On Why I Love Teleworking

Teleworking really isn’t for everyone. There are so many people that I talk to who tell me they could never do it. If you even think it’s not for you, it’s not. However if it’s something you have the opportunity to do and are considering, allow me to share why it works for me and how I feel it is beneficial to our workplaces. I now have a full year under the belt of at least one day a week. A few months ago I moved to two days, And most recently since my office has been under construction all my work time has been at home.

For starters I can sleep in much later. When you eliminate the commute time, parking & walking an additional quarter of a mile to my office, and the time I was spending before work to shower, dress and primp for the day- I am able to sleep in over an hour longer than I was before. I could stand to sleep in even longer, but I get up to enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee, a healthy non-rushed breakfast, and a short meditation session before I log in for the day. My morning routine is so much more pleasant, I no longer feel tired all the time, or dread getting up.

Next, I’m unbelievably comfortable for a variety of reasons. The most striking is in the attire I can wear. When I dress after waking up, I put in comfy workout clothes so I can go for a lunch run later in the day. Also my desk, chair and surrounding workspace at home is completely suited to my height, likings and taste. I can control the temperature of the room. Throughout the day my cats and dog come to visit, hang around and sleep on or near me. Their presence reminds me I’m home if I briefly get swept away in workplace politics. Not to mention that looking at them and petting them just seems to soothe my soul.

I move around much more. My chair swirls and doesn’t have weird side bars that give my legs bruises when I curl up in my chair as I type away. I’ll take stretch brakes and do some reinvigorating yoga poses that I wouldn’t dream of doing at the office. When I get up to make cups of warm herbal tea throughout the day, instead of walking across the room to the microwave like I do at work, I walk down a flight of stairs and don’t feel grossed out by the water supply or my surroundings. But my favorite is that I use my lunch break to run. I used to use that same break to walk at work. This required changing my shoes, never being appropriately dressed for the weather, and worrying about getting too warm. Now I can perspire as much as I’d like without worry.

I am so much more focused and productive. I’m not distracted by idle chatter or sharing my own nonsensical stories. There are no crazy alarms going off, constant overhead announcements, or loud trash barrels rolling by as I try to converse over the phone. I don’t see or hear the dings and distractions of other people’s computers, desk phones and cell phones. I don’t overhear anyone else’s personal or professional conversations. Two job roles back I worked for 7 years in a corridor that had a one person, non gender specific restroom right down the hall from my desk and around the corner from the transportation department where the drivers would pop in and out all day to use the facilities. The noise of a flushing toilet and horrendous smell would permeate my senses all day. One of my favorite funny memories from that job was when my then boss who had an adjacent office to mine said “Not only do we have to put up with a bunch of sh!t, but it actually has to smell like it too”.

Along the lines of focus, I pay attention during conference calls like I never had before. Unless I have a part to play in a conference call meeting, at work I find it nearly impossible to pay attention. I’m in front of my computer and always multitasking. Now I use conference call times to walk around the house and do some mindless work. I’ll sometimes sweep, start dinner, grab the mail, or do some other random things. Because I’m physically moving while mentally listening and not trying to do two mental activities at once, I am paying far more attention than I ever had on calls before. I’ll often unmute my phone and pipe in or stop to take notes in my email. That is something I hardly ever did at my desk.

It’s overall healthier too. I am in touch with what is going outside weather wise because I have windows. Many spaces I have worked in over the years have had no windows or access to the outside. Sometimes on a sunny day I will take my laptop out to the deck and actually feel the sun on my skin. The air quality at home isn’t ‘iffy’. I’m eating better too. At the office if I forgot my lunch or decided I am not in the mood to eat what I brought, I would stand on a long cafeteria line and purchase something overpriced and not quite as good for me as the things I have at home.

At the end of the day I log off and hop into the shower. I’m dried and ready for the evening before I would have even been on I-91 sitting in traffic and feeling extremely agitated.

Monetary savings in food, gas and clothing. Comfort. Healthier atmosphere and food. More sleep. More time. All good stuff huh?

Enough about me, this can reap great benefits for employers as well.

For starters there is likely less unexpected or short term notice time off. Snow days are just as productive and not to mention safer on both ends. If an employee doesn’t feel well but slugs into the office, other employees get sick, then they get their children sick. Then the children need to be stay home, be picked up from school or not be allowed in daycare, which is more time off for others. An employee without a telework agreement who opts to stay home will cost the organization a full day of work. An employee with one who opts to work suck from home loses the organization very little. Additionally, a doctor appointment in the middle of the day before telework for either my children or myself used to mean a whole morning or afternoon off. Usually the afternoon because trying to find a parking space by 8am where I work is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

Speaking of parking and space, allowing employees to telework creates both! Office space in many organizations is at a premium. Even having everyone telework 1 day a week [staggered] would free up 20% of office and parking space.

There is overall less wasted time through the day. Lines at the coffee shop, lines in the cafeteria, waiting for elevators, looking for an open bathroom, being in a queue just to warm up food in the microwave, that 3rd Wednesday if each month where the computers reboot for what seems like infinity… just to name a few. Not to mention a lot of time chit chatting and socializing. Yes, there are times the remote connection kicks me off; but the overall time sucks favor the employer with all the other time wasters that happen in the office.

Safety is always an issue. When I was the strategic planner for VA Connecticut, one couldn’t imagine the number of complaints that would come in every week about air quality, requests for asbestos checks, mold checks, ripped carpets that folks trip over, furniture with sharp edges, etc. When it rains or snows someone was always bound to fall- meaning a visit to employee health, days off, workers comp… all kinds of stuff no employer really wants.

Employees are happier when they aren’t rushed, eating well, sleeping more, saving money, moving around, and feeling like their employer is doing something mutually beneficial for both of them. How can you go wrong?

Well… many things can go wrong. That could be a whole other blog. It may be comforting however to know there are some strong, sound advice, policies and guidelines out there. My organization for example has trainings required by both the employee and supervisor before beginning. Additionally clear expectations are required to be written up, and it comes with the caveat that either party can terminate it at any time. Why not swipe some of these best practices from a person or whole organization that does it well? There are hundreds of articles on the web and in HR journals around the world about why it’s a win-win for all to adopt it, and nearly none on how terrible it has gone.

For now if you are thinking about using an existing policy or implementing one in the workplace, these are some of the reasons I would humbly advocate for it on both ends. I am sure I’m missing many more benefits! Please don’t hesitate to pipe in or comment if you know of any. Horror stories are welcome too!


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One of my “co workers”
View from my desk

How to squash a motivated employee

imagesI’ve lost my mojo at work. I’ve known this for quite some time, but this morning it really hit me. I was standing in my closet with this really super fluffy, super large gray robe I bought last week on a whim while picking up some toiletries in Target. I was so warm and comfy. The weather is starting to change and getting dressed just seems to take more effort than ever this year. I was just staring at the clothes in my closet trying to decide what the most comfy thing would be to wear that would resemble anything even slightly professional. I didn’t want to get out of that robe. My beautiful clothes that I used to take such pride in just sat there staring back at me like little soldiers waiting for their turn. My clothes seemed so stifling now. They resemble everything I’m starting to detest. The commute. Discomfort. Work.

Work. As in a job work. I always loved work. I always loved getting up and getting dressed and going to work. Until now and present job excluded, I had a one job in 24 years I wasn’t crazy about. But I did like to work, even at that job. And I liked to work hard. Ever since my first job I always took serious pride in what I did. Whether it was scooping ice-cream, resolving a customer issue, painting a stanchion, or creating a managerial dashboard; I took pride! I wanted to make a difference. I wanted my customers (internal or external) to be surprised by getting more than what they expected. I wanted people to walk away with a smile on their face and even possibly even motivated to surprise and help others too. I loved chatting with people. I loved walking around and noticing things that could be done better and then just taking the initiative without being asked to do my best to make it better.

This is going to sound so cocky, but I was the most motivated person in real life that I knew until recently. It bothered me a little that others didn’t care so much, but it wasn’t such a big deal to me because I was getting enough enjoyment just doing my own thing and doing my best to such an extent, that what other people did or didn’t do truly didn’t matter to me that much. I am self-motivated and self-directed. When I finished high school and joined the military I wanted to get a college degree but couldn’t fit going to school in, especially after I had a new born. I bought some study guides and decided to CLEP credits since it was free to me as an active duty member. I earned all but 3 credits toward an associates degree that way. But why stop there? I took an online professional secretary’s course. Then I got my bachelor’s degree online. After that I took a few years off, taught myself to properly type, use a computer, and become skilled in the Microsoft Office Suite. When that became natural I went back to school and got an MBA. Not sitting on the couch and watching TV to read hundreds of business articles and write peer-reviewed researched papers takes a lot of drive. I didn’t think so at the time, but I don’t know if I’d have it in me anymore. That took some serious motivation. I always cared about the work I did too and I’ve spent the last 14+ years at the VA hospital doing as much as I could administration wise using the skills I learned on my own with my own money to make my organization as awesome as it possibly could be. Yes, there were frustrating times I complained and got annoyed, but it never really stopped me more than a day or two at the very most from dusting myself off and picking right back up where I left off.

I didn’t want to rule the world either. I was never interested in senior leadership or becoming a Director, Associate Director, Department manager or anything to the like. I just wanted to do the best job I could from whatever seat I was at. My family life and work-life balance was actually equally if not slightly more important to me. I didn’t want to have to travel, because I didn’t want to miss story time at night with the kids, or one of their plays, or the ability to make a home cooked meal at night. As they got older I worried about who they might have over and just preferred to be home in my house, and in my bed with my kids close by. Even though I did do extra work at home and check my emails, I never wanted to be in a position where it was a necessity. I liked that I didn’t have to and only did so when I was so excited about something it was difficult to stop working on it. I liked that it was my choice. I always put way more into my job than I got back. I worked far more hours than I was paid for.

I’ve spent the last 22 years working for the federal government. 4 years active duty, 4 years reserve, and 14 years as a public service employee. I have 22 years of outstanding performance reviews at the highest possible rating every single marking period. 2 years ago I took the chance of taking a job that I knew little about. I was getting a little bored in my previous job because I stopped growing and thought I would be able to learn some new skills and help my organization with the skills I already have. It was a promotion on paper but not with my salary. I did not choose money, I chose growth. It was a new position that did not exist before.

When I started the job I saw so much potential. There were so many directions to go in I knew I had to deliberately choose a path and branch out from there. I never had a supervisor or anyone as a matter of fact to even sit down with me to discuss direction, so I created direction for myself and my small staff of 3. I had an awesome motivated little group. I didn’t do anything on my own, I floated every idea by our senior leadership team and our hospital director. I got the green light on everything I suggested. And I broke up the work amongst my little group so we call could grow and learn and cover one another.

Well, after a little over a year I was starting to burn out both personally and professionally. Since I moved in with my husband and we blended our families almost 6 years ago, my personal life got more and more complicated and exhausting. Professionally I started to see the writing on the wall that although senior leadership verbally supported the work I floated by, they didn’t really have any idea what I meant, had no time or inclination to digest anything, and truly didn’t seem to care. So when push came to shove and we got push back from the hospital employees; they did not support me, my staff or the policies they signed off on that I’d put in place. I felt like stopped growing. I felt like I started managing non-sense and no one was willing to sit down with me who had any power to discuss the barriers I faced to moving anything forward that was worthwhile.

For the first time in my life I couldn’t stand driving to work. It started to actually feel nefarious to wake up from not enough sleep, get dressed in uncomfortable clothing, leave my house in a rush and go sit at a nice desk with a window only to be accomplishing very little if not anything at all. I am getting older. I have less energy and a crazier life with 4 teenagers and many things to deal with outside of work; both physically and emotionally. We could live with the lessened income and improve the quality of our home and our lives if I didn’t work full time. After 22 years I took the crazy chance of asking if I might be able to work part-time. I asked about this possibility on May 11th this year in an email to my acting supervisor with the hospital director copied. The immediate response the next day was absolutely, we would do anything to keep you here in your current job; you’ve been outstanding. I was flattered. I didn’t know what answer I expected, but I wasn’t too surprised that someone thought I was someone worth keeping around.

Well… days, weeks, months elapsed. I didn’t have a real supervisor because mine was promoted and the job was empty. Human Resources was going through personnel changes and no one was really in charge. I got the run around, many promises and supposed final answers with a question mark at the end. It was stressful. I have been anxious the entire summer and now well into fall about how this would turn out. In the meanwhile I started working only 3 days a week and kept my job duties up. As suspected I was able to handle my full time job on a part-time basis.

To make a very long story short, I still don’t have an answer. The only thing I know is that I’ve had several assurances made to me if I do this, that or the other thing we can work something specific out. Each time I’ve delivered on my end but someone at the end of the chain disapproves the request. I would have been willing to leave back in May or consider staying on full time if I was told honestly upfront that part-time wouldn’t be possible. I would have looked for other jobs. I’m now completely unmotivated and disenchanted. I have sparks of motivation that inspire me to take incredible pride in what I’ve started, but that motivation is almost always shot down immediately by another short changed agreement that will no longer be explored.

Not too long ago at work I was super energetic, super motivated, & super duper naïve. I saw many people that had been here a long time and couldn’t understand why they were so bitter or why they seemed to have given up. They would talk about how we’ve already been there, done that. They were over it, riding it out until their retirement. I was completely unable to digest how someone could get to that point. I read about motivating people in college, through articles I had to read for conferences and materials that were sent as part of professional groups and mail serves I belong to. I felt I knew how to motivate the people I worked with, but there were these others that wouldn’t budge. As part of many other things I’ve read I can’t help but think about what I’ve learned intelligently about disengaged employees and the cost to the workplace. So much of it has to do with a good leader. It sounds like an ethereal concept because it’s not exactly tangible, but it’s the key to running a good organization.

I studied business and management and had to take many, many classes about supervision, change management, organizational development and leadership. I’ve read about the traits of good leaders. It seems obvious to me about what kind of people should be in charge of what kinds of things. However that is not the case in my organization at least. I don’t know much about how the outside or corporate world runs, but it’s apparent that the right fit was not made if you look around for a New York second and see many managers and supervisors floundering because they’ve never been trained, didn’t really want the position, hate confronting people with anything negative or are just unorganized and lack administration skills. Or feel like they have no choice about anything because they have a lousy leader that will not let them made a single decision so they themselves are unmotivated and have given up.

My car, my clothes, my office with the personal mementos I’ve accumulated over the years from all the people I’ve worked with who touched my life…unknown none of it means anything if I’m not doing anything useful and I’m sitting in meetings and at my desk like an automaton ornament as a participant in creating the same disorganized chaos for years on end. Amongst a bunch of other people who either don’t care or are feeling equally if not more disgusted.

As with anything the higher and higher up you go in an organization, the more and more important it is to have the right fit in the right jobs. I’m not a good fit there. I need out for my mental health and sanity. I would like an answer about what direction I’m going in and what my schedule will be. I’ve not received an adequate explanation about why my very reasonable request was denied. I’m disgruntled. I’m stressed. I no longer like going to work. I’d rather stay home in my bathrobe and not pretend I’m making any kind of difference in the world.

How to squash a motivated employee?

  • Ask them to do as you say, not as you do.
  • Don’t consider their track record when considering a reasonable request.
  • Don’t talk to them about expectations.
  • Give them a super generic performance plan with goals they’ve accomplished several years ago.
  • Don’t support them in the things you approved them to move forward with, in fact throw up your hands in confusion and reverse past decisions.
  • Never follow-up on what you asked from them, and for the few who do go out and do what you asked; don’t be available or act like you care.

Take all you can from them. Give them nothing in return.


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