upgrading and managing large-scale websites with the Joomla content management system for education and technology exporters based in Auckland. He moved from Auckland to Tauranga in November 2012 and works from home.

What role does teleworking play in your business?

Teleworking is critical to how my business fits into my lifestyle, and it has had a huge impact on my business and family. When I lived in Auckland it allowed me to participate much more in the activities of my children, as it made travelling to my office unnecessary at times.

When I moved to Tauranga it also eliminated my biggest business expense, which was office space - even compared with working in a coworking space, which I did for a number of months in Tauranga. Having worked only from the home office for a while, I've also noticed a significant saving in terms of travel time.

By my definition, teleworking is also about not seeing your clients in person regularly. When I first moved to Tauranga I initially travelled to Auckland and spent a day there once every two or three weeks. This now happens only on a casual basis - maybe once every three or four months.

In addition, I've found that my meetings with clients have become more productive; clients now tend to formulate their thoughts more often in writing - through email or web-based collaboration systems - so our phone meetings are more productive and to the point.

What kinds of technologies have you found useful for teleworking?

Voice over IP phones allow me to keep my Auckland phone numbers at no additional cost, allowing my clients to communicate with me as before. I am also a heavy user of Skype, largely because it allows hands-free usage and the ability to make good-quality video calls.

I am using web-based collaboration tools much more since teleworking. It's a good way to keep the clients' information available to them, me and other people working on a project. Secondly, with many clients we have established a weekly phone catch up, which is tracked through such tools to increase accountability and tracking of progress.

I am also using web-based meeting/screen sharing tools much more now and invested in a commercial licence for Teamviewer, which comes at a fairly high capital cost, but on a two-year basis is cheaper than comparable tools.

I also use two 24-inch monitors with my laptop as well as a smartphone with data tethering.

What are some of the challenges in terms of teleworking?

On the surface I thought discipline and focus would be more easily achieved in an office environment, but I've found time can be used just as unproductively in an office. When working at home the distractions may be housework, children, partners and other social interactions. I think web surfing and social media is a time risk in both environments.

To cope with this I keep a detailed track of my time and and review this at least weekly, with the help of a time tracking tool called WorkflowMax. It has also helped me ensure my work hours are regular - from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, as this establishes clear expectations.

What are your top tips for other small business owners wanting to get the most out of teleworking?

1. Don't skimp on technology. Get VDSL or fibre to the home, a flexible smartphone data plan and a good VoIP phone system.

2. Make work as comfortable as possible. A home office should have at least as many resources as a commercial office.

3. Invest in web-based tools to help you work with clients more effectively and efficiently.

4. Working from home is a win-win for both client and service business. The time saved can be used for reducing costs, decreasing turnaround time and providing other benefits to both parties and it helps if you sell it like this to clients.

Coming up in Small Business: With Easter is on its way, I'll be looking at small business chocolatiers. If you're keen to get in touch, drop me a note: nzhsmallbusiness@gmail.com.

- NZ Herald

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