Is working from home worth giving up a management position?

Everett SizemoreEverett Sizemore, director of SEO innovation at US company seOverflow, has been working from home full time since 2010. He tells Flexible Boss why his management role had to go.

It is not at all uncommon for an employee to have to give up a management position and/or take a pay cut in order to work from home full time. This could come in the form of an ultimatum by the employer, or simply work out that way naturally as a result of some of the issues discussed below.

There are many valid reasons an employer might give to justify the pay cut or demotion. For example, some of your responsibilities are likely to be performed by someone else. I tried to manage several people from afar when I first began telecommuting three years ago, but they often went to others when they needed help, which put the burden of my responsibilities on another manager. Even with all of the conferencing technology available, which allow virtual face-to-face meetings at any time, it is tough to manage in-house staff from home. If everyone in the office telecommutes it may work out differently, though I have no experience with that particular scenario.

Voluntary pay cut?

Giving up a managerial position for the privilege to work from home will likely result in a voluntary pay cut. Those who are unable to live on less and stay out of debt may find this a difficult pill to swallow. Everyone has their own idea of happiness and security, and for many the additional income and advancement opportunities may be worth the added responsibility and commute. Those who can budget themselves, buying only what they actually “need”, may find it easier to deal with a pay cut. After all, it is amazing how much you can save on gas and food alone once you stop driving to work every day. I find the extra time I spend gardening, working in the yard, hiking and playing with my son outdoors saves me about $30 in the gym membership I’d need without these physical activities I now have time for.

Staying in-tune with the company culture is more difficult when working from home. In my experience as little as two days in the office each week seems to be enough to retain the “cultural advantage” in-house staff have over full-time telecommuters. I currently work for a company in Denver, Colorado and live in rural southwest Virginia. It has been over eight months since I have been to the home office, and it really shows. I don’t get the inside jokes. I don’t know who the new employees are. I’ve never seen the intern that has been involved in my projects. As trivial as these things may seem to some, they do present real challenges to me being the best I can be at my job. Furthermore, I miss the sharing of knowledge and the camaraderie of working with others. We are social creatures, and working in a room by yourself for months at a time does get lonely. Thankfully, regular trips to the office, working from cafes occasionally, personal office-share arrangements, networking events, lunch with friends and colleagues, and conferences can all mitigate this issue.

Missing out on politics – good and bad

Related to culture, company politics is also something you begin to move away from. In most ways this is a good thing, as the lack of politics is one of the reasons most people want to work from home anyway. The downside has to do with the phrase “out of sight, out of mind” and could cost you promotions, raises, the chance to lead an exciting project, and even the chance to defend yourself against criticisms. Your sway on the future direction of the company may drastically decrease. People may forget to inform you on very important changes within the company. You may miss out on important meetings that you should have been involved in, but weren’t because they were called at the last minute and you were unavailable. In short, you may lose some power.

Less chance for future career advancement. Less power. Less money. These are all things that you may have to accept if you decide to work from home full time. On the other hand, when you take the management of other people out of the equation it becomes much easier to enjoy your new-found freedom. If the day is nice and I have no meetings I can spend the afternoon gardening and make up for it in the evening. I save money in all kinds of ways, including gas, food, gym and daycare fees. I also have an extra two hours every day, or 10 hours a week to do with as I please now that I’m not spending that time in traffic. Think about all that you could accomplish with what is essentially an extra workday each week. For me, this means time to work on my own web and book projects, thus working toward the eventual goal of not working for anyone else at all.

Are you in management and considering the move to telecommuting full time for your current employer? What are some of the problems you are running into, and how are you addressing them?

Everett Sizemore works for seOverflow, an inbound marketing company in Denver, from his 17-acre homestead in rural south-western Virginia.

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