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Remote Worker Series: Oliver Bartholdson

Every week in June we profile a different remote worker from around the globe.

Oliver Bartholdson, Planet Technologies (@OBartholdson)

1. What are you working on?

I work for for Planet Technologies, a Microsoft Partner focused on SharePoint technologies. As manager of the Commercial and Non-Profit SharePoint team, I get to be involved in lots of different types of projects. Right now I’m involved in a couple of system integration projects between SharePoint and Dynamics CRM, and am leading a large project to develop a customer portal built in SharePoint.

2. What’s the biggest challenge of working remotely right now?

The lack of face-to-face interaction is probably my biggest challenge right now. I miss sitting in a room with my team and brainstorming. Granted I use some decent whiteboarding tools online, but it’s just not the same experience. You can’t electronically replicate the subtle cues of body language and facial expressions in an online meeting (especially if there’s lag in your video conference).

3. Describe your workspace/ How do you choose a spot to work from?

I work in my half-finished basement. While I have to look at piles of dirty laundry and insulation, this spot is still better than my old office upstairs. I have 3 children aged 2 and under (crazy, I know), so underground is about the only quiet spot in my house. Once in a while I work in my friend’s office in a converted art studio. Since most hours of my day consist of meetings and phone calls, having a quiet location with little-to-no background noise is key.

Oliver Bartholdson

4. What are the most important types of tools as a remote worker?

For me, having the ability to instantly connect with coworkers and clients is critical. Whether it be by instant message, VOIP call, video conference or screen-sharing, communication cannot be hindered by technology. I love seeing the availability of my team and my clients in real-time.

Beyond the communication tools, I need a reliable place to store my thoughts, meeting notes and tasks. It’s best for me to avoid paper notebooks altogether and get everything in my note-taking app (OneNote). That way I can get everything out of my head and stored somewhere for future reference. This also helps me disconnect when I decide my workday is over. Otherwise it becomes impossible to differentiate personal time from work time.

5. What’s the biggest misconception about remote work?

I never saw myself working remotely. In fact when given the option while working for a large financial services firm, I would always pass on the chance. I thought it would be incredibly hard to focus without the structure that comes from working in an office. I thought I needed the institution and the building in order to be productive and stay focused. I’ve learned that quite the opposite is true!

6. Top tips for working remotely?

Find a comfortable quiet spot where you can focus and try to remove all distractions. One of the best parts of working remotely is having the ability to choose your distractions, rather than have them forced on you. If I decide that I want to hang out with the kids outside for a while, I am consciously deciding that’s how I want to spend my time. If I tried to work in my livingroom, I wouldn’t have a choice but to focus on them and wouldn’t get anything done.

7. Do you think remote employees more productive?

Depends on the employee. I have seen it go both ways. I think most people are more productive simply due to the reduction of wasted time (commute, impromptu meeting, office politics and so on). Personally, I know that I am able to fit so much more “actual” work in a day at home compared to a day at the office.

Follow Oliver on Twitter @OBartholdson


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