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Telecommuting...why is this so HARD TO FIND???
5

Telecommuting...why is this so HARD TO FIND???

Telecommuting...why is this so HARD TO FIND???

(OP)

Hi, I'm new on here, and I have a question no one else seems to be able to nail down...

Last June, I quit my job as a mechanical design engineer; the commute, like so many others over the years, was KILLING ME. (I live in the Baltimore/Washington Corridor.)

Commuting is a soul-sucking, often strictly unnecessary waste of time, energy, health and fuel. I could go on and on, but I won't.

I figured, since I had some really good coin in the bank, it was time to go out on my own, either as a 1099 contract employee, or even as a W-2 remote employee. I looked passively, at first, putting my resume out on the usual big name sites, etc.

Got multiple calls, immediately, every single day, for quite a while. As soon as I mentioned that I was seeking remote work from my well-equipped home office, it was...silence...sometimes even 'click'. Time would go by....more daily calls...no joy.

Now, I know that it's MECHANICAL engineering, and there will always be times when I have to lay hands-on to assemble a prototype, inspect a surface finish, go to a design review meeting, etc. But over the last decade, at least, I'd say that 70% (plus) of my days to the office were to sit in my cubicle and design with the 3D package, look up part specs, etc. Especially when tasked with complex machine design, with many part drawings held to be released and fabricated all at once.

Well, after months of these calls, and then the holidays came around, I finally went out and filed to establish myself as a sole-member LLC...got the tax number, website up, etc. I figured that if I marketed my skill set as a business entity, I'd get the folks who wanted a temporary engineer because they couldn't justify having one on staff, etc., etc.

We'll see where that goes (the website has only been up for a few weeks)...but I have to ask...why is it so hard to find telecommuting work in this field?!?!? God! Commuting makes me want to pull my own eyes out with a corkscrew! I cannot express how bad it is, and still keep it clean for this forum!!!

Anyone???

RE: Telecommuting...why is this so HARD TO FIND???

So perhaps its time to ask yourself " What are employers seeking today ?" rather than "what do I want to do ?"

RE: Telecommuting...why is this so HARD TO FIND???

> because there's no good way to measure the cost effectiveness of such arrangements, so how do they tell whether you've earned the pay?
> because even if there were such arrangements to be made, no one would have this arrangement with someone who just came through the door

TTFN
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert!
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers

RE: Telecommuting...why is this so HARD TO FIND???

(OP)

Then I guess I wonder why this is common in some other industries...how does the IT or web developer manager see the productivity of the coder working at home? Cuz if a week goes by and there's nothing to show for it, they're fired.

Seems like it would benefit the employer in saving office space (this actually came up as an issue with a past employer who almost moved, and may have by now, due to leasing costs going up).

It's absolutely maddening. Living here sucks. I can't wait until my wife (career position with pension) retires. That's the only reason I moved here after we got married.

It wasn't so I could have the privilege of sitting in traffic, paying huge taxes and spending double what a house should cost. Oh, and the city demographic is just wonderful.

RE: Telecommuting...why is this so HARD TO FIND???

Maybe look for a position/company that is willing to let you telecommute part of the week, be in the office TWH, but in your home office MF. Or maybe start out 5 days a week in the office for a few months, prove yourself as somebody that works hard, gets things done on time and in budget, then the company might be willing to let you work from home part of the time. You would have to let it be known you want to eventually work from home - just so everything is out in the open

Or if you are a PE, you could market yourself directly to a client and then you can work wherever, whenever you want.

But as long as you work for a company, you will have to abide by their rules/requirements.

RE: Telecommuting...why is this so HARD TO FIND???

After over a decade of working hard and smart for my employer, building their trust in me and demonstrating my value to them, I managed to start working officially one day per week from home. My own soul-crushing commute was getting to me to the point that the alternative was leaving a job that, aside from the commute, was working well for both me and my employer.

After many years of working in that arrangement at first unofficially and then officially, there are STILL some people here who call this my "day off" every week, or who otherwise have an attitude problem toward it. I just tell them that they should just keep talking- it can easily become FIVE days every work week that I'm at home.

That day is tremendously valuable: it not only saves me the stress of the commute that day, but it allows me the time for tasks requiring undivided, uninterrupted attention that are impossible in a cubicle. I also miss far less time for medical appointments etc. It's been an unmitigated success- but it takes trust in both directions, and that has to be built and earned.

There are few arrangements where a sane employer would consider a new employee for a position where they're working from home substantially. One is sales, where you're on the road constantly anyway. The other is basically contract or self-employed work- then it's no different than hiring a contractor who works out of another company's office. Otherwise, you're more or less going in to a job under the assumption that if you succeed in building their trust, you may be given a longer leash eventually.

Good luck with your search.

RE: Telecommuting...why is this so HARD TO FIND???

Most managers I know have been burned by telecommuting engineers. It didn't work for them. They've had enough. Bring up telecommuting in the interview and it's pretty much over.

RE: Telecommuting...why is this so HARD TO FIND???

We've tried telecommuting with mixed success. Our area commutes are not horrible, but the local governments encourage it for air quality reasons.
It's been slightly successful with word processors. We have some who are trusted implicitly and are always fair with their work habits. They put up a sign on their desk on the days they're telecommuting. And even the ones who are allowed only do it on a limited basis. It hasn't been very successful with engineers or CAD. Don't know why.
But we're never going to start a new hire with a telecommuting arrangement. There has to be a level or trust before we allow someone to start working from home. We need to observe their work productivity at the office to have a baseline to compare to.
Maybe you can ask what their policy is on telecommuting and feel them out. They're likely to say, "...we'll consider it under certain circumstances after we get to know you" or "Nope, doesn't work for us" or "We're paying to see your shining face"

RE: Telecommuting...why is this so HARD TO FIND???

I too would love to telecommute and agree that trust is a big issue when it comes to working from home. I've been with my current company for about 1 1/2 years now and recently had some medical issues that kept me at home a few days a week. I telecommuted through necessity. It worked out well for the most part.

I don't think most engineers can really telecommute full time. Sometimes it's necessary for a face to face meeting and sketching on the white board - that sort of thing. One co-worker was complaining a lot. My boss said to him - 'have you called her cell', 'have you emailed her'. No he hadn't. I kept up with my responsibilities for everyone else so I figure that's on him.

Like 'moltenmetal' above I plan on eventually asking for a day or two of telecommute a week but figure I should spend a few more years in the morning/afternoon rat race on the roads before my employer might allow it. It's nice to know (and to have already proven to my employer) that it can work.

RE: Telecommuting...why is this so HARD TO FIND???

I'm telecommuting now. Three weeks per month, then a week on location at the home office.

I was hired by someone who knows me well and trusts me. I was hired into a company and culture that is well-versed in distance work. They know how to make it work.

Blundering into a brick-and-mortar firm and asking to not be present just doesn't work for most places. The negatives outweigh the positives.

RE: Telecommuting...why is this so HARD TO FIND???

4
I was approved for telecommuting. Great. Then my mother-in-law moved in. I never knew I would enjoy the drive so much.

RE: Telecommuting...why is this so HARD TO FIND???

Another thing to consider is I imagine you're asking the employer to not going to pay you any less to work from home. Thus, you're asking to be paid the same as other prospective employees who are willing to make the commute. Unless you have some overwhelming skill set that puts you ahead of everyone else it just doesn't make sense for them to accept you working from home for the same salary.

Professional and Structural Engineer (ME, NH)
American Concrete Industries
www.americanconcrete.com

RE: Telecommuting...why is this so HARD TO FIND???

TehMightyEngineer: then again, I'm not asking my employer to FUND my home office. If they want, they can rent out my cube by the hour when I'm not in it!

My employer doesn't pay me a red cent to drive to work. They can't dock my pay for days I manage to do the same work, if not more, without doing the drive. They don't owe me more money because I choose, for family reasons mostly, to live at a distance from where I work. Some might think that my willingness to put up with my commute for nearly two decades shows dedication to the firm, while others might conclude that my unwillingness to move closer to work shows a lack of dedication. I don't give a rat's @ss either way. They can, and do, judge my performance on the basis of my input and output contribution and cost. The minute they feel that I'm not worth what they're paying me, they can decide to part ways- as can I.

RE: Telecommuting...why is this so HARD TO FIND???

Well said moltenmetal. I've never been paid to drive into the office and don't consider that to be a my contribution to the company. My contribution is my work. If someone else at the office feels cheated that I don't have to hassle with the commute I couldn't care less. We are adults and know by now that life isn't fair.

As the OP mentioned a lot of careers cater to telecommuting and others don't. It is possible as an engineer to contribute to the company from your home office and we can earn the right to do that. It just takes time - not only to gain the trust of our employer but to prove to them that it works.

RE: Telecommuting...why is this so HARD TO FIND???

Yeah, the company is paying me for my work/output, not my ability to drive some random distance to a cube farm. That said, if working from home is a hindrance to your (or coworker's) output, THEN the company has a right to reduce pay.

Dan - Owner
http://www.Hi-TecDesigns.com

RE: Telecommuting...why is this so HARD TO FIND???

Kevinas,

A huge part of mechanical design, at least in my world, is packaging things that were designed by electronics and optical designers. Sometimes, I have to work with software designers too. I need thorough understanding of what sales promised our customers. Communication is a huge part of the job, made much easier if you are in the same building as your co-workers, and the hardware you are designing.

If all the engineers are in-house, PDM also is in-house, sitting behind a firewall. Big companies have no choice here, but lots of small and medium sized companies lacking high level IT security talent, can contain IP and national security stuff on-site. One popular security assumption is that all secure information is stored on computers rigourously administered to security standards mandated by the government or by major customers. The one engineer who wants to work off-site is very expensive, and risky.

There was an interesting thread in Pat's Pub, thread1088-357407: B.Y.O.L.S., next phase of B.Y.O.D.?.

--
JHG

RE: Telecommuting...why is this so HARD TO FIND???

One thing about companies wanting you in house is quite simply convenience, you have a question about something your co worker is doing, you simply walk down the hall and ask him/her , I work out of my office in my house , getting questions answered and getting files to and from clients can at times be a nightmare.
Why would a company have to put up with that if they do not have to ?
B.E.

You are judged not by what you know, but by what you can do.

RE: Telecommuting...why is this so HARD TO FIND???

And yet... 'my' design teams are spread across four continents, so there can be no really serious argument that communication is the issue when I'm only 98 km from the main office. Admittedly when I work from home I have 3 phones on my desk. The way I cope with keeping people up to speed is that I report out daily or more often on a wiki, which is an overhead that I wouldn't necessarily need if we were all in one big office, but since it practically replaces fyi report writing it may even end up as a time save. It certainly keeps me honest, as I can, and do, review it to check progress. My main job is a bit odd in that it involves days of non-interaction at a time, as I plod through the design envelope.

Cheers

Greg Locock


New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: Telecommuting...why is this so HARD TO FIND???

drawoh has touched on a significant element of the working from home aspect, is that the company has to have the infrastructure in place to allow it, and the understanding of how to protect their intellectual property, how to manage the communications and workflow, and measure the results.

I've worked in a few places that had varying degrees of the 'work from home' aspect, almost universally, most of them don't have the infrastructure to ascertain the work output without physical supervision, or the requirement that the person be in the office as there's no way to remotely access the information and infrastructure required.

A couple of them had a decent idea of how to support field staff (and a lot of my understanding of the requirements stems from being that field guy who needs access to project information whilst on other non-company premises) but most of them don't. Throw document versioning and other fun stuff into the mix and it gets messy.

Combine that with the consideration that most of them won't have the ability to check whether telecommuting employees aren't sitting in their underwear at 13:00 watching Youtube instead of working, and its going to be quite hard to justify a startup telecommute as a new hire. The fact that a lot of companies are only good at spotting staff in their underwear rather than checking that they're actually doing what they're meant to is a moot point in this case.

RE: Telecommuting...why is this so HARD TO FIND???

FreddyNurk,

As professionals, we should not need close supervision to ensure we are getting work done. If (when) we apply ourselves, the company observes that our work is getting done. If it got done at 1:30am while we were sitting on the couch in our underpants, with a laptop and a bag of potato chips, they should not care, unless of course we are Skyping the customer.

--
JHG

RE: Telecommuting...why is this so HARD TO FIND???

drawoh, that's pretty much correct, but given the lack of infrastructure to support remote working, there's often no visibility of what gets done.
The fallback then is that the company perceives that they need the person in the office to keep an eye on as the output isn't as easy to ascertain.

A lot of software development tools are catered for multiple sites and multiple users working when and where they want. PDM to a certain extent can allow for such things, although as you mentioned, remote connections to such infrastructure are often expensive and risky.

But that was the point I was trying to make, its possible to work remotely, but if the company doesn't have the infrastructure to allow for it, then the expectation is that office presence is required so as to manage output, rightly or wrongly.

RE: Telecommuting...why is this so HARD TO FIND???

I would see if you can set yourself up as a short-term contract employee if you want to work telecommuting. Show you are so confident in your ability, skill set, and ability to complete work that you are willing to take some risk in the arrangement. There is no point for the company to pay you the same to work at home while everyone else has to come to the office. I'm sure you can see their reasons.

I had a meeting on Friday with a drafter I have worked with off an on over the years. He worked for one of our partner firms for a while, then for me for a while, then for one of the ultra-large construction firms for a while and now he is detailing rebar shop drawings for a placer.

He has a great breadth of experience, and good work ethic. This is the key to all of it.

We met because his commute is killing him and he wants to get closer to home. Initially he wanted to come and work for me again, but after listening to his experience and what he can do I offered something different. I told him to go back to his boss and plant the seed that he wanted to become an independent contractor. Rebar guys bill by the pound. Then I told him I would help set him up, office, machine and admin. My company would cover the business startup costs for a sweetheart deal on his hourly fee and priority over all other companies.

I'm excited, he is excited, and we will wait to see how his current company reacts. His risk is pretty small for this, not because of the small initial outlay, but because he is talented in many disciplines. If it fails I would guess he would get hired by any number of companies in a few weeks, especially if he was willing to make the long commute again. If your skill set and ability is tied to one kind of work, or a niche market - then the risk is higher that you will find another job if the independent deal tanks.

RE: Telecommuting...why is this so HARD TO FIND???

In a very disciplined company, it could possibly work out, but most companies have no clue how to scope work at the engineer's level, particularly for billable hours. If you claim 38 hr working on Project A and 2 hr on Project B, how does the company know that you've met your earned value? Many companies only have granularity on work packages down to a few hundred hours, but the ideal granularity is on the order of 40 to 80 hr, which makes earned value easier to track and verify. But, that often requires in-depth knowledge of historical hours for particular tasks.

Telecommuting could work rather well if the worker is paid by the piece-part, as it were, i.e., if they were paid X dollars to design a widget within a certain time. They would not get full pay if they either overran their budget or was late in delivery.

TTFN
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert!
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers

RE: Telecommuting...why is this so HARD TO FIND???

create your own company

RE: Telecommuting...why is this so HARD TO FIND???

(OP)

Wow, I didn't expect all the posts on this one...

Well, I did create my own company, and I'm getting some bites now.

I must say, I did have a boss come at me with the line about "well, it's not fair to the other employees", or "they'd complain". My answer? "Life's not fair...it's not fair that I get paid more, or that my office is in a climate controlled part of the building, or that my hours are different. Who owns the company, them or you?"

Didn't go over too well!

RE: Telecommuting...why is this so HARD TO FIND???

Telling your (prospective) boss that he's a wuss is a silly concept and career-limiting. Moreover, while you didn't get a job with them, you left them with a bad impression, and should any prospective client query them about you or your company, do you think you'll get a positive review?

TTFN
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert!
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers

RE: Telecommuting...why is this so HARD TO FIND???

(OP)
It was a boss at a place that I already worked at; I worked there quite a while after that. He got over it.

RE: Telecommuting...why is this so HARD TO FIND???

When/if the economy ever improves remote work may be a necessity, right now it is not. The employers have all the control. Nominally ten years ago I worked for a few years from the house. It worked well for the employer, but they also could not find the skill set readily available I had to offer. Today, I am traveling for work, because I have no choice.

Whatever happens, do your best not to burn bridges. Of course there a people and situations you may never participate with/in again, but when you are asking for flexibility, it should be a skill that you have also mastered.

RE: Telecommuting...why is this so HARD TO FIND???

My work requires me on the road 1/2 the year. Working from home is not a big deal. Engineers worth their salt are mostly self starters and work independently and do not need a lot of supervision. With smart phones, Skype for business, and VPN access to office what's the point of an office?

RE: Telecommuting...why is this so HARD TO FIND???

controlsdude: exactly. But you first need to demonstrate your worth, and trustworthiness.

RE: Telecommuting...why is this so HARD TO FIND???

Managers in modern engineering companies were raised on a style of management where they check productivity by walking up and down the cube farm making sure everyone is dutifully clicking. You and I realize that's stupid, but they don't. And you won't find a lot of telecommuting engineering positions until that generation of engineers finally gets around to retiring or dying off. The truth is, most engineering managers nowadays don't even understand the software well enough to know how to open it up and check the progress of a project. They're placeholders without a lot of actual value, but they've worked themselves into their positions through loyalty/experience.

Go the LLC route, see how that plays for you. Be prepared to get paid a lot less than you're used to for about 3 years. If you do good work and find good clients it'll pick up considerably after that.

Hydrology, Drainage Analysis, Flood Studies, and Complex Stormwater Litigation for Atlanta and the South East - http://www.campbellcivil.com

RE: Telecommuting...why is this so HARD TO FIND???

(OP)

Yup, the calls and emails are starting to float in now, over the past week or so; this may work out after all.

RE: Telecommuting...why is this so HARD TO FIND???

Kevinas, In my 12 years of contracting I've only had one client who was OK with me designing from my home office. I'd fly to the plant location once a month to do the necessary hands-on work and 2/3rds of the time I was at home. They trusted me and I delivered. The new product line has sold in the millions and it was a win-win situation. They actually got more than 8 hrs out of me per day because it was an interesting project and I'd start at 7a and still up in my office at 7p.
BUT,
I found that was rare. As the posts above show, some managers simply don't trust their engineers or have a clue how to track their progress. They feel better if they can actually see you.

Darrell Hambley P.E.
SENTEK Engineering, LLC

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