Working from home – is it for you?

In the age of Internet, 3G and cell phones, there’s no reason that you can’t work from just about anywhere. While a lot of companies still require a butt in a seat in a physical office, there are also a lot that are allowing for working remotely or at least flexibility for employees to choose where they work best.

I work for a company that falls into the latter category – we follow a modified version the Results Only Work Environment model (or ROWE), which basically means that we can work where we want, when we want, as long as the work is getting done and we’re meeting our commitments to our clients and co-workers. While I enjoy the flexibility, I often wonder if working from home is a good system for junior/mid-level staff who are still trying to learn the ropes and make a name for themselves in the workplace. After all (at least in my business of marketing-communications), there’s still something to be said for the “people factor”.

I’ve determined that it’s not a 100% great or terrible set-up. However, if you’re thinking of taking a job where your physical location of doing work is flexible, here are some of my observations:

  • You have to be disciplined: While there are distractions at the office, the distractions at home are different. Oh, I’ll just throw in a load of laundry. Or empty the dishwasher. Or I’ll just have the TV running in the background.It never works. When you’re working from home, you need to be in the mindset that you’re still working and, while it’s okay to do the side stuff, make sure you’re still available to those that need you.
  • It should be a privilege, not a habit: The flexibility of an option to work from home is different from permanently being remote – so don’t treat it that way. Chances are, you still report to people or have someone that reports to you and they need to see your face. Working from home 2-3 days a month is fine. Doing the same 2-3 days a week is annoying. (Unless you do actually work remotely, which is totally different.)
  • If you have the flexibility, take advantage of it: This is one I’m guilty of not doing. We can work from home (or a coffee shop or the library or whatever) and I rarely do it. The fact of the matter is, though, that getting out of the cubicle can be a good change of scenery.
  • Don’t work from home on a meeting-heavy day: It’s always more helpful to be in meetings in person if you can help it. Avoid the dreaded conference call and just be in the office for meetings whenever possible.
  • The pain in the butt “four hour window”:The absolute best days to work from home is when you’re waiting on the cable/plumber/furniture/Internet/fill-in-the-blank guy who’s coming in that famous four-hour window (which, let’s face it, always means the last 30 minutes before your scheduled window runs up) to fix/install something. Don’t speed home when you get the “on my way” reminder call. Just work from home and be productive, despite your service call.

Those are just a few of my thoughts. Did I miss anything?

Fall is in the air (or it will be)

Halloween is my favorite holiday, so I can’t wait for the decorating to begin. Click on the photo to check out my extensive Pinterest Halloween board! Photo courtesy of Matthew Benson.

Despite the fact that this is arguably one of the hottest weeks of the entire summer, I can feel autumn trying to make its way into the air. Fall is my favorite season (even though it’s followed by that unfortunately famous Minnesota winter) and I just love seeing the signs creeping in that it’s on it’s way:

  • Michigan State football kicks off this Friday.
  • Pinterest has exploded with ideas for decorating with leaves, pumpkins and skeletons.
  • The early apple varieties are ready and this year’s crop looks like it’s going to be good.
  • The Minnesota State Fair is starting its second and final week for the year and will wrap up over Labor Day weekend, a sure signal that summer is leaving and fall is ready to grace us with her presence.

Can’t wait!

On the road again

Two years out of school, I still feel like I’m learning the ropes of what it means to have a “big kid” job. This summer’s lesson has really been about the fun (and not-so-fun) parts of a job with lots of travel.

In my office, I’m one of the people who doesn’t have any clients based in Minnesota. That means, in addition to lots of phone calls and emails, I get to travel quite a bit. Since the middle of June alone, I’ve been to Denver, Steamboat Springs, Kansas City (three times) and St. Joseph, all for work trips. A traveling job isn’t for everyone, so here are my thoughts:

The Good Stuff

  • Getting to see people – Who exactly you get to see can be different based on your job, but if you have a traveling job, it’s likely that you’re seeing people you usually don’t get to on a daily basis. Beyond my clients, my work trips give me the chance to meet with sales reps and customers. A lot of times these people can give you insight on what’s really going on “in the field”, which can help you do even better work.
  • Visiting new places – Since I started my job, I’ve been to Scottsdale, AZ, Jackson Hole, WY, a whole host of places in California and Steamboat Springs, CO – all places I’d never been before. It’s true that, a lot of times when you’re traveling, you don’t get to see the sights because you’re so busy with work. I’ve been lucky enough, though, to have some pretty neat outings scheduled right into the meetings at these places, which means that adventuring is part of my time there!
  • A break from the cubicle – If you have an office job like me, you know how nice it is to get a break from the ordinary. Even though you’re still working, a change of scenery can be great for your attitude and can help you come back to the office with a refreshed view on things.
  • Bonding with co-workers – Getting away from the typical office setting can be a really good thing for relationships with your co-workers. When you travel, there could be time at the airport, road-tripping or dinners where you can just talk about non-work stuff (or even work stuff, but in a much more casual setting). Some of the best “get-to-know-you” time I’ve had with my work team has been while we’re out on the road.
  • The food! – I’m not going to lie. We get to eat at some pretty kick butt places while we’re traveling and this food lover can’t complain.

The Not-So-Good Stuff

  • Too many nights away from home – When you first start out traveling, it can seem pretty glamorous with all those nights in hotels and fancy restaurants. After awhile, though (especially when all the travel falls back-to-back), you start to just want to be home in your own bed, hanging out with your family. Luckily, it’s just me and my fiance at home and he’s pretty understanding of my hectic travel schedule. For people who have more travel than I do, though, and who have kids, I can imagine this would be even more difficult.
  • Still have to get your work done – Just because you’re coordinating a customer meeting or spending your day manning a trade show booth or getting some professional development training doesn’t mean that your work back in the office stops. The calls from clients and co-workers still roll in, which can mean some late nights trying to keep up on your regular work in addition to the work you’re doing related to the trip.

Overall, I would rank traveling for work as one of my favorite parts of the job. The few downsides are challenging, but they definitely don’t outweigh the major positives that come with getting out of your typical routine for some atypical (and maybe even new) experiences.

What about you? I’d love to hear from some other work travelers. Did I leave anything off the list? Considering a job with travel and have questions? Let’s hear ’em!