Working from Home – Happiness

Rona Carr

Rona Carr

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Offering the option of working from home to an employee is not always perceived, by the employee, as something positive, and can, sometimes, create a feeling of mistrust and suspicion. Following, is an experience from an employee named Marla, a 40-year old married mother with two children who are 10 and 14 years old. She lives in the Northeast US.

I’ve been a senior customer service associate for a company that sells auto parts for 15-years. It’s not a particularly fun job, but I’ve always liked the company, mostly because of the people. We’ve worked together for a long time, and we see each other around town, go to the same baseball games, our kids are in school together.

Two years ago the company started talking about moving because of the economy and the cost of heating the office. They wanted to move to the South, where it would be warmer and not as expensive to do business. I was worried. My family wouldn’t want to move. My husband has a good job that he likes a lot, and the kids are in good schools and doing well. We don’t have any family in the South.

Last year, my supervisor asked me if I would think about working from home. I was surprised, and my first reaction was that it would be nice to be home when the kids got in from school. And when I told my husband that night, we both thought this could be a good opportunity. But when I spoke to a couple of my friends, they weren’t as excited about the idea. One said she’d tried it at another company, and hated it. She said she’d never felt so lonely, there was no one to talk to or have lunch with. The other one wanted to know if I would have to take a pay cut, and what would happen if I wanted to apply for a promotion. I hadn’t thought about that aspect of working from home, but I was meeting with my supervisor again later that week to give her my answer, and would ask a few more questions.

(See Out of Pocket: Financial Questions for Telecommuters and Managers, and Telecommuters Need To Develop Special Skills)

My supervisor thought working from home was a ‘no-brainer’, that I would say ‘yes’ right away. And when I started asking her about the equipment (the company would provide it), my pay (I wouldn’t lose any money or benefits), attending staff meetings (I’d have to call in to participate), and promotions or transfers (I might have to move to the company’s new location, but we’d talk about that when or if it happened), she actually apologized! She said that she should have given me more information when she first asked me to think about the offer. (See The Top Ten Benefits Of Working From Home)

While I was thinking about what she had told me, she shared that the company was going to move, and that there would be an announcement that morning. The company, she said, would begin downsizing, because not everyone was going to move, but that some parts of the business, like customer service, would offer a limited number of opportunities to continue working, but from home.

When my husband and I talked about it that evening, we both agreed that it would be a good thing for me to work from home because:

* I could be there when our kids got home from school
* My schedule would be a little more flexible and I wouldn’t have to punch a clock
* My work space would be steps away, instead of driving half-an-hour each way,
* Less money would be needed for gas and repairs on my car
* I could have music while I worked and the dog would keep me company
* I wouldn’t lose any money or my benefits, and
* The customers wouldn’t have to deal with someone else, and
* The company wouldn’t have to train a new person to do my job!

SUMMARY
To make working from home attractive to employees, communicate the benefits up-front. Honesty about the company’s reasons for making the opportunity available, and to whom, as well as the negatives, is critical in maintaining credibility and trust among employees, ensuring a smooth transition.

See the following articles for perspectives telecommuting:

“Getting Clueful: Seven Things The CIO Should Know About Telecommuting”
http://www.cio.com/article/108501/Getting_Clueful_Seven_Things_the_CIO_Should_Know_About_Telecommuting

“17 Telecommuting Pet Peeves”
http://www.cio.com/article/473164/_Telecommuting_Pet_Peeves?source=artrel_top

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