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4 Tools for Staying Out of the Office

Not that long ago, it was inconceivable for most people to work from home. Today, telecommuting is a realistic option for many folks -- if not full time, then at least a one or two days a week.

Even if you don't get to stay at home, though, there are ways to stay away from your desk. Perhaps you can work a half day at the Wi-Fi enabled coffee shop or just go to a common area in your office building for a change of scenery. The trick is to stay as connected and productive out of the office as when you're at your desk.

Thankfully, technology has caught up to our on-the-go work style. Here are some essential tools and strategies for working away from your desk:

1. Collaboration tools. Pick a collaboration tool and use it to keep in touch with our team, stay on top of project status, and collaborate on specific documents. There are a lot of options out there, and many are free, so shop around. I've recommended Convos, Tgether, and Shareflow, just to name a few.

2. Instant Messaging. Working away from your desk is great, but people need to be able to find you quickly. There's nothing more convenient than instant messaging. One of our favorites is Meebo -- it is Web-based and lets you connect to any IM service under the sun, so you can stay in touch even if your business contacts all use different IM clients.

3. Call forwarding. Does your office phone permit call forwarding? Many do. If not, do what I do -- don't use it. Long ago, I started giving out my personal cell phone number to my business contacts. That way, people can reach me no matter where I'm working.

4. Free conference calling. Rather than setting up a meeting in your office, do it over the phone., for example, does just what it sounds like -- it lets you make conference calls with as many as 96 callers. Try fitting that many folks in your office.

Photo by d'n'c