Simulate Office Presence with Skype and VNC

June 18, 2009

Remote worker Former cubicle jockey Jonathon Wilson now works from home, but it's almost exactly as if he's at his desk at the office. In the comments of my recent article on working remotely, Jonathon explains his unconventional setup:

I still have my computer at work, in my office cube (right in the middle of things). I set up a webcam there along with speakers. I have second cam at home, and I simply Skype in to my own cube at work. Skype can be configured to auto-answer, if desired, so my 'cube' Skype simply picks up when I dial in...

... for hours at a time.

I also pipe my home desktop onto my cube's monitor (using VNC). This combination is very close to actually being there in the cube. People walk right up to my cube and talk to me, just like they do when I'm in the office. Because my code's up on the screen, we can work through issues there at my desk just like normal. Similarly, people glancing at my screen can see exactly what I'm doing (coding), so there's never a question of whether I'm actually doing my work from home.

I can 'overhear' the dev conversations in the cubes around me (just like when I'm in the office), and even pipe in. My coworkers and managers are quite used to it and its become completely natural. After trying many different things, this is, by far, the best approach I've come across.

(Bold section mine.)

Sounds like the office desk would really have to be in the middle of things to overhear conversations, and the microphone and speakers sensitive and loud enough to jump into those overheard conversations. I imagine this setup might feel strange to those not used to remote technology or office visitors. (Especially the VNC desktop remote control which looks like a ghost is typing away in front of you; that's always creepy the first time you see it.)

However, Jonathon works on a team of software developers, savvy folks most likely to get used to this kind of thing easily. It's a pretty neat solution for a team who's willing to participate and an employer who's willing to keep a remote worker's desk free and available for this use. For more on VNC, see my (somewhat dated) tutorial, How to control your computer from anywhere. Thanks, Jonathon!

Master the Art of Working Remotely [Work Smarter]

I worked once in home with logmein, between my desktop computer and my laptop.

Logmein only needs to be installed in one machine, and then you access to it, with the browser in any OS.

Work also with skype I think it’s fine.


Marco [+5]
Jun 18 09 at 1:31 pm

Sounds cool, love the idea of using Skype like this. It could help avoiding the undesirable effects of working from home (lazyness, the “I can do that later on, after watching the game on TV” syndrome) by bringing home the usual office peer-pressure. I wouldn’t mind trying this one out.

Manuel Diaz [+1]
Jun 18 09 at 1:54 pm

I think that you just gave yourself a new project:

“For more on VNC, see my (somewhat dated) tutorial.”

Nahhh, your probably too busy anyways. (never a bad thing)
Thanks :)

wewillchange [+3]
Jun 18 09 at 10:01 pm

Thanks for highlighting the comment :) It does work well, and I’d be happy to answer questions if people have them.

Comments are closed. Thanks for reading!