Monthly Archives: November 2016
Two years ago, thanks to a cross-country move, I made the switch from working in a large, bustling office to telecommuting from the guest room of my 1,000 square foot apartment. While I knew that I would love working in my Uggs and that I’d miss the constant interaction with my co-workers, I couldn’t fully appreciate all the perks or understand all the downsides of home office life until I’d lived it.
Thinking of trading your cubicle for the couch? Here’s the real scoop about working from home: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The 5 Best Things
1. You Can Work in Your Pajamas
Yes, it’s the most cliché working-from-home perk. But not having to put on a suit (or anything, for that matter) every morning is a huge plus. Aside from the mere comfort factor, not having to try on outfit after outfit, shave, curl, primp, and prime saves you a good five hours every week. Cut out the commute , and you’ve earned a full extra workday of time.
2. You Avoid the Drop-By
In an office, it’s hard to avoid the impromptu visit from your boss, the CEO, or the co-worker who wants to give you a play-by-play of his kid’s soccer practice. At home, you can avoid all this. Sure, you may get the phone call version—but if you’re too busy or not prepared, you can ignore it and call back later. “Sorry, I was on a call with a client” works every time.
3. You’ll Never Miss a FedEx Package Again
Not being tied to an office from 9 to 5 opens up an entirely new world when it comes to life maintenance tasks . Like being home to receive deliveries. Or going to the grocery store at 3 PM, actually finding a parking space, and not having to enter a fist fight over the last jug of non-fat milk. Small things. But amazing ones.
4. You Can Multitask in Meetings
Calling in to a meeting rather than being there in person does not give you a free pass from participating; in fact, it’s even more important that you speak up. But there are, of course, those meetings that veer off track or that really only require your presence for a few minutes. And those are the times that working from home means that you can actually work instead of being tied up in meetings.
5. You Can be Loud and Crazy
Are you at your most creative with Metallica blaring? Love doing yoga to think through a difficult situation? At home, you can sit on your Pilates ball, pace (or stomp) around, or live out any other crazy habit without your co-workers getting annoyed or, more importantly, thinking you’re insane.
It’s that time of year: The season of holiday cheer, itchy sweaters, and gatherings with relatives from the nether reaches of your family tree. And somehow, everyone shows up prepared with probing questions about each other’s lives.
If you’re a remote worker like me, and your job isn’t easy-to-understand, then you’re accustomed to a line of inquiry that, while well-meaning, veers on the ridiculous. Here are six questions you may get asked, plus the perfect responses.
1. “How Does Your Boss Know That You’re Working?”
Grin. Bear it. Then answer the question.
I can promise you that the person asking it didn’t mean to take a stab at your work ethic. It’s just that the idea of nailing it on the job, without someone looking over your shoulder is new-fangled to your family. But with a little insight, they’ll get it.
So, give them some info about what you deliver every day and how you communicate with the people you work with. A story about video chatting or instant messaging makes things more clear.
Side note: This question usually comes coupled with the comment “I bet you get so much housework done!” I like to retort that my house is just as messy as my friends with 9-to-5 jobs, and sometimes it seems like I’m logging even more hours.
2. “Could You Get Your Cousin an Online Job?”
By working remotely, you’re officially your family’s ambassador for the internet and all things tech, period. You’ve probably “fixed” your share of Wi-Fi routers (by resetting them). Blew their minds by introducing them to Instagram. Performed miracles by defragmenting a PC.
Am I right?
Now in my case, I’m obligated to help with any and all questions career-related, because it’s kind of my thing. But my guess is that you don’t want to become your family’s digital career Sherpa, and that’s totally fair.
Pass the buck. Keep a grab bag of two to three job boards in your head for these moments. In addition to The Muse, I like Authentic Jobs, We Work Remotely, and Working Nomads.
This way you’re helpful, but not stuck helping anyone job hunt.
3. “How Do You Know You’ll Get Paid?”
Wow, Grandma is going there! But it’s only because she fears you could be working for flaky people—digital swindlers, dealing in snake oil. She just wants you to get paid, bless her heart.
This one’s pretty easy: Explain to her that you’ve done your homework.
Tell her about what you do to avoid all the creeps about there. About how you research the crap out of companies or clients that you consider working with. About the signatures, dotted lines, and terms you put into place to keep things above board.
She’ll smile and move on to your cousin’s “trendy” new hairstyle.
There’s a reason it’s called “the grind.”
The standard work week grates on many of us, but especially those who have children at home. They’re stuck in rush-hour traffic while their babies are getting baths and bedtime stories, their grade-schoolers are struggling with multiplication, and their teenagers are up to who knows what.
A recent study conducted by LearnVest revealed that more than half of workers would prefer a flexible schedule, or even a job-share. Two in three wish they could log their weekly hours over four days instead of five, and 43% want to work remotely.
But since these arrangements aren’t easy to find, especially with several high-profile companies ending work-from-home status for employees, many people end up feeling like work-life balance is impossible.
Not so for these three parents, who each found a different way to secure the flexible working arrangements that let them keep their dream jobs and keep up with their families. So, how did they do it, and what does it look like? We asked.
I Asked For It
Earlier this year, Teresa Coates landed an amazing gig managing social media for a fabric company in Southern California. One catch: The single mother had to relocate from Portland, OR to Los Angeles for the full-time office job.
She found a home close to a good high school for her 16-year-old daughter and near Coates’ own sister, but it was 40 miles—and 1-2 hours, depending on traffic—away from her office. “The commute is hell in LA,” says Coates. “It’s really about as bad as you can imagine.”
Coates would leave at 6 AM every morning and get home 12 hours later, too exhausted to cook dinner or even hang out. Her daughter was not coping well with the schedule, and neither was Coates. Moving closer to work wasn’t an option—they had already searched the area thoroughly without finding another location that was safe, affordable, and had good schools. Coates started second-guessing her decisions, but thought one thing might help: flex time. “My friends encouraged me: Just ask! If they say no, they say no,” she says.
After three months on the job, she sat down with her boss. “I said, ‘I know everyone commutes, but I’m a single mom whose daughter has anxiety,’” recalls Coates. When her boss asked what she wanted to do, “I said, ‘I’d like to work at least two days a week from home,’” she remembers. Her boss agreed to give it a try. They settled on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at the office, with Monday and Wednesday at home, and decided to reconvene after six months to see how the flex time was working out for everyone and if it could continue.
Related: Want to Work from Home? Here’s How to Ask Your Boss
“It was the best thing I ever could have done,” Coates says. “Our stress and anxiety levels are immeasurably better.” She still works from 7:30 AM to 4 PM every day, but saves herself six hours in commuting time each week (along with about $30 a week in gas). On her work-from-home days, she’s able to drop her daughter off at school, pick her up, and cook dinner. On the days she commutes, her daughter walks home from school or gets a ride from her aunt.
Coates is thrilled with the new schedule; her co-workers are adjusting. At first, she says, there were a lot of “Well, if you were here…” comments. But after a few weeks, everyone started to adjust.
“I really prefer the mix of being in the office and at home,” she says. “I work very effectively in the distraction-free zone of my home, but it’s also nice to get out of the house.”
I Looked For It
Maia Alees Walton adores taking care of children—that’s one of the reasons she became a pediatrician. But when her two bundles of joy came along, she realized that what she wanted most was to take care of her own.
“I’d wanted to be a physician since I was five,” she says. She was working 60-plus hours per week (five days a week in private practice, with additional evenings and weekends at a hospital and emergency center) when she got married and had her first child, returning to her job about six months after her daughter was born. “When it was time to go to work, she was crying, and I was crying. I didn’t want to go back at all,” she says. Walton decided to cut back her hours—to three days a week, then two.
“When I was pregnant with my second, I knew I really wanted to stay home with my kids,” she says. But she also didn’t want to abandon her dream job. Walton knew that urgent care centers often had odd-hour shifts, so she connected with one in the Atlanta area and worked out a make-your-own schedule to cover 6 PM to 9 PM shifts one or two days a week. “They said I could do one a month or 15 a month,” she says. “It’s totally up to me.”