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Telework stories: Sara Joseph
How long have you been teleworking?
Since I started this job in December 2011.
How frequently do you telework?
I work from home two days a week on Mondays and Fridays and am in the office Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Has the teleworking affected your productivity in either positive ways or negative ways?
The most significant benefit of working at home is having a quiet workspace. We have quite a bit of loud construction activity happening around our office in South Lake Union. It’s nice to work in a quiet environment at home where I can really be focused. The type of work that I do (web development) lends itself nicely to that. Also, I’m just happy to not have to drive in 45 minutes each way.
What is your supervisor’s attitude regarding teleworking? Do your coworkers have any reaction to your teleworking?
My supervisor is incredibly supportive of my working at home, and from what I have seen, everybody in the office is too. I think that has a lot to do with the type of work we do. A lot of people are writing and researching and are very focused. We all work hard and trust that everyone else is working just as hard regardless of where the work is being performed and as long as you are staying in communication. This common value allows quite a number of people to telework regularly. It is just part of the culture. The option is on the table for anyone and that has worked very well.
What do you think are some of the benefits of teleworking?
I’m happy doing my work. I have quiet, uninterrupted time to get my work done that can be conducted independently. My commute time is reduced dramatically. I’m paying less for gas. I’m paying less for parking especially after the recent change that increased parking fees to $14 per day near the office. Knowing that you have the trust of the people you work with is a large benefit. I think there is something to that trust; the trust that you are doing your work, everyone is always working hard, and there’s not a lot of checking up, or feeling like someone is over your shoulder. It’s just really nice to be able to just know that you’re supported in that way in your office.
What do you think are some of the disadvantages of teleworking?
There have been a few occasions where things are being talked about on a project informally, in the break room or in the lunch room, and you happen to be the one person working from home that day. You miss that conversation and even if someone emails you, you don’t always get the ins and outs of it. Another time, we had to provide feedback on a project when I was working from home and I wasn’t in the meeting. It felt too complicated for them to try to call me because they were looking at a visual image. There are just a few of those instances where, yes, face-to-face definitely would have been better. If something comes up and it really is going to be better for me to come in, then I am completely flexible. Most of those days that I’m at home I can jump in the car and just drive in if I need to.
Are your technological needs being met while teleworking?
Yes. Most of the technology I use for communication is really responding to emails. I also keep my calendar up to date so my co-workers know when I’m at home or work and the hours that I’m available. The expectation is that that you’re tracking email and responding to it and calling in. We also have a WebX that we use for face-to-face meetings when we’re in different locations. That seems to work really well too. I am working on an assignment to increase participation in a web-based project management application. We are going to use it as a test case to show how our team can stay in communication regardless of where someone is working and keep files in one place while the people on a project are all in different places
Is there any way that UW could better support teleworking?
It’s hard to say because I realize that it probably is very dependent on the officer or the department that you work in. I was a state employee for about five years and we had an official telework policy there. That was kind of nice to know that it was supported from the top on down, so that if you wanted to do it or if you felt like it would work, your boss had to give you the opportunity to make it work. I think an official policy might help support teleworking more strongly when thinking of the larger UW employee base. Having said that, I feel really supported and I feel like we’re doing it really well in my office.
Would you recommend it to others?
I would recommend teleworking. Seattle has some of the worst traffic in the world. It is so complicated to drive around Seattle and campus right now. And we have the construction we are dealing with now on top of that. I feel like I’m in some social experiment or reality TV show given traffic conditions in South Lake Union. They’re just watching us trying to find the right road to drive on. There are just so many other good reasons for teleworking that make sense. Everybody is doing twice the work that they used to do because they’ve had to lay off so many people off because of the budget situation, and it’s really nice to at least have one day where you really can focus on something.
How has teleworking affected your morale?
I don’t think you realize how much just the stress of getting to the office affects your day until you telework. You get to the office and you have all these other details of your private life that just kind of pervade your work space life, like the doctor’s appointments or the family stuff. It feels like I am not as focused on those distractions as I have been in the past at other jobs where I have been commuting to an office every day. Now I have the space to handle that kind of stuff on Mondays and Fridays too. My employers are definitely getting a happier, more productive Sarah because of my telework situation.
Has telecommuting affected your use of sick time or vacation time?
It would feel very much like driving in to the office and driving back home for no reason if I had to make a doctor’s appointment during the work week. I would be missing up to an hour-and- a-half of work to handle personal appointments. Now I can just set my appointments on the days that I’m working at home, travel to the doctor’s office, and be back home much more quickly.
How many hours of commuting on an average day are you spending in a car when you drive to the office?
I am spending at least an hour and 15 minutes in the car because it typically takes me 30 minutes to drive in and 45 minutes to drive home. The days that something does come up on a telework day and I have to go to the office in the middle of the day, that’s usually the time I can like get there in 20 minutes. I tried taking the bus, but it didn’t work out.
If you’re saving an hour to an hour and a half each day you telework, what, what do you do with that time?
I’m spending my non-commute time working. I’ve been putting in some longer hours even on the days that I go in to the office because of a complicated project. It is nice having a few days where it’s like, okay, I’m home. I can just take a little bit of time, start my day a little later and I feel like I can take my time to focus. Some days I take a bit of a longer lunch and go to my gym, get a workout, and then the rest of my week goes so much better. So I think it is a good mix for me of work and work life balance.