Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Remote Work

Several commenters have asked if I could move out of NYC and work remotely at my current job. I have definitely thought about this option. Unfortunately, in my current position, it would be a non-starter. There is certainly plenty of work I can do from home, but there are lots of meetings and face-time is required (the old-fashioned kind, not the Apple program!). Someone who works for me actually asked to work remotely and though I sympathized and wanted to say yes, my boss wanted to hold the line and say no. It’s seen as a productivity issue, and a fairness issue, I guess. There are some jobs where it may make sense, and some where it would be hard to measure productivity, so although there are some people who work remotely, they often say no, as they’re worried that the more they say yes, the more they’ll have to say yes to everyone just to be fair, and then the office would be a ghost town.

A lot of companies seem to want their employees to work remotely, so as to save on expensive office real estate. But then there is the question of office culture, team spirit, etc. I would certainly be interested in trying to work from home, but it would probably have to be a different job, with a different company. Or I could do some freelance consulting. I would love to have a flexible schedule, where I could bum around in jeans all day instead of having to get dressed up and commute to an office. But I do also worry a bit about whether my temperament is suited to it. When I have a day off, I can laze around for hours, getting distracted by solitaire and Facebook and reading the newspaper. I might not be disciplined enough to work from home. I think I’d also miss the social aspects of going to an office. Some of the suburban/rural areas we’ve considered moving to are actually within what many people consider commuting range— I work with people who travel up to 1.5-2 hours each way, so that’s a pretty wide radius around the city. But that kind of commute would just spoil any quality of life gains we’d get by moving, and those Metro North train passes are pricey.

So that leaves me thinking about what I could do for work from home, or locally wherever we end up living. I’m not feeling pressured to make a ton of money, so theoretically I could have a lot of options, but A) I’d have to figure out what those options are, and B) I might face some age discrimination. I’m not afraid to do menial work, and I did plenty of it when I was younger, but now that I’m pushing 50, I wonder if I’d be taken seriously as an applicant. I’m tempted to just apply for a bunch of random jobs to see if I could get one— kind of as an experiment in what today’s job market really is like. But I would also feel bad if I got a job that I didn’t really want for the longer term, but someone else might have really needed. So at least in the immediate future, I think I will try to focus on doing some networking in my industry to find out more about remote and freelance job opportunities and also try to talk to friends in other industries about what other kinds of professional jobs my skills would lend themselves to. But whether or not I find some other job, I’m becoming more and more certain that I’m going to quit and some kind of big change is coming!


bethh said...

I work remotely, and it's definitely got its challenges. I'm not sure I would want to move to a place where I might be socially isolated AND start working remotely - that'll depend on you and your need for human interaction! Having your sweetie around would probably help a lot with that.

I love not commuting and not having annoying coworkers, but I really miss having fun at work.

It sounds like exciting things are afoot!

Anonymous said...

Another remote worker here. My situation was kind of forced on me, as I took on an elder care responsibility several hundred miles away. I applied for a buyout program that my employer offered, but to my surprise my management fought to keep me. When I explained why I needed to go, they hatched the idea that I could expand the ~50% of my job involving software and diagnostics working remotely, and they'd bring in someone to cover the lab work that I would miss.

My initial reaction was similar to yours-- sounds great on paper but it'll never work. But then management sweetened the deal, if I give it a try for at least a year they'd give me the buyout incentive as a bonus. After the year if either side is unhappy, we split up on amicable terms. Well, I couldn't say no to that!

Today it's my fourth year on that program, and I really enjoy it. Apparently my management noticed a boost in my performance so they like it too. I've made no secret about the fact that I'm putting in fewer hours now, but in retrospect a lot of my face time in the lab was really detracting from my team's results because it was just creating unnecessary work and stress.

These past few years more of us have gone remote, and management has apparently found the secret to making it work. Basically it involves careful hiring, thorough on-site training for at least a decade, then trusting their employees to manage their own time and deliverables off-site.

Anyway best of luck to you whatever you decide (and of course congratulations on having gained the drivers seat!). One word of advice, when you tender your resignation be prepared to provide then a detailed list of what you'd need to stay on. They might very well ask for it to see what they can do.

T'Pol said...

I did some consulting work before I began working full time again a couple of years ago. I am lazy at home too. There are so many distractions at home to make me procrastinate. Going to customers and having meetings was easier but coming home, trying to put together reports and procedures? Not so much. I am planning to work part time again in the not so distant future but this time, I will not do consulting. I will be training. There is a subject that I am an expert on and I will be designing three different types of courses one being a full-semester course for colleges and two geared towards companies. The thing is, if this doesn't work, I will not care because hopefully I will be financially free and will not have to work again by then. Until then, I am holding on to my current job.