Blog Post

Open Thread: Are Telecommuters More Vulnerable?

Your foray into web work may have started something like this: You were too valuable to lose, and your manager went to bat to allow you to work remotely. Or maybe your work was well-suited to web work styles, so there wasn’t any question of you taking advantage of company telecommuting programs. Perhaps you took your know-how home and started freelancing, and quickly attracted long-term contracts with a company.

But now things have changed — are you more vulnerable if you’re not physically there? Indeed, many people think that you are. Whether your manager has quit, a reorganization could change your duties substantially, or a key project sponsor on your contract has been re-assigned, what goes on in the traditional office can have a profound effect on the lot of the long distance web worker.

Is navigating change more difficult for the far-flung versus traditional on-site workers? What changes has your web work arrangement weathered, and how would you say your career has flourished (or not) since that disruptive element was introduced?

8 Responses to “Open Thread: Are Telecommuters More Vulnerable?”

  1. This is an interesting follow up to the “Look Busy” post just a few days ago. How do you look busy when you’re off site? (That’s a question that needs a punchline.)

    I work exclusively on contract, so I’m always vulnerable. My off site location is probably just an extension of that. I get that there’s a difference between folks that work full time and have made the switch to remote work and folks like me who never intended to be employees anyway.

    When I’m feeling Pollyanna-ish, I figure that good workers will always be rewarded for their efforts. When you prove that you can Get Stuff Done, you are less at risk of being canned. I also like to delude myself that as work style changes, mgmt style changes too and mgmt relies less on face time than on deliverables. Here’s hoping.

    I’ve had my share of pointy haired bosses who berated me for not looking busy enough (really) and applauded me for being in the office when actually, I carpooled in early and would watch DVRed copies of the Daily Show while drinking coffee (also true). In both cases, beside the point. Deliverables. Deliverables. Deliverables.

    I’m rambling. What I think I mean to say (Daily Show, coffee in background) is that conscientious workers SHOULD have less to fear. If you switch to telecommuting and your productivity drops, well, there you go. I like to think that my productivity went UP when I switched to telecommuting 90% of the time.

    Though there’s this: admittedly, I do the work I like doing and I reached a decent level in my career path before I jumped to telecommuting full time. That said,I am sometimes passed over for projects that I’d like to do because they’d stretch me because I won’t work on site.

    So. Hmmm. I guess I have to think this through some more. Career development and job security for web workers? Hmmm.

  2. I am about to start working remotely in July and the change has me anxious and excited at the same time especially since I am an extrovert and enjoy being around people. I have no doubt that I can get the work done as I always have, but change can be stressful nonetheless, when you have never worked from home. I know there will be a lot of benefits other than just keeping a pay check coming in.

    My manager championed me working remotely, so I know she is behind it, but I am still going to work extra hard to show any skeptics that it will be a great thing. But I am anxious…..

  3. I’ve been working remotely for the better part of 10 years at HP and I can tell you that you are absolutely more vulnerable. You have to realize very quickly that telecommuting is a privilege and as such you have to make sure that the quality of your work is high enough that nobody questions whether or not you are earning that privilege.

    The other side of that is staying connected to people is harder than it is when you are face to face with people every day. Go out of your way to find out what’s going on in people’s lives so you can simulate water cooler discussions you are missing out on. The better people know you coupled with unquestioned contributions to the team keeps you as protected as possible.

  4. @Doug,
    Why do you still work for a pointy-haired manager that doesn’t appreciate your value enough to know that you’d do better than 10 cheap offshore workers?

  5. once you start telecommuting, you’re just one management change away from being outsourced/offshored.
    Pointy-haired boss thinks: “well, they’re never at the office anyway, might as well send the job to India for pennies on the dollar”.
    I telecommute less than one day a week, and I still worry about this..

  6. Brandon

    Great… just what I needed to read today. I just had the “we don’t want to lose you, so you can work remotely” conversation with my boss about three hours ago.

    I am concerned about the potential consequences of losing face time in the office. I think that the critical piece is whether the people you work for see web-working the way the readership of this site does or the way “traditional” business folks do.

    I guess only time will tell what type I work for.

  7. I used to have a boss, but now I’m a web worker, as you call it. I used to be part of the “rat race.” I am 100% sure that I cannot be an employee because I love the fact that I get to be my own boss!

    Where I used to work I was promoted after a year, and that’s because I worked my butt off. Then after I got promoted I wanted to get promoted again ASAP, and I really didn’t want to wait another year or maybe two for it to happen again. I wanted a position where I got to travel and make more important decisions. Web working can definatly give me all that and more. I’m still a beginner, but hopefully that will change one day! Love your site!