By Jim Neumann. Jim is customer support specialist at DEVONtechnologies and works from home in Michigan, USA, or any other place he likes.
Your alarm clock didn’t go off, your hot shower was lukewarm, traffic was backed up, you spilled coffee when that red coupe cut in front of you, and the boss was eyeing his watch as you limped in to your cubicle. This is a typical morning for a commuter. But there’s an alternative. According to current research, in 2014 almost 2.9 million people in the US alone telecommuted for For Profit employers. I am one of them. So what is telecommuting really like?
Left: Jim with Bill and Heike (at the table in the background), working from Bill’s cabin in Indiana, USA; Middle: Eric’s secondary desk in the garden house office; Right: Jim playing the dulcimer during an open-air meeting with his colleagues from Europe.
Work from home? You wake up and you’re already at work! No need to rush out the door in the morning (or scrape ice off the car windows, for those in colder climates). No weather, traffic jams, road rage, etc. to contend with. Just wander into the kitchen to turn on the coffee pot, fire up the computers, and start your workday. (And yes, you can work in your pajamas with a cup of cocoa when you want to.)
Another nice thing is you’re with all your own things. Whether it’s a favorite musical instrument, a blanket, or even snacks in your pantry, they are all right there as you work. (Or with a laptop, sit in the backyard on your favorite lounge chair during the summer.)
Work from anywhere? Working from home is nice, but it can lead to not getting out often enough. With WiFi being so common is it is easy to find another “office” to work at. This could be a local restaurant, coffee shop, or even your public library. With a laptop, your “office” is anywhere in the world you get WiFi. So, if traveling suits you, you can take a road trip and work at various restaurants and motels along the way, though this also depends on your scheduling. (Note: Some employers may require you to be in a certain known location. Apple at-home Support personnel have to have a space in the home set aside for their work.)
What kind of schedule? Well, you can look at it two ways: irregular hours or flexible scheduling. I prefer to see it as flexible scheduling. This means that I have leeway in my schedule and can adjust my schedule as needed. If I need to go to the doctor, I can just go and adjust my hours as I need to. (Note: Not all telecommuted positions allow for this.)
Any downsides? Telecommuting can be a bit lonely since there are no coworkers to talk face-to-face with. If possible, use Apple Messages on your Mac to chat with coworkers. (I don’t suggest using it on your mobile device or Facebook, etc. as it’s too easy to get distracted. You are “at work”, remember.) Waitstaff in a local eatery often make for great “coworkers” (though again, keep your work in mind as a first priority.) Also, the idea of telecommuting for many people is just working from home, so seeing a telecommuter in a restaurant is still a bit novel for many people. When working from outside locations be prepared to answer some friendly questions about, “Hey, whatcha doing there? Two computers? Wow!” I have met many interesting people while working at restaurants.
Also, since there are no bosses around, you need to be self-motivated and manage yourself well. Be disciplined about your work schedule. Even if you have flexibility, it’s best to have a start time for your work day and sticking to it. Remember: This is as much a real job as any other job (and in some ways, harder than others).
So, if you’re looking for a job or thinking about a change (and who doesn’t like pajamas and cocoa!), consider adding “telecommute” to your job search criteria.