Job negotiations
December 13, 2005 10:51 AM   Subscribe

I've got a job offer out of state, but I'm not quite ready to move the whole family. Does anyone have suggestions on how to negotiate a "commuting" setup? I'm in the southwest and the job is in the southeast.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What sort of family? Small kids? Teenagers?
posted by Sara Anne at 11:07 AM on December 13, 2005

Do you mean telecommuting? Working from home? Going to their office every other week?

Did they know, when they offered you the job, that you weren't willing to relocate immediately?

See, this is what I can't stand about anonymous questions. If you have a follow-up, you can't really get it answered.
posted by elisabeth r at 11:16 AM on December 13, 2005

I did this for a year - worked in Orlando 5 days a week, came home to LA on the weekends. Can't say I recommend it - it contributed to the death of a marriage.

If you decide to do it, I would suggest having several family meetings, and lay out everyone's expectations for what it will be like. How much will you be gone? How will you communicate? How long will this last? Why is the family doing this?

Despite the fact that you will be doing most of the travel, this will likely be much harder on your spouse than it will be on you. s/he will have to shoulder additional responsibility, may feel powerless, and will have to adapt to many new things and responsibilities, while you will be focused on your work. You may oftentimes be tired when you get home, yet everyone will be excited to see you and you will walk in the door at the end of the week, fresh off the plane to face a blitz of issues and personalities wanting your immediate attention - it isn't easy.

Will you be able to spend any time telecommuting? Will you have any comp time? What about contingencies for family emergencies? Is your potential employer willing to show some flexibility? Do they want you specifically, or are you looking to show flexibility for the sake of your career?

If this is something you and your family want to do, I suggest you come up with a plan that includes a timeline and expectations, run it by your employer before taking the job, get everything in writing, and then hold regular meetings with your family and your employer to make any necessary adjustments as things progress.

Remember - work is work, but family is love - prioritize accordingly.
posted by gregariousrecluse at 11:19 AM on December 13, 2005

Agreed - if you're going to post anonymously it really helps to cover all bases.

If you do mean tele-commuting, I'd research it yourself so that you're prepared to answer all the inevitable tech questions, and then propose it in a this-is-an-opportunity-for-you-to-be-seen-as-a-progressive-company-in-a-fast-moving-world-of-technology way. It's interesting the reaction you get - I just suggested to my company that I tele-commute from another country and they laughed hysterically until they realized I was serious and then couldn't come up with a reason why not.
posted by forallmankind at 11:21 AM on December 13, 2005

My father took a job in the south while we were still living in the midwest, when I was in middle school. He was gone four days a week, I think, but it was a six-months thing until the school year ended, when we all moved south.

I don't think my parents ever really talked about it to me and my brother before it happened, and I just remember that time being very stressful for my mother. My father used to work late during the week, so it's not like I really felt his absence all that acutely, but I remember my mother always waiting for his phone call every night, and things like storms downing trees on our property and her not quite knowing how to handle that (I think one came through our roof at one point, actually, and there was much sarcastic laughing of the "Of course this only happens when he's out of town" variety).

I'm sure *they* talked about it before coming to a decision, because they always did, but yeah, it would have been nice to include the kids in the planning stages a bit, I think.

Also, re-reading your question, I'm not sure if you're talking about how to negotiate it with the company or with your family...

And if you are talking about telecommuting, then that will also need to be negotiated with your family. Being home 24 hours a day can be almost as stressful on relationships as being away 24 hours a day.
posted by occhiblu at 11:55 AM on December 13, 2005

It would help a great deal if we knew why the poster was not ready to move the whole family. Is it because the poster's spouse is happily employed in a job he/she loves and/or would have a hard time finding a similar job easily in the new location? Is it because moving long distances seems like a big upheaval and the poster isn't certain the new job/new location will be a good fit?

Having a parent move a long distance away for a job is very hard on kids. I think that parents think that moving is tough on kids, but kids are resilient, and given the choice between uprooting kids and staying together or having a parent go away for longish periods of time, kids would be happier coming along than staying behind.

Long distance relationships suck. They are sucky enough when it's just two adults. It puts a lot of strain on the relationship. Long distance relationships are double-extra sucky when kids are involved. If it were me, I'd try to find a solution that keeps everyone under one roof.
posted by ambrosia at 11:57 AM on December 13, 2005

I've worked in the Northeast and lived in the Midwest for the last two years. This involves a weekly Monday morning flight from Chicago to the Boston area, and a weekly Wednesday afternoon flight from the Boston area to Chicago. Without knowing the details of your situation, I can tell you some of the things that has made this work out OK for me. If you mean telecommuting, this will be pretty worthless to you.
  • The more flexibility you have in your job, the better. If I had to be in my Boston area office five days a week, this would definitely not work. If I had to worry about the plane being half-an-hour late and what impact this would have on my job, it would definitely not work. This leads to...
  • It's really important to lay out the exact ground rules with your employer before you begin. Five days a week every week would have been a deal-breaker for me. (I originally said I'd be in the office every other week for four days at a time, and that didn't fly, which is neither here nor there.)
  • Stick to the plan. You'll find that the commuting turns routine as long as you don't have to do different things every week. The times I feel worst about the arrangement are when I have to change the days I travel or spend an extra day, etc.
  • Small travel aggravations compound if they happen 104 times a year. I was flying ATA until they ceased service into Boston earlier this year. They had this somewhat kludgy online check-in system and sometimes you would be assigned a seat and have it switched at the airport. I know that this is the world's stupidest thing to worry about, but I really liked to sit in 2A and I spent a lot of mental energy on this until I finally pulled back and realized how crazy the whole thing was. That's not really advice, except if you believe in karma, as I now have to take assigned-seat-less Southwest.
  • You're going to be spending a lot of time negotiating airports. I don't have a ton of advice here, except to try to eliminate unneeded extra airport time (i.e., fly direct if at all possible, even if it's a little more expensive). If you have any control over which airports to fly to/from, smaller airports will make you much happier. I'm really lucky in that Midway is the convenient Chicago airport for me. O'Hare would drive me crazy. If your travel means that you have to fly from Phoenix to Atlanta through O'Hare every week, don't do this. You won't make it unless you really like hanging around people acting all crazy.
  • It's not going to be inexpensive. If you're travelling every week, you're going to be spending a lot of money. It would obviously be great if you could negotiate it so that it was your company spending the money and not you. Try to think of all the expenses beforehand so that you can accurately tell your employer how much you expect to spend, then increase that number by 30%. It will always end up costing more than you think. The extra cushion of money is important because...
  • You can almost always solve your travel problems by throwing a little money at them. You'll have all sorts of things that you want to do that will require a little extra money and it will start to drive you crazy to always have to say no. The most frequent of these, I've found, are: wanting to come home a day early (airplane ticket change fee, car rental early return fee); arranging transportation from your home to the airport and vice versa (pay for a car service occasionally instead of making your spouse change what they're doing); waiting forever to get your car at the car rental place (upgrading from a compact car to the next higher up can sometimes get you out quicker -- this was specific to Alamo in Boston, where they never had enough compact cars, but it's just an example), etc.
You'll notice that I didn't really address the interpersonal stuff at all. I've personally found that being home five nights a week works pretty well for me and my girlfriend, but I have no idea if it would still work in five years, or work now if we had children. Even if I had more information about you and your family, I couldn't offer you any worthwhile advice on that. If I didn't even graze your actual question with this (way too) long answer, I apologize. I'm happy to try again by email (I have a gmail account and my name is mark anderson) if you'd like.
posted by MarkAnd at 2:17 PM on December 13, 2005

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