Previously, on Bitches Get Riches…
Working from home can be a pretty sweet gig if you can get it, but it comes with unique challenges. Setting up a routine, taking strategically scheduled breaks, and removing distractions will help keep you on task and motivated.
Which is all well and good if you already have a job that lets you work remotely. But how does one lock down that coveted, elusive work-from-home job?
The legions of telecommuters are growing, according to the New York Times. And half of the United States workforce will soon work remotely, if Forbes is correct. Yet with all of these people gloriously working from wherever the hell they want, we still get questions from readers all the time that boil down to: “I can’t work on-site, but I also can’t seem to find any jobs that will allow me to work remotely. Where are they all hiding?”
The hunt is over, job-searchers! Here are a number of tactics for how you too can join the telecommuting army.
Apply for remote jobs
Start by understanding which industries are most likely to employ telecommuters: finance, insurance, graphic design, real estate, mathematics, computer science, information systems, communications, and media.
A career in one of these fields positions you quite well to ask to work from home (see below). Even if you don’t work in one of the most telecommutey industries, you still have opportunities to work from home. So don’t count it out! Unless you work in the field of rare, outdoor rose-sniffing and your career requires that you stand in a particular flowery meadow from nine to five every day.
There are a number of websites dedicated to posting jobs for work-from-home candidates. FlexJobs is probably the most common, but there’s also Remote Ok, Remotive, Virtual Vocations, and Working Nomads. These sites either only post telecommuting jobs, or have filters for narrowing your search to remote work opportunities.
And I’m not just a spokesperson… I’m a member! Kitty herself has used these sites to apply for multiple work-from-home jobs.
Read between the lines
Some job descriptions don’t outright say “this position open to a remote worker”… but it’s pretty obvious that it’s an option.
If a job sounds like you can do it on your own in front of a computer screen from anywhere on Earth, ask if you can! Once you get through the first round of interviews, there’s no harm in asking for the option to work from home. This also opens you up to job opportunities in other states and countries.
It can’t hurt and the worst they can do is say no. And hey, they might even say yes! Which gives you the satisfaction of having a job and being right.
And while we’re at it, make sure you’re really putting your all into that job search and application:
- How I Chessmastered Myself Into a Promotion at Work
- How To Get Ready For a Job Interview: Prep Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself
- Ask the Bitches: What the Hell Else Can I Do to Get a Job?
- How to Write a Resume so You Actually Have a Prayer of Getting Hired
- How to Write a Cover Letter like You Actually Want the Job
- The Ultimate Guide to Growing Your Salary
Work up to it
At my last job, I worked in the office five days a week for five years before I asked my boss if I could work from home on Fridays to take the edge off commuting stress. And he said yes!
I’ve heard this from many other people who work from home. They started working from home either part- or full-time only after spending a number of years working in the office. But once they proved themselves, they had the bargaining power to renegotiate the terms of their employment by requesting telecommuting.
Here’s a template for asking your current employer if you can start working remotely:
“I want to work remotely. You’re concerned about letting me work remotely because it’s new. I get it. Can we start with six months where I’m working one day a week from home, then have a performance review? If my performance slips, we can take it off the table. If it stays level or improves, can we increase to three days a week from home?”
Your workplace might not explicitly offer the option to work remotely. But again, it’ll be much easier to convince them to take a chance if you (1) already work there, and (2) do a goddamn amazing job.
So while it might not be an option to a brand new job candidate, proving yourself to be a dedicated and efficient worker could open up the possibility to work from home later on. And for your employer, working from home can be just one of many workplace benefits they can offer aside from salary to incentivize your work ethic.
That said, remember that for your boss, fairness is a big consideration when dealing with the requests of individual employees. After all, if they allow you to work from home, does that mean they have to offer the same perk to everyone? You can nip this problem in the bud by suggesting your boss tell jealous dissenters, “She’s part of a work-from-home pilot program. If it goes well, you’ll hear more about a formal program in the future.” This will legitimize your remote status and give other employees something to work towards.
Create your own job
It’s pretty easy to ask the boss to let you work from home full-time when you are the boss.
The biggest benefit of self-employment is that you make the rules. You define your role, your hours, your workplace, everything. For caregivers or the chronically ill or mobility challenged, self-employment might be the only way to ensure they have the flexibility to effectively manage life while still making money.
Of course, starting your own business or freelancing isn’t easy. If it were, everyone would do it! Which is why we recommend you check out our girl Kara Perez’s starter guide to freelancing over at her blog, Bravely Go.
Some job listings will helpfully advertise that you can “build your own business working from home!” This might sound like a pretty sweet deal. But scratch the surface and there, just beneath a thin tinfoil wrapper, you’ll find a turd.
The turd is MLM: multi-level marketing. That’s a fancy term for pyramid schemes.
If you’re desperate to work from home and you stumble upon a job listing that
- is vague about the product or nature of the work,
- promises a lot in the way of opportunities for “growth” but little in the way of a concrete job description,
- describes employees as “independent contractors,”
- expects you to buy discounted inventory with your own money to sell at a markup,
- has more glowing testimonials from independent contractors than client reviews, or
- seems to predicate its business model on recruiting contractors rather than selling a product or service,
don’t bother applying. It’s an MLM, and your financial success at such a triangle-shaped career is a mathematical impossibility.
Telecommuting for social justice
I used to have a coworker who was a widowed single mother of three. She came to the office on Mondays, Wednesdays, and every other Friday, and worked remotely the rest of the time. And I mean the rest of the fucking time. She was never not working, as I regularly got emails from her on Sundays and late at night. This schedule was necessary so she could balance her job with caring for her children. She got a little help from extended family and neighbors. But if her children needed a parent, she had to drop her high-powered job and step in to mom it up.
Her story is not unique. For many, many people with all kinds of extenuating circumstances, working remotely even temporarily could present the only solution in a life full of complications.
Besides single parents, there are millions of people living with disabilities or chronic illness. Others live in extremely rural areas far from available jobs, or are responsible for caring for relatives. All of these people could greatly benefit from working remotely.
And because we never miss a chance to make it about social justice here at Bitches Get Riches, let me just put it like this: a company policy against working remotely is discriminatory.
Studies have found that the option to telecommute actually helps to close the gender gap in salaries and employment. This is partially because women are disproportionately expected to take on caregiving duties at home, a responsibility that often precludes them from working on-site. But if you give people—and not just women, but anyone with caregiving responsibilities—the option to work remotely, they have the chance to stay in the workforce rather than interrupting their career or giving it up entirely.
Beyond caregivers and single parents and those with enormous responsibilities outside of the work sphere, remote work could do wonders to improve the economic and social status of people with disabilities and chronic illnesses. Another friend of mine is a paraplegic. His job search becomes frustrating when he shows up for on-site interviews only to find the building is not wheelchair accessible. And more than once he’s been told that no matter how qualified he is, telecommuting is not an option.
But if the job can be done remotely, why not?
Mindless adherence to tradition or “the way it’s always been done” is antithetical to progress. The workforce used to be largely segregated, but now we know that diverse teams actually work better and smarter. So if a company has stated goals about promoting diversity, offering the ability to work from home is crucial. It just makes it easier to employ women, parents, people with disabilities, and everyone else who needs that flexibility to take care of their health and familial responsibilities.
The case for remote workers
Just as remote employees have a responsibility to maintain professionalism when working from home, employers have a responsibility to give working remotely a chance (within reason).
During my last job search, I missed out on several jobs because they wanted me to relocate to work for them. It was irritating as hell, given the nature of my work (read: sedentary, reliant on little more than wifi and a steady drip of caffeine). But when I finally interviewed for my current job, I knew it was the right fit not only because they allowed me to work remotely, but because they considered it a bonus to the company.
More and more workplaces are promoting working remotely as an option because it’s a win-win. Employees are happier with a better work-life balance. And the business can often save money on much cheaper facilities management bills, tax bills, and transportation bills.
Want numbers? We’ve got numbers.
It’s estimated that if those with telecommuting-compatible jobs worked remotely just half the time, it would save the country $700 billion annually. That’s $11,000 per employee per year for the average company and $2,000-$7,000 a year for the individual telecommuter.
The reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would be the equivalent of taking the entire workforce of the state of New York off the road permanently. I call that frugal environmentalism at its finest. (Not that anyone cares because climate change is a myth and chem-trails are TURNING THE FROGS GAY.)
Offering a telecommuting option actually makes it more likely that companies will retain employees, lowering the cost of replacing them and training newbies. It also allows businesses to hire the most talented, qualified, bad-ass staff, no matter where they live.
You might think that all these financial savings and environmental savings are covering up a dark truth about productivity cost for remote workers. Not so! In fact, companies with employees who work from home actually reported an increase in productivity overall. Stick that in your Luddite pipe and smoke it!
Speaking of Luddites, I’m not here to shit on them and their aversion to telecommuting (this time). But an insistence on on-site employees is nearsighted, nostalgic, and could actually hurt businesses in the long run. A friend and fellow remote worker is currently being bullied by his boss to move so he can come into the office daily. He works remotely specifically so he can live near his wife’s workplace… where she makes twice as much money as he does. This is because, and I quote his boss, she likes “to see everyone.”
Motherfucker, that’s what Skype is for.
Technological advances make working remotely easier than ever. Working families have expensive, logistically complex needs. More than ever, our culture acknowledges the value of quality time. Given these realities, insisting on a presence in the office is seeming more and more backwards and counter-productive.
Working remotely doesn’t mean fucking off all day to go mountain biking and watch the new season of Queer Eye. (Though remind me to tell you about my lawyer friend who was contracted to write a thirty-page brief while working remotely on a beach in Bali.) It can be done with discipline and professionalism, just like office work. And normalizing it could help us all.