No place like home for some workers
And you may love the commute
Updated 5:49 pm EDT, Friday, August 30, 2019
Photo: Will Waldron
Katy DeCorah works in her basement home office on Friday, Aug. 23, 2019, in Ballston Spa, N.Y. Website developers, Katy Decorah and husband her husband, Jason Morris, renovated their basement to make their own home offices. (Will Waldron/Times Union)
When Michael Myer worked in a traditional office in the Boston suburbs, his commute was 40 minutes on a good day and up to two hours on a bad one. He found himself having to leave the office early to pick up his children from day care and often took his work home with him as a result.
But for about the past six years, Myer, 40, a consultant for the federal government, has made his Wynantskill home his office. It's a change that he said has eliminated some of the distractions that come with working in a traditional office – and made him more involved as a parent and spouse.
Flexible working arrangements, such as the ability to work from home full or part-time, are increasingly important perks to the U.S. workforce. In its 2017 report, State of the American Workforce, Gallup found that the number of employees spending at least part of their day working outside the office increased from 39% to 43% from 2012 to 2016.
According to the Gallup poll of more than 195,000 American employees, 47% of millennials – people born between 1980 and 1996 – say they would change jobs in exchange for a "flexible working location where you can choose to work off-site full time." Thirty-one percent of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers said they would do the same.
Myer described several advantages to working from home but said it's crucial for anybody considering setting up a home office to make some ground rules.
"My No. 1 rule I tell anyone who considers working from home: Have a designated work space," Myer said. When you find yourself working in the same area where you relax or eat dinner, "the blur of whether to do work today gets weird," he said.
If you don't have a designated office, at least set up a place in your living space where you only do work – not the dining room table or couch, he said.
At home, Myer isn't distracted by co-workers' side conversations and other distractions that could disrupt his productivity. But there are drawbacks: Sometimes it's difficult to parse what's happening with his co-workers when he's not in an office. He also finds himself having to do his own IT and spending more time on the phone.
"I would tell people that you have to be an advocate," he said. "You miss out on some coffee and water-cooler talk. You miss out on knowing what's going on on-the-ground there. And you can easily be forgotten, so make your presence known."
But he no longer leaves work early to pick up his two children to avoid paying the day care's late fees. Instead of spending his mornings in his car or on a train, he's more engaged with his children, helping pack their lunches. Working from home, Myer said, "allowed me to be a more involved parent."
"The time that other people are spending on their commute – I'm not losing that part of my life," he said.
Katy DeCorah, a front-end engineer who works out of her Ballston Spa home office, didn't like working in an open floorplan with cubicles. It was difficult to focus, she said, especially when working on a hard problem.
But she does miss some of the water-cooler talk and office holiday parties.
DeCorah, 32, and her husband, Jason Morris, have been working remotely for about five years, first splitting a small home office in East Greenbush before spending an entire summer renovating their basement.
The couple designed their new space with the intention of keeping a work-life balance: work is done in the basement, other activities are done upstairs. The renovation cost about $5,000, DeCorah said.
"It was a big undertaking," DeCorah said of the renovation. "But at that point we had offices upstairs and I was pregnant so we needed a bigger space. It took some getting used to, but I think we both have jobs that require deep focus."
The layout of the basement was strange, DeCorah said – there was a small space with a closet that wasn't being used. DeCorah and her husband realized the space was about the size of a bookshelf, so they drew inspiration from the movie "Clue" and used an Ikea bookshelf to make the space a hidden room. For now there's not much in the room aside from a few pipe hookups and old monitors.
DeCorah said it's important to upgrade your home-office gear while still making the space "cozy, or at least a place you like it to be." She said an Aeron office chair, standing desk and dual computer monitors were worth the investment, as were some plants and an essential oil diffuser, which DeCorah said are great for stressful days.
Working from home, DeCorah said she's carved out more time to go to the gym and tend the hostas in her garden. She also has an entire hour to herself when she wakes up in the morning.
Myer said employees who work from home may have to battle the perception that they don't work as hard as office workers.
"You need to work harder," Myer said. "You need to be the squeakier wheel because you're your own champion."
This article was first published on https://www.timesunion.com/living/article/No-place-like-home-for-some-workers-14402448.php#photo-7639346