Wilson Rey wasn’t looking to telecommute when he started a new job as a systems engineer at a major health care system three years ago, but with two young children, he soon realized the benefits of being able to work remotely several days a week. He was able to spend more time with the children and had more flexibility to get them to activities while staying on top of work.
His wife, April, an insurance broker, was thinking of saving money on commuting costs when she asked to work from home one day a week. She found the greater benefit, however, was being able to get more done, along with having more family time.
How well does telecommuting fit with your job?
Wilson: It’s easy for me. The computers we work on are all off in a distant location, so we’re working remotely whether we’re in the office or somewhere else. There are seven on our team and most of us work from home a few days a week. We don’t need to be in the same place. We’re in touch by phone and video conferencing as needed.
April: My job is in insurance and risk management and my clients are all over the place. I need some time with colleagues, but a lot of what I do can be done anywhere.
What’s the biggest challenge of working of working from home?
Wilson: For me, it’s making sure I have the right connections. I need to be able to get online and access the servers all the time. If something goes down and the network isn’t working, I can’t do my job, so I have backups.
April: I am a creature of habit and I have things set up a certain way at the office, but I haven’t really replicated that at home. It was a bit of adjustment, for instance, It took me a while to get used to taking calls on my cell phone. But I’ve gotten better, and it won’t matter because we’re getting a new system to make calls through the computer. Really the technology has improved so the communication is pretty seamless.
How do you make it work when there are two people working from home?
April: We have only one home office, but we usually work remotely on different days so we can both use it. I often work in other areas of the house, so if we’re there together, I just find a different place to be.
How does your team stay connected?
Wilson: We have meetings in the office, but even then we use video conferencing because not everyone will be on site. When I’m not in the office, I’m available by phone or video conferencing. Because I’m offering support, it’s over the phone whether I’m at home or in the office.
April: We use instant messaging a lot. We use it in the office, so it’s not all that different from when we’re offsite. We also use WebEx and the phone.
What do you like about working from home?
Wilson: The flexibility is great. I can pick up the kids if I need to, and when school is canceled, it’s not a big problem. It’s easier to work out their schedule. The kids still do after school programs, but I can get them to places if needed.
April: It’s nice not having to get up super early. And, I can be a little more involved with my kids. I can see them off to school and pick them up after.
Plus, I’m a gabber. I get more done when there’s no one to talk to. In the office, there are people and distractions.
How do you make it work with children around?
Wilson: We work around their schedule as much as possible. We schedule conference calls for the times they’re in school or at their activities.
April: If we have to take a call when they’re around, we let them know now to disturb us. They’re usually able to solve their own problems and keep themselves busy, but it helps to talk about it so they’ll know what to expect.<
What’s your advice for remote work?
Wilson: You have to know your potential distractions. I don’t work in front of the TV. If I worked in front of the TV, I wouldn’t be as efficient as I am. Also, make sure to schedule break time. I find that I get so wrapped up in what I’m doing I don’t take breaks and I tend to eat lunch later.
April: Think about what you can do most efficiently at home. Those are my days to go through my emails and do the tasks that require more concentration. I also try to avoid setting up client calls on the days I’ll be out of the office. I would rather take those when I’m at my desk with all of my materials nearby.