remote work

Tax Time for Telecommuters

snoopy-irs-cartoon

A few last-minute things to keep in mind

Though perhaps you are reading this in lieu of actually DOING your taxes, if you are a telecommuter these tips just might help. With the tax deadline looming, here are a few things to keep in mind and some deductions you may not know about:

1.  Home Office Deduction

2e0b5dd04e985fb995cce05092e64df2The IRS allows you to take deductions for your home office — whether you are a freelancer OR an employee.

You don’t necessarily need a dedicated room as long as you have a consistent, delineated area that is the SOLE place you do your work; it must not be used for any other purpose.

If your work requires you to go out and meet with clients, for example, and you spend much of your time out of the office, you can still claim a home office deduction as long as you perform administrative tasks there regularly.

In recent years, the IRS has allowed for a simplified home office deduction: $5 per square foot up to 300 square feet or $1,500. Otherwise, you must calculate what percentage of your home’s overall space is taken up by your office to determine your deduction. Office related expenses can also be deducted: office supplies, the relevant percentage of utilities such as phone, internet, and heating.

2.  Travel Expenses

Auto and public transportation expenses can both be deducted but only when traveling between one workplace and another–this does not include your typical commuting costs from home to work. It is important to keep meticulous records. However, if you haven’t been keeping track faithfully you can also take a percent deduction based on how much of your travel expenses are business related.

toon-1808

 

 

3.  The 2% Floor

Home office and other business expenses are only deductible if they are above 2% of your adjusted gross income. If your total business expenses add up to less than that you are ineligible for deductions. The IRS defines allowable deductions as things “ordinary and necessary,” such as dues to a professional organization  or relevant magazine subscriptions.

 

 

4. State-to-state Taxes

A telecommuter who is able to work from anywhere in today’s mobile workforce may be located in a different state from that in which the employer is based. This can make things unexpectedly tricky. A few states, among them New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Nebraska, all have laws that tax earnings of nonresidents, and many other states seem to be leaning in that direction as well. So be aware that extra taxes may be required of you. While there are many boons to telecommuting, avoiding state taxes isn’t one of them!

While this may seem like an oxymoron–Happy Tax day! Or make it a happy tax week if you’d like to file for an extension. Either way, hope you don’t find it too taxing.

Please share your tax tips!

 

 

An Exciting Time

survey

Final Validation of our upcoming Telecommuter Fitness Assessment (TFA)

 

Do you work remotely — away from your main office — at least two days a week?

If so, and you have 10 – 15 minutes, we’d politely ask that you help us out.  We get that your time is valuable, so we are offering a cash prize for one lucky person who does help us out (also our Industrial Psychology experts tell us that a prize will motivate you!)

As experts in the field of virtual work, we recognize the increased importance of telecommuting in today’s organizations.

For the past two years, we’ve been developing an online assessment tool that evaluates telecommuting work habits.  This tool — the Telecommuter Fitness Assessment (TFA) uncovers weaknesses and strengths to help you become better at working remotely.

Here’s where you come in (and how you can win a cash prize):

As we near completion of our final validation cycle, we are in need of real-world data from real-world telecommuters such as yourself.

We would greatly appreciate it if you would take the next 10 – 15 minutes to complete the TFA and helps us gather that real-world data.

Your completed survey is your entry to win the $100 cash prize.

Please note, sometimes the Survey Monkey link works best when cut and pasted directly into a browser.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/TFAblog

 

Thank you so much.  

The TFA development team

Bridging Distance

The fine print:

NO PURCHASE IS NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A PURCHASE DOES NOT INCREASE THE CHANCES OF WINNING.
1. Eligibility: Sweepstakes (the “Sweepstakes”) is open only to those who complete the Telecommuter Fitness Assessment (TFA) and who are 18 as of the date of entry. The sweepstakes is only open to legal residents of  the United States and is void where prohibited by law. Employees of Bridging Distance (the “Sponsor”) their respective affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising and promotion agencies, suppliers and their immediate family members and/or those living in the same household of each are not eligible to participate in the Sweepstakes. The Sweepstakes is subject to all applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations. Void where prohibited.
2. Agreement to Rules: By participating, you agree to be fully unconditionally bound by these Rules, and you represent and warrant that you meet the eligibility requirements set forth herein. In addition, you agree to accept the decisions of Bridging Distance, as final and binding as it relates to the content. The Sweepstakes is subject to all applicable federal, state and local laws.
 
3. Sweepstakes Period: Entries will be accepted online starting on or about October 15, 2014 and ending Nov. 14, 2014. All online entries must be received by Nov. 14, 2014 11:59PM EST.
4. How to Enter: The Sweepstakes must be entered by submitting an completed TFA survey entry using the online form provided on this Sweepstakes email. The entry must fulfill all sweepstakes requirements, as specified, to be eligible to win a prize. Entries that are not complete or do not adhere to the rules or specifications may be disqualified at the sole discretion of Bridging Distance. You may enter only once and you must fill in the information requested. You may not enter more times than indicated by using multiple email addresses, identities or devices in an attempt to circumvent the rules. If you use fraudulent methods or otherwise attempt to circumvent the rules your submission may be removed from eligibility at the sole discretion of Bridging Distance.
 
5. Prizes: Winner will receive $100. Actual/appraised value may differ at time of prize award. The specifics of the prize shall be solely determined by the Sponsor. No other prize substitution permitted except at Sponsor’s discretion. The prize is nontransferable. Any and all prize related expenses, including without limitation any and all federal, state, and/or local taxes shall be the sole responsibility of the winner. No substitution of prize or transfer/assignment of prize to others or request for the cash equivalent by winners is permitted. Acceptance of prize constitutes permission for Bridging Distance to use winner’s name, likeness, and entry for purposes of advertising and trade without further compensation, unless prohibited by law.
6. Odds: The odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received.
 
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The receipt by winner of the prize offered in this Sweepstakes is conditioned upon compliance with any and all federal and state laws and regulations. ANY VIOLATION OF THESE OFFICIAL RULES BY ANY WINNER (AT SPONSOR’S SOLE DISCRETION) WILL RESULT IN SUCH WINNER’S DISQUALIFICATION AS WINNER OF THE SWEEPSTAKES AND ALL PRIVILEGES AS WINNER WILL BE IMMEDIATELY TERMINATED.
 
8. Rights Granted by you: By entering this content you understand that Bridging Distance, anyone acting on behalf of Bridging Distance, or its respective licensees, successors and assigns will have the right, where permitted by law, without any further notice, review or consent to print, publish, broadcast, distribute, and use, worldwide in any media now known or hereafter in perpetuity and throughout the World, your entry, including, without limitation, the entry and winner’s name, portrait, picture, voice, likeness, image or statements about the Sweepstakes, and biographical information as news, publicity or information and for trade, advertising, public relations and promotional purposes without any further compensation.
9. Terms:Bridging Distance reserves the right, in its sole discretion to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the Sweepstakes should (in its sole discretion) a virus, bugs, non-authorized human intervention, fraud or other causes beyond its control corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness or proper conduct of the Sweepstakes. In such case, Bridging Distance may select the recipients from all eligible entries received prior to and/or after (if appropriate) the action taken by Bridging Distance. Bridging Distance reserves the right at its sole discretion to disqualify any individual who tampers or attempts to tamper with the entry process or the operation of the Sweepstakes or website or violates these Terms & Conditions.
Bridging Distance has the right, in its sole discretion, to maintain the integrity of the Sweepstakes, to void votes for any reason, including, but not limited to; multiple entries from the same user from different IP addresses; multiple entries from the same computer in excess of that allowed by sweepstakes rules; or the use of bots, macros or scripts or other technical means for entering.
Any attempt by an entrant to deliberately damage any web site or undermine the legitimate operation of the sweepstakes may be a violation of criminal and civil laws and should such an attempt be made, Bridging Distance reserves the right to seek damages from any such person to the fullest extent permitted by law.By entering the Sweepstakes you agree to receive email newsletters periodically from Bridging Distance. You can opt-out of receiving this communication at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the newsletter.
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11. Disputes:THIS SWEEPSTAKES IS GOVERNED BY THE LAWS OF United States AND Massachusetts, WITHOUT RESPECT TO CONFLICT OF LAW DOCTRINES. As a condition of participating in this Sweepstakes, participant agrees that any and all disputes which cannot be resolved between the parties, and causes of action arising out of or connected with this Sweepstakes, shall be resolved individually, without resort to any form of class action, exclusively before a court located in Massachusetts having jurisdiction. Further, in any such dispute, under no circumstances will participant be permitted to obtain awards for, and hereby waives all rights to claim punitive, incidental, or consequential damages, including reasonable attorneys’ fees, other than participant’s actual out-of-pocket expenses (i.e. costs associated with entering this Sweepstakes), and participant further waives all rights to have damages multiplied or increased.
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13. Winners List: To obtain a copy of the winner’s name or a copy of these Official Rules, mail your request along with a stamped, self-addressed envelope to: Bridging Distance 41 Worcester Road, Townsend MA, 01469, USA.Requests must be received no later than Nov. 20, 2014.
14. Sponsor:  The Sponsor of the Sweepstakes is Bridging Distance 41 Worcester Road, Townsend MA, 01469, USA .

 

Know Thyself: An Extravert’s Guide to Working from Home

Extravert Working from Home

Extravert Working from Home

 

An Extravert’s Guide to Working from Home

Extraverts are, by definition, very social. They like to be the center of attention, they hate to miss out on parties, and they usually pride themselves in their social skills. This is why, like most good psychologists, Nancy Da Silva and her colleagues (2010) guessed that employees who were very extraverted would probably seek jobs that involved a lot of interpersonal face time. Extraverts as telecommuters, they hypothesized, would likely be a rare combination. However, what they found was surprising:

Telecommuters were MORE extraverted on average than were non-telecommuters

 

So why does this matter?

Well, extraverts have the reputation for being a little…how should I put it? Needy. And I say this in the nicest of ways, because I am about as extraverted as they come.  But here’s what I mean:

Extraverts are often said to have strong affiliation skills. Basically, this means that we value close interpersonal bonds, and we tend to be warm and welcoming. However, it also means that we have a high need for affiliation. Whereas introverts often need alone time to “recharge” after a long day, extraverts often need more social time to give them energy and fulfillment. In fact, we often feel drained of our energy if we go too long without interacting with friends, family, or even strangers.

As a telecommuter, there are definite limitations to the amount of social interaction you have in a given workday. If you’re an extravert with a high need for affiliation, this could be problematic.

So how can you fulfill your needs as an extravert while still enjoying your flexible work-from-home set-up?

 

As a fellow extraverted teleworker, I offer the following 3 tips:

  • Get out of the house. If you’re extraverted, even just seeing other people will give you more energy. So if you start to get stumped on a project or you feel a little lonely, try going to your local library or café to work. I usually sit facing the door so that I can see everyone who walks in; it energizes me to see so many different types of people throughout the day, even if I don’t actually interact with them. A future blog will explore this in more detail, but what you’re experiencing is social facilitation, the phenomenon of an “audience” making you better at what you do.

 

  • Don’t eat alone. My dad used to have a business self-help book that used 300+ pages to relay this advice: never eat alone. The advice was also the title of the book, so I’m not really sure what the other 299+ pages consisted of. From what I could tell, the author’s reasoning was that approaching higher-ups during your lunch hour is a strategic way to climb the “corporate ladder”, etcetera and so forth. But I like the advice for another reason: Your lunch hour is a great time to escape the monotony of your work and “recharge”. Introverts will be satisfied with alone time (e.g., going on a walk, enjoying a cup of tea). But if you’re an extravert, the fastest way to recharge is to interact with others. So if you need an invigorating hour to prepare you for the second half of your day, sprinkle in some socialization.

 

  • Use the buddy system. My first year in grad school, I spent about 9 hours a week with my colleagues in a class setting. During the other 40+ hours I would write papers, read articles, and analyze data all by my lonesome. Very quickly, I found myself in an endless cycle of knowing that I needed to spend time with others to get more energy, but not having enough energy at the end of the day to initiate social hangouts. My solution? I started working alongside the people I cared about. Even though our work was for completely unrelated degrees (i.e., MS, MBA, MD, RN), we found that we all worked a little harder when we were holding each other accountable. Having that social support while I did such intellectually challenging tasks helped me to overcome the very serious ailment that we Millenials refer to as FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).

 

In sum, there’s nothing inherently wrong with being an introvert versus an extravert. Successful employees (and successful teleworkers) come in all shapes and sizes. Regardless of your personality type, it is important to know yourself well enough to create a work environment that caters to your needs.

 

Question for Readers: How do you cater your work-from-home experience to your own unique personality?

 

P.S. Not sure where you fall on the introvert/ extravert continuum? This might help:

Extravert

I am the life of the party. | I feel comfortable around people. | I start conversations. | I talk to a lot of different people at parties. | I don’t mind being the center of attention. | I make friends easily. |I take charge. | I know how to captivate people. | I feel at ease with people.

Introvert

I don’t talk a lot. | I keep in the background. | I have little to say. | I don’t like to draw attention to myself. | I am quiet around strangers. |  I find it difficult to approach others. | I often feel uncomfortable around others. | I bottle up my feelings. | I am a very private person. | I wait for others to lead the way.

 
Source:  Da Silva, N., & Virick, M. (2010). Facilitating telecommuting: exploring the role of telecommuting intensity and differences between telecommuters and non-telecommuters. Retrieved from http://trid.trb.org/view.aspx?id=1151123.
 Image Source:  http://alexreichert.com/play/self-improvement/know-thyself/

Level the Playing Field for Global Teams

Level_bubble

Level the Playing Field for Global Teams

Our recent case study with a US-led global medical research team revealed just how easily distance turns relatively small misunderstandings into significant misalignment for globally distributed teams.

As we continued to analyze the results from our assessment, we learned that the quality of the communications between the US-based leadership and the non-US team members was causing a significant rift within the team.  This was uncovered when we compared specific data sets gathered from each of the non-US teams with the US-based team.

Leadership was surprised:

“But we have weekly status meetings!” “We send emails all the time!”

However, it became clear that the non-US based team members were disconnected from the daily communication of the larger team. The fact that the US team met face-to-face while the non-US teams utilized video updates gave an impression of inequality relating to the roles and importance of individual team members.  Among the global teams, there was an overwhelming perception of favoritism by leadership toward the US-based research team members.  This perception of favoritism tainted leadership’s ability to effectively communicate with the global teams.

Together with organizational leadership, we created an action plan to reduce the perception of favoritism and foster the desired sense of equality among all research teams, regardless of location.

Team Leadership began conducting all team meetings through video conferencing, even when members shared an office location.  Treating all members the same levelled the playing field of communications and sent a subtle, but powerful, message that leadership held all research groups in equal standing.

Additionally, the Team Leader made it a point to visit every global team that quarter to solidify the importance of everyone’s contribution to their team effort.  After this initial visit, a schedule of regular in-person meetings was developed to maintain the feelings of equality.

Six months later, the team had measurably improved its productivity and was on-track with its research goals.  Each team re-took our assessment and this subsequent analysis confirmed a vastly improved global team.

 

Telecommuting More & Feeling Less Loyal?

DaydreamingwithLaptop

You are not alone.

Perhaps you started out, like many of us do, working just one or two days a week from home.  You loved it.  You worked harder, you got more done in a day, you felt great.  You felt trusted by your employer, you felt that they understood you and your desire for work-life balance.

You felt inspired to put your best effort forward because you cared.  You were loyal, happy, and committed.

The flow didn’t stop there.  Family conflicts were down.  You were able to freely enjoy the perks of being in control of your own day (for me, that often meant running errands when stores and malls weren’t busy and working later when they were).

Life was good.

Gradually, you increased your time working from home to 3 or more days each week; and things started to change.  Conflicts within the family increased, the option of napping at lunch turned into forgetting to eat at all and working straight through (or grabbing a yogurt and returning to your laptop).  You started to feel disconnected from your work group. You started to care a little less about your organization as a whole.  You may not have even noticed.

According to Dr. Martha J. Fay and Dr. Susan L. Kline, prominent researchers in communications and remote working, most people who telecommute up to 2 ½ days per week feel more organizational identity and commitment than their non-telecommuting peers; but when increased to 3 or more days per week, organizational identity and commitment dropped to levels below their non-telecommuting peers.

Is the answer to only telecommute up to 2 ½ days per week?  Maybe. But for those of us who will continue to telecommute more, or who don’t have an option, there is something you can do.

The same researchers discovered that the largest factor in counteracting declining commitment is the quality of the relationship between you (the telecommuter) and the coworker you interact the most with.

Having even one “trusted coworker”, who you can bounce ideas off of and who can provide you with a “reality check” as you interpret messages from the organization at large, may make all the difference in your feelings of loyalty, commitment, and belonging.

Take some time each day to maintain and further your relationships with a couple of your coworkers.  It doesn’t have to be anything extraordinary.  A couple of friendly lines in an email, a few minutes of conversation before or after a phone or video conference, a text chat.  Choose your friends carefully, though, research also indicates you will feel even less committed if your close relationships are with someone who engages in a lot of “complaining talk”.

Finally, for some telecommuters, it can be a little uncomfortable or awkward to take this time for casual conversation.  As someone who works from home, you actively cultivate the image of a conscientious worker.  If it is awkward, start small, begin with work-related conversations — seek out advice or “second opinions” on general work topics, pick up the phone to ask someone a question.  These small interactions have the potential to make a big difference in your success as a telecommuter.

Works cited:
Fay, M. J., & Kline, S. L. (2011). Coworker relationships and informal communication in high-intensity telecommuting. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 39(2), 144-163. doi:10.1080/00909882.2011.556136
Fay, M. J., & Kline, S. L. (2012). The influence of informal communication on organizational identification and commitment in the context of high-intensity telecommuting.Southern Communication Journal, 77(1), 61-76. doi:10.1080/1041794x.2011.582921

Day in the Life: Working Remotely in the Big Apple

Times Square on a rainy night in New York City

8:15 am

I wake up to my third alarm. Per my request, my iPhone screen encourages me, “WAKE UP. YOU HAVE A LONG SHIFT TODAY”. It’s amazing how much more difficult it is to pull yourself out of bed when you know that there isn’t a whole office full of your superiors awaiting your arrival. I’ve found that if I don’t hold myself accountable, no one else will. Hence, multiple alarms with multiple threatening messages.

8:50 am

En route to my favorite coffee shop, I pass my favorite bakery. It is slightly dangerous that both of these locales are within two blocks of my apartment. I convince myself to continue past the bakery, promising myself that if I work out after my shifts today and tomorrow, I can stop for a pistachio baklava on Wednesday.

9:00 am

I sit on a café barstool facing the window with an iced coffee, orienting myself for the day. I check my email, create a list of priorities, and begin my first task. I can already tell that I’m on a roll today, which is good. It’s hard to motivate yourself when you work alone, so a little caffeine and enthusiasm go a long way.

11:00 am

The task I’m working on is tedious and after about two hours I start to lose focus. My eyes are tired from looking at the computer screen, so I let my gaze wander to the city streets on the other side of the glass. I laugh with a café employee as his moped gets tangled in an extension cord outside. In the absence of my real coworkers, it’s nice to have these honorary coworkers. I watch the rain as it falls in sheets, encouraging a wide array of personalities and demographics to duck into the café for reprieve. As disheveled as they look, they are as happy as I am that this weather is dramatically (albeit briefly) lowering the heat index.

11:15 am

Back to work drafting questions for a survey project. I can tell I’m fading, but I want to squeeze 30 more minutes in before I take my lunch break.

11:45 am

The rain is starting to let up, and I don’t know how much time I have before it starts to pour again. I pack up my laptop, bid my café “coworkers” adieu, and walk home for lunch.

12:00 pm

I eat my handcrafted sandwich while talking to my mother on the phone. I hate eating meals alone, so I’ve gotten in the habit of calling a friend or family member on my lunch breaks if I’m unable to meet up with anyone. I recount the weekend’s adventures in Midtown and Williamsburg, with a complete analysis of the people I met and an elaborate description of our experience at Sing Sing Karaoke. After a prolonged goodbye (as is always the case with the two of us—longwindedness runs in our maternal line), I grab my backpack and head south a few blocks to the nearest Queens public library.

12:45 pm

I’m back “on the clock”, but it takes a few minutes to refocus on my work in the new location. I like this library a lot—free wi-fi with a library card, and there are a lot of different types of people coming in and out. The energy of the interactions sparks my creativity, so I decide to shift gears to something a little more fun. After 30 minutes of researching, I construct a blog about the benefits of telework and why organizations should adopt telework programs. This is, after all, a big chunk of my specialization within this position, so I figured putting it in a blog format would be a great way to simplify and consolidate some of my research. I have a little fun searching for a Dilbert cartoon to include, and then submit the blog to my supervisor.

2:30 pm

Now what? I’ve made a pretty big dent in my main project, and I’ve even finished a blog. I start to worry that I won’t be able to find anything else to do until 5:00 pm, so I start to look at my long-term priority list. I’m feeling eloquent, so I opt to write a second blog for the day.

3:15 pm

I catch my mind wandering as I’m writing this blog, and I glance up to see a man with kind eyes teach his daughter about libraries. For as many jerks as there are in NYC, it is so refreshing to see this interaction. The dad encourages her to interact with the librarian independently, and the librarian treats the five-year-old girl as if her request is the absolute most important intellectual question he’s encountered on the job. This is not at all pertinent to my work, but there’s something about witnessing this positive exchange that breathes life into me and reminds me of how much I enjoy “working from home” when I force myself out of the house for a few hours.

3:40 pm

I am wrapping up my blog, so I rack my brain for what to do with my last hour “at work”. I decide to return to my original task to bring it to a more final product. I set a goal to send the draft to my team members by the end of the day so that they can give me feedback by the end of the week.

4:40 pm

I’ve achieved my goal and sent out the draft. I spend my last twenty minutes polishing the blog and checking email. I plan to stop at the grocery store on the way home, and then work out before dinner. That pistachio baklava is calling my name.

IMAGE SOURCE: http://www.iwallscreen.com/stock/new-york-city-times-square.jpg

Note: This blog was written in the summer of 2013 by our amazing remote intern, Sarah Chatfield.

Dividing the Housework without Dividing the Household

Teleworking and Relationships

I sit on the couch reading an article about men doing more housework than ever before while my boyfriend handwashes dishes in our tiny NYC apartment. He has just served us an elaborate breakfast of omelettes and French pressed coffee, which we ate in silence as I checked email and created my daily to-do list. Part of me –the feminist, liberal-arts-degree part—feels deserving and almost expectant of this behavior. However, another part of me—the Texan, raised-to-be-a-southern-housewife part—feels unsettled by this strange turn of events.

To clarify the situation: I work from home. I am a remote intern for a consulting firm, which means that I sit on the couch in my pajamas translating research into more meaningful terms for my bosses, who then translate it into more meaningful terms to their clients. My partner has been off work for a month, awaiting the start of his new job this coming week. During his time off, we have exhausted our free time (and ourselves) by exploring our new home: the touristy sites, the dive bars, and the overwhelmingly diverse population of NYC.

In order for us to have the time to do these things, though, there has been a severely uneven distribution of labor. He cooks, he cleans, and he runs our errands. All the while, I type away at my laptop, lost in the world of data analysis and theoretical modeling. It’s the most efficient way to do things: we both work, we both play. We both have it all.

The problem I see approaching us, however, is the beginning of his job this week. He will be working long hours with a grueling commute, whereas I will be working long hours primarily from home and the café across the street. I want to reiterate: We will both be working. So my question is, will we both make breakfast? Will we both wash the dishes?

This is where telework is potentially dangerous for relationships. Historically, the distribution of labor in the household has been much clearer: there is housework to do, and bacon to bring home. Each partner chooses a task and both are accomplished. However, as more and more couples are choosing to have a dual-income household, the boundaries between tasks become fuzzier. Add in the complicated phenomenon of being a “telecommuter”, and you have yourself a pretty confusing situation.

As a telecommuter, your home is your office. As a 1950s-style housewife, your office is your home. Do you see how this could lead to confusion surrounding whose job it is to do the housework around here? Typically the housework is done by the partner who spends more time in the house, thus is more available to do these tasks. However, this rule can’t apply for telecommuters—the time we spend in the house is already spoken for.

I’m not sure I have a resolute answer for how work should be divided in a dual-income partnership, especially with the added complication of telecommuting. But I do know that gender roles are changing, and that these issues will come to the forefront as women slowly earn more than 77 cents to the male dollar, and telecommuting becomes more popular for both men and women alike.

In the meantime? My BA in Psychology (as well as a certain amount of trial-and-error experience) qualifies me to advise the following:

  • Discuss your expectations. Splitting things down the middle is probably impractical, but an open conversation should allow you to come to a more equal arrangement. Your partner might not realize how much weight you have been carrying while he/she is at work; simply listing all the chores that need to be done in a given week might give them insight into how they can contribute.

  • State the obvious. Although it seems obvious to you and me, your partner might not understand the terms of your work-from-home situation. Try to patiently spell it out by comparing it to their work experience: although working from home does free you from a long commute, being “on the clock” means the same as what it would in a traditional office. Just like he/she wouldn’t interrupt their busy workday to go grocery shopping, you can’t be expected to drop your work to fold a load of laundry.

  • Be patient. Any change in a relationship dynamic takes time. Although you might not be completely satisfied in the beginning, know that any progress is still progress. As you and your partner transition to a more equal distribution of work, be sure to tell him/her how much you appreciate their efforts.

Questions for readers: How do you divide the housework in your family? How does telecommuting affect the way you accomplish household tasks?

Telecommuting: How Much is Too Much?

As telecommuting experts, we know that telecommuting is both flexible and productive. However, as telecommuters, we know that it can also be a bit isolating.

For many telecommuters, the first half of the work week goes swimmingly. You feel focused, determined, and ready to work. But as the week progresses, you start to miss water-cooler gossip and office lunches. Sure, the lack of commute is nice, but the cat is only so much company after a certain point.

If you’re not careful, the “deluxe work-from-home set-up” that you brag about to friends and family can become a burden that makes you feel disconnected from your organization and dissatisfied with your work.

So what is the optimal amount of telework?

Is there some magical ratio of office-to-home work?

Fortunately, recent research by Virick and colleagues (2010) suggests that there seems to be a “happy medium” for teleworkers. Specifically, employees who spend 45-60% of their work week telecommuting report higher job satisfaction and organizational commitment than do employees who telecommute more or less often. These employees in the mid-range are also less likely to turnover than are other employees.

For those who are more statistically inclined (or just like to see pretty-yet-informative graphs), consider the upside-down “U” curve below:

As the graph shows, increasing the amount of time you work from home is only beneficial to a certain point. Initially, the flexibility and productivity you experience makes you happy with your job and your company. But once you start using your home as your primary office, you start to miss out on some of the important social benefits of the traditional office space. When you lose the social connection with your colleagues, you’re more likely to become dissatisfied with your job and less committed to your company.

Are you dissatisfied with where you fall on this “U” curve? Talk to your manager about changing your schedule so that you can come into the office once or twice a week. If that isn’t an option, consider meeting with co-workers at a coffee shop or restaurant to discuss your current project.

Questions for readers: Where do you fall on the curve? What is YOUR optimal amount of telecommuting?

 

 

 

 

Source:Virick, M., DaSilva, N., & Arrington, K. (2010). Moderators of the curvilinear relation between extent of telecommuting and job and life satisfaction: The role of performance outcome orientation and worker type. Human Relations, 63(1), 137-154. doi:10.1177/0018726709349198

Telecommuting? It's all about Control.

Whether you’re bookmarking an article to make an after-school snack, interrupting a teleconference to soothe a crying baby, or simply reiterating to your partner that you are on the clock and thus unavailable, working at home introduces distractions that aren’t found in a traditional office space.

So how can you balance work with family, and still maintain some semblance of sanity?

Recent research on telecommuting (Kossek, Lautsch, & Eaton, 2009) has pointed to two important factors to consider when creating a positive telecommuting experience.

  1. You must perceive control over how, when, and where you work
  2. You should set clear boundaries between work and home roles

Control

As an employee, do what you can to establish your own control over your work. If you find yourself constantly changing your schedule to align with a co-worker’s, try to be more assertive in setting meeting times. Talk to your manager about having more autonomy in your job. This could mean setting your own deadlines or creating your own list of weekly goals. The more control you feel, the better you’ll perform—both at work and at home.

As a manager of a telecommuting workforce, it is important to grant your employees individual autonomy in deciding how they do their work. If they have certain hours that they prefer, or they want the option of working in multiple locations, it is important that you support their decisions. The more control employees feel over the way that they work, the less work-family conflict they will experience. Thus, they will be less likely to turnover or move on to a new career.

However, there is a delicate balance between allowing employees autonomy and ensuring a predictable flow of communication. For instance, it is difficult to coordinate “catch-ups” with employees who have highly irregular schedules. Thus, depending on how often you feel that you need to meet with your employee, try setting a regular (e.g., weekly, monthly) meeting that is inflexible. This will ensure that contact is still readily available, even if your employee is working at times or locations that don’t align with your own.

Setting Boundaries

It is also important to be deliberate in separating your work and family responsibilities. Individuals who integrate their work and family roles (e.g., using one “catch-all” email account for work and home) are more likely to experience work-family conflict. In contrast, individuals who make clear boundaries between their work and family roles experience a greater sense of well-being and balance.

Having trouble separating your responsibilities? Try creating a space in your home that is “off-limits” to family members while you are working. This could mean closing the door to your workspace, or posting a sign that says “Dad is not available until 4pm”.

Just as you communicate to your family when you’re working, you should also communicate to your co-workers when you are enjoying family time. Grant your co-workers access to your weekly schedule so that they know when you are available to answer phone calls and emails. Set a precedent of not answering communications when you are “off-duty” unless it is time-sensitive or a high priority. Setting these clear boundaries ensures that others respect how you manage your responsibilities, which will decrease your work-family conflict and increase your well-being.

Source:  Kossek, E. E., Lautsch, B. A., & Eaton, S. C. (2009). “Good teleworking”: Under what conditions does teleworking enhance employees’ well-being?. Technology and Psychological Well–Being. Cambridge, MA Cambridge University Press.

Telecommuters — Get Connected!

It’s not enough to get the job done.  When your workspace is not physically connected to your team, you must make the effort to connect in other ways.

You are already trusted to work on your own, at home, unsupervised.  You must’ve already done something right.

Now that you are working outside of the office, you need to continue to “do things right” in order to be viewed as a valued and trusted member of your team.

But here’s where most companies fail with regards to people working from home — they seldom provide explicit guidelines or expectations.  And then they run on feelings and random observations to form their opinion of your abilities.

This is dangerous to your career as your ability to communicate and to meet unspoken expectations becomes the basis for evaluation.  Read that carefully — this is not an evaluation of your actual abilities.

You can rock your skill set, yet become stagnant in your career if you aren’t great at “being part of the team” that you are physically separated from.

What can you do?  Specifically:

  • Keep a consistent work schedule and communicate that schedule to both the people on your team who need to reach you; and the people most likely to interrupt you while at home (your family, friends, etc.).

– Your team will develop the mindset that you are working, available, and                                 “there” for them.

– Your family and friends will be less likely to make demands on you during                             this time (dog will not likely understand, however, and still drop balls at                               your feet and scratch at the door).

  • When you know of an upcoming interruption to this schedule, let your team know. Working from home implies that your discretion is to be trusted, so if you need to work differently on any given day, a quick heads-up to your team will go a long way to head off any frustration at not being able to reach you.
  • Communicate frequently with your teammates.  Stay Connected.  There are so many ways to talk to each other, there is no excuse to be out of touch.  Participate in phone conferences, video-meetins, company newsgroups, etc..  If these aren’t created yet — Create them!

How do you create mindshare when separated from your team?