Closing Census

So I’m going to be officially closing my blog tomorrow (Friday 11th September). It will be my last day of remote working and I’d like to make sure all the loose ends are tied up before then. Today I wanted to share a few stats on the blog and on my work related to remote working (a bit meta there!), so here goes…

My blog has been running for quite a while, pretty much since I started working remotely back in 2008.

The blog has been running since 17th September 2008. That's almost 7 years, or 2551 days to be exact - 6 years, 11 months and 26 days!

It was pretty easy to write stuff at the beginning. I was actively encouraged by my line-manager (Brian Kelly) and it was a great way to support the team at UKOLN. Remote working was a new thing and there seemed so much to learn and not a lot of useful information out there. Over the years it has become harder to find topics to cover. My move to Open Knowledge and working as part of a distributed team gave me lots of new fodder, but often I’ve struggled to stay on topic and have strayed into the areas of e-learning and social media more generally. Here’s some of my favourite topics courtesy of Tagxedo:

talk topics

To be honest remote working is so normal to me now that I’m pretty scared about returning to an office! I’ve been having dreams/nightmares about turning up for work in pyjamas! I’ve mentioned my fear of being ‘home institutionalised’ to people – can I function normally in a more traditional working environment? We shall see – I hope the answer is yes!

378 blog posts

At times when I’ve struggled to come up with ideas for topics then guest blog posts have really helped keep things ticking over. These have allowed me to give a voice to others and establish a much needed community around remote working. They’ve also allowed us to hear about some great tools that people are using. I recently created some data visualisations looking at the authorship and timing of guest blog posts.

59 guest blog posts

Talking of tools I have used a couple of other social media ones to support this blog and my remote work. The main one is Twitter (here I just tweet about anything – not just remote work), but I also have a Pinterest board dedicated to images of remote working and Delicious account that saves related links.

1809 Delicious links

95 items on my Pinterest board

When I first began writing on this blog remote working was a lot more unusual than it is now and I actually ended up writing 4 published articles about it and giving a number of presentations on it. You can see my presentations on Slideshare. I’ve also written quite a few guest blog posts on other people’s blogs.

8 Slideshare presentations

So has it all been worth while? Has any one visited the blog or found the posts useful? I don’t know. There are some statistics on sites that link to this blog below but do they really show the value?

Google has found there to be 4,300 results when looking for this domain. Obviously 500 or so of these are the actual blog.

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 10.14.39

Moz is finding 2,387 links.

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 10.10.57

Check Your Link Popularity is coming up with 7,867 backlinks and 2,247 links to the home page.

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 10.07.57

Quite a lot of people have passed through this site over the years and a lot of people have emailed and talked to me about the blog. The numbers aren’t amazing but they’ve been steady.

stats

This blog began as a way to record my thoughts and findings and to some degree it has been a personal development tool. I’ve often referred to my blog as a memory aid – I tend to forget what I’ve done so it’s useful to have a record of it all online. Wherever I am I can search for my own ramblings on a particular event or tool. While being an open practitioner means anyone can see (and perhaps benefit from, or even criticise) your thoughts, it also means that you have access to them too. That has been a huge help for me and I’m going to miss it.

So tomorrow I’ll say a last goodbye…

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Data Viz of Guest blog posts

I am having a play around with Tableau Public for some work I am doing on the PASTEUR4OA Project. Tableau Public is free software that can allow anyone to connect to a spreadsheet or file and create interactive data visualizations for the web. It took me a while to get started (my operating systems on all my windows machines and macs weren’t up to date enough!) but now that I’m in I’m really getting the hang of it.

I can’t embed the javascript code here but you can go to my Tableau Public profile to see the interactive versions.

I started off with looking at how many guest posts had been submitted and in what month they tend to come in. You can see from the visualisation that March is a really popular month, followed by September and August.

Remote Worker Guest blog posts: What month do people submit in?

I then looked at how many guest blog posts are submitted by year. It looks like the number is on the decrease, see this visualisation.

Remote Worker Guest blog posts: Number by year

I finished by looking at the gender of my guest authors. The main trend there seems to be less male authors over time – not sure what I’m doing to drive them away! 😉 See this visualisation for details by year and this visualisation for totals (26 Females, 36 Males – 64 in total).

Remote Worker: Guest Authors by Gender and Year
Remote Worker: Guest Authors by Gender

I’ll continue to work on Tableau public for the project – hopefully my data visualisations will improve over time!

Sing the Theme Tune

So WordPress suggested I use a different theme, perhaps they could see my blog was looking a little tired. Apparently the Able theme by Automattic is an updated version of the Andreas09 I had before. So next thing I know I have a new theme. I could probably create a better header (what I currently have is grass – the blog is about remote working…hence grass – do you see what I did there?) but I’m just not great at design aspects. Anyway, in the name of nostalgia here is what my blog used to look like.

remoteworkerIf anyone has any suggestions on how I can improve the look and feel, please do let me know.

Merry Christmas to One and All…

I’m on holiday all this week so I wanted to take this opportunity to wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Thanks for reading.

Here’s a festive picture of my children beside the Christmas tree at Dyrham Park, near Bath.

Health and Safety Headache

hatThe words ‘health and safety’ don’t normally conjure up positive images in most people’s minds. Grass we can’t walk on for fear of cutting ourselves, benches we can’t sit on in case we hurt our backs, they’ve even taken away all the magazines in my local doctor’s surgery because they encourage disease to spread! It gets people’s goat up, but we are a Health and Safety obsessed society for a reason…some stuff can be dangerous!

So to avoid getting caught up in a Health and Safety drama it makes sense to know the facts.

Your employer is required by law to ensure that you have a safe environment in which to work under the under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. This applies whether you work in an office, which is under their control, or from another space, that is out of their control.

It’s strange but in the past when I’ve given talks about remote working there is always somebody who asks about Health and Safety. The problem is that most people are not sure of where they stand.

Working Environment

If staff work from home then an employer will really need to do a risk assessment to identify hazards etc.

Business link provide some useful resources on what this entails and typical hazards that might face homeworkers:

It’s also important that your check your workstation set up: for example check that your chair is adjustable, your computer equipment is safe, VDUs are free from glare and reflections, your keyboard is in the correct position, you are sitting correctly etc. These factors can be considered by self-assessment but if you do have any problems contact your employer. They won’t be able to help you unless you explain what the issue is.

The directgov Web site is also useful and has a good section on computer use.

I have carpal tunnel syndrome and now have a keyboard rest and mouse rest. I’ve also been offered a vertical mouse, though I’m not too keen.

A case study: Location Independent Working

The University of Coventry, Location Independent Working (LIW) project takes Health and Safety pretty seriously and after initial assessment of working environments provide considerable information on procedures. They suggest that:

  • Equipment supplied is be regularly tested.
  • Employees are provided with information and training on the safe use of equipment.
  • Employees are encouraged to take regular breaks.

However ultimately the location independent employee is responsible for day-to-day health and safety issues and for reporting any concerns to their line manager.

Full details are provided in their handbook.

I’ve recently had all my work equipment tested by a specialist electrical testing company. The process took less than half an hour and I know feel confident that I’m not going to blow myself up…at least not while working!!

fire

So health and safety needn’t be a headache as long as you keep it under control.

A Few Extra Pennies…

When I first became a remote/home worker my mother kept going on about how I’d be able to get tax relief on certain things. I didn’t really take much notice of her until I had a free moment just before Christmas and did a little search on it. It turns out she was right (aren’t mothers always!) and home workers can get tax relief for household expenses. This includes:

  • the extra cost of gas and electricity to heat and light your work area
  • business telephone calls

As is probably the case for most home workers my work already refunds all my business calls, I just hand in a copy of my bill with the relevant bits highlighted. However I have been using quite a lot of extra heating (see my entries on Wifi Worries and On the Sunny Side of the Street) and electricity so thought I’d have a go at claiming.

The HM Revenue and Customs Web site explains that you can get either:

  • A flat rate deduction of £3.00 per week (from 2008-09) for each week that you’ve got to work at home. This doesn’t include the cost of business telephone calls.
  • A larger amount if your extra expenses are higher than £3.00 – but you’ll have to show how you’ve calculated the figure.

The flat rate can be applied for by letter and doesn’t require any extra proof (expenses forms etc.). It seemed fairly straightforward. I found out my local tax office using the online tax office locator and wrote them a letter explaining my situation and including my national insurance number, my tax code (found on my monthly pay slip) and my payroll reference number (also on my payslip).

I’ve just received a letter back from HMRC explaining that they have changed my tax code and upped my tax free allowance. I’m a little unsure of the numbers and wouldn’t mind having someone in the know explain it to me but I do seem to be getting more pennies for the pound. I have yet to see the effect on my pay packet but at the moment when every penny counts it’s surely worth the price of a stamp.

Are other remote workers claiming this?