- They can be done asynchronously; they do not require multiple peoples' attention at the same time.
- They are not urgent; they do not require immediate attention.
- They do not require access to specialized equipment.
Likewise, tasks which require someone's immediate attention are difficult to do remotely, whereas tasks which do not require immediate attention can allow for more flexibility. For examples, let's turn to the medical profession. A doctor at a hospital might have a rather inflexible schedule. When he hears "Level 1 trauma. ETA 6 minutes by air." come over the loudspeaker, he has very little time to prepare and must respond immediately. Next week is not an option. Conversely, a primary care physician can schedule appointments with some flexibility. As an example, let's suppose I need to have a physical examination for work, before the end of next February. The doctor has quite a bit of latitude in scheduling me; in this case he is quite flexible. How flexible work is determines whether a person can work on a schedule different from his colleagues'.
Finally, many jobs require specialized equipment which could inhibit the ability to perform a role from a remote location. A physicist measuring the electrical properties of crystals would probably need highly specialized equipment, which could not easily be transported to a remote location. An astronomer, however, might be able to remotely access the computer she uses to control a radio telescope and could do her job just as easily from her office as she could from a beach in Australia.
That said, when identifying activities which can be done remotely, one must ask the following questions:
- Do I need to collaborate with others in real-time? How often must this happen? Can this be done effectively via technology such as videoconferencing?
- Am I required to respond quickly to critical issues? How timely must my responses be? Can I be available via cell phone or blackberry to respond to these issues?
- Do I require specialized equipment to do my job? Is there a way that I can access this specialized equipment remotely?
I'd be interested to hear what readers think about this. I'd like to find a good way to evaluate activities, based on these dimensions, to see if they can be done remotely.