10 Tips to Take Time Off and Still Stay Connected to the Office

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By Anita Campbell - People sometimes complain about technology encroaching on our personal time. As a business owner, however, I'm ecstatically grateful for technology.

Why? It's liberating. You can leave your office to handle personal matters or take time off, but still be connected and feel in control.

Tom Shaughnessy, director of business marketing for Sprint, has put together 10 tips for keeping abreast of business, but still participating in family get-togethers and festivities -- using your mobile phone.

I get lots of tips across my desk and most never make it out of my email inbox. But these were so good -- I learned a few new things I didn't know you could do with cell phones -- that I thought I'd share them:

1. You don't need to say, "Bah humbug!" to holiday fun in order to keep up with the news.

Friends, colleagues and family may be celebrating, but business continues to move forward whether you are in or out of the office; it's essential to keep up with the latest news and trends in your industry – even around the holidays. Don't miss the evening toast by leaving your friend's holiday bash early to check the news – many new smart phones offer On-Demand web content access with a push of a button allowing you to retrieve customized, up-to-date information such as business news, stock quotes and other headlines to keep you informed even when out of the office. Make sure you find a carrier with an extensive mobile broadband network so that you can have the full range of smart phone features available.

2. Don't wait until January 2nd to track your company expenses during a hectic end-of-the-year spending period.

During the holidays, the cost of fruit cakes and gourmet gift baskets can add up. Stay informed on the state of your company's cash flow to keep your business running smoothly. Need to know if you have enough cash to cover an office tree with all the trimmings or if a client’s payment has cleared? Consider paying bills and monitoring account balances on-the-go via your mobile phone.

3. Spread your holiday cheer from almost anywhere.

If you need to reach a company colleague or a member of the family while watching The Nutcracker, many smart phones now allow you to access Microsoft Outlook or other email programs, which store all of your contacts. Whether you want to send a quick 'thank you' email for a gift from a vendor or colleague to show your immediate gratitude, or follow up on new business leads after a holiday networking event, it's important to have your contacts at your fingertips.

4. Don't end up at the North Pole on your way to a fun holiday gathering.

Business holiday get-togethers are often held off-site in unfamiliar surroundings. When you get lost, it can be stressful and time consuming – and you might miss the office trivia game or delicious appetizers! Prevent losing your way by investing in a GPS-enabled phone, offering you step-by-step directions and even re-routing your way to your destination if you happen to make a wrong turn.

5. Access the office from the ski lodge or your tropical holiday getaway.

Whether you prefer the mountains or the beach for a holiday escape, it can be time-consuming to track down a WiFi hot spot. Stay connected to the office using a mobile broadband card, which allows for Internet access anywhere your wireless carrier has mobile broadband service. Utilizing a mobile broadband network makes it easy to transfer files, access email or stay in touch while on vacation, so you can concentrate on relaxing by the fire or the ocean. Make sure your carrier has an extensive coverage area for a fast and reliable connection.

6. Get organized and save on personalized holiday gifts for customers and colleagues.

They've made their lists and you've checked them twice, but have you made sure you're getting the best price? Business people can plan to take advantage of the shopping deals and save more on gifts for business associates by doing a little advanced planning and researching deals online. Smart phones and numerous wireless devices offer email for sales alerts, access to the Internet to view product pricing information and store hours, and To-Do list software to keep track of gifts and shopping deals all on one convenient device.

7. Never miss an important business call while running holiday errands.

Business activity never ceases, even during the holidays. If you need to be out of the office for an extended period of time to buy gifts or prepare for an extravagant feast, make sure your clients and colleagues can reach you on the go with call forwarding. When you forward office calls and voicemails to your mobile phone, it cuts out the added step of constantly calling in to check messages – saving you time. Many wireless providers offer various types of call forwarding services, ensuring you will always remain accessible.

8. Stay seamlessly informed of top business news during long holiday road trips.

It is difficult to stay connected to top news stations when you are traveling by car outside of your local coverage area. Instead of constantly scanning for top radio news reports on your vehicle's radio dial in each new region you travel through, consider purchasing a handset from a wireless carrier that offers satellite radio, such as Sprint. Sprint offers Sirius Satellite Radio, which gives customers access to news radio stations such as CNN, Bloomberg and CNBC, providing uninterrupted news coverage on the most relevant stories for your business.

9. Keep from being dubbed the office Grinch.

Business doesn't slow down just because it's the holidays but small business owners understand that their employees may need a bit more flexibility during this busy season. Make sure you and your team stay on schedule with important meetings and deadlines using a push-to-talk service. Sprint's Group Connect feature allows for instant connection with a group of up to 20 people anywhere on the Nextel National Network. The service is perfect for ensuring business proceeds as usual and the whole team participates, even if calling in remotely.

10. It's winter and your phone should withstand the elements.

With unpredictable weather during the holiday season, consider a rugged phone – originally designed for the military, but now commercialized – which can handle extreme environmental conditions including dust, shock, vibration, and/or extreme temperatures – and some that can even withstand rain. As you brave the cold outdoors ticking off that holiday shopping list this is a must-have.


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