National Work at Home Week: MSN Services Help At-Home Workers Stay Connected to People and Information

PORTLAND, Ore., Oct. 4, 2000 — A typical day at the office for Chris Hanschka might begin in his bedroom and end in his 1998 Jeep Wrangler.

As a mobile home broker for one of the Pacific Northwest’s largest commercial real-estate management companies, Hanschka, 26, does nearly all of his work either from home or on the road. He purchases repossessed homes within the company’s 90-plus mobile home parks, arranges for the properties to be refurbished, and then locates new buyers for them.

“Most of my day is spent talking on the phone or sending email or going out to see people, so I decided I could be just as effective working out of my house as I would be in a cubicle at the company headquarters,”
says Hanschka, who started the job in August and spent the first two weeks driving to work before persuading his boss to let him stay home.
“I’m actually more productive now, because I don’t have to drive half an hour to get to my office or spend an hour going out to lunch every day.”

National Work at Home Week, which lasts through October 8, pays tribute to a rapidly growing group of U.S. workers such as Hanschka, who no longer punch the clock at a traditional place of business. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 3.6 million workers were based at home in 1997, the last year for which figures are available, compared with 1.9 million in 1991. Another 21 million people performed at least some work for their primary job at home, and six out of every 10 at-home workers used a computer in their daily tasks.

The lifelines of Hanschka’s business are his personal computer, fax machine and Web-enabled cellular phone. He also relies on the MSN services from Microsoft to help him keep in touch with clients, colleagues and information throughout the day, regardless of whether he is sitting at his desk or driving along Interstate 5 to meet with a prospective home buyer 100 miles away. An MSN subscriber since 1996, Hanschka uses MSN to manage his email, track the performance of his stock portfolio, send instant messages to co-workers and generally streamline his active lifestyle.

“I work almost entirely outside of my office, so having access to all these services from MSN on my cell phone is a huge time savings for me,”
Hanschka says.
“I don’t have to wait at my desk for someone to call me or send me an important piece of mail, because MSN gives me multiple options for getting that information wherever and whenever I need it.”

Convenience, Flexibility Mark MSN Offerings

MSN, which has more than 201 million unique users worldwide, is an integrated network of resources and services that consumers can obtain from any Internet-enabled device. Offerings include MSN Hotmail, the world’s largest email service with more than 70 million subscribers; MSN Messenger, an instant messaging service with more than 18 million users; and MSN Mobile, which delivers a range of personalized information such as news, financial information, appointment reminders, personal alerts, and even instant messages to consumers’ cellular phones, pagers and other wireless devices. Available in 17 languages across 33 markets, MSN has the largest global presence of any Internet portal.

Sarah Lefko, product manager for MSN, says the portal’s breadth of services and broad accessibility are well suited to the needs of at-home workers.

“For people who make their living from home and spend most of the day alone, it’s natural to start feeling isolated or out of synch with the rest of the world,”
Lefko says.
“We want MSN to feel like consumers’ home on the Web — an everyday destination where they can find content and services that help them feel well-connected in their professional as well as personal lives.”

Hanschka says he started using MSN in college and stayed with it because no other Internet services network offers the same combination of flexibility and comprehensive content.
“I signed up for an MSN Mobile account about six months ago, as soon as I bought my Web browser-enabled cellular phone, so I could have all the great MSN services available right in my pocket,”
he says.

Since his company manages property throughout the Pacific Northwest, Hanschka routinely juggles transactions and work schedules involving mobile homes scattered among several locations. He can’t be in two places at once, but Hanschka makes up for it by using MSN to communicate more easily with the parties involved.

“When a certain piece of property becomes available, I need to quickly notify the plumber, the landscaper, the general contractor and the cleaning crew that they can start working on it,”
he explains.
“Instead of making four separate phone calls, I can send one Hotmail message to everyone using my cell phone and MSN Mobile while I’m getting ready to drive to another site.”

What’s more, MSN Mobile automatically beeps Hanschka’s phone when one of the recipients sends a reply to his Hotmail account. People can also contact Hanschka through MSN Messenger for a faster response.

“If I’m meeting with a client at one of the mobile home parks or I’m traveling down the highway, I can just glance at the screen and decide if I want to look at the message now or later,”
he says.
“I don’t have to stop what I’m doing or look for someplace to plug in my laptop and check messages, because all the information I need is right there in front of me.”

Broad Range of Services for Busy Lifestyle

In addition to working full time, Hanschka is earning a master’s degree in computer science. He also manages a personal stock portfolio that in recent weeks has included as many as 30 companies. Hanschka says MSN is a handy place to go for help as he bounces among all of these different activities during the day.

“If I’m waiting for a fax to come in, I might open MSN Explorer to check mobile home prices on a manufacturer’s Web site or use MSN MoneyCentral to track my stocks,”
he says. Hanschka also subscribes to an online stock-tracking service that automatically notifies his Hotmail account whenever significant financial news — such as a change in interest rates — is announced or the share price for one of Hanschka’s companies shifts dramatically. MSN Mobile sends him a personal alert within seconds.

“I get that information immediately, so I can make a buy or sell decision right then and place a call to my stock broker,”
he says.
“It gives me a big advantage over someone else who might have to watch one of the financial networks or scroll through a bunch of Web sites to find the same news.”

Given his penchant for multi-tasking, another of Hanschka’s favorite MSN features is the ability to carry on multiple online conversations — even while he’s on his home phone with someone else entirely. Hanschka can exchange messages with one or more MSN Messenger users in separate dialogue boxes on his computer screen while still keeping the preview of MSN Explorer and his Hotmail inbox open.

“I might be typing a message to the president of the company in one window, asking my buddy about his weekend plans in another window and talking to a client on the phone while I’m replying to email,”
he says with a laugh.
“One conversation doesn’t have to interrupt another part of my work, and everyone can feel as if they’re getting my full attention.”

Making the Internet easier and more productive for consumers to use every day is the core value of MSN, Lefko says. MSN will continue to meet that goal by introducing new capabilities such as richer text editing tools in Hotmail and advanced appointment-planning capabilities in MSN Calendar. MSN also plans to offer higher-speed digital subscriber line (DSL) Internet access in the future.
“We’re taking many of the capabilities that are available in the business world and making them available to users in their homes,”
she adds.

Now that he has experienced the life of an at-home worker, Hanschka says there isn’t anything that would make him want to go back to commuting to an office. He notes that much of what he enjoys about his current schedule — the flexible hours, the mobility, the freedom to set his own priorities — is made possible through MSN and other Microsoft offerings.

“Without these services available at my fingertips, it would be a lot more challenging for me to work outside my office with anywhere near the same level of convenience that I have now.”

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