Working From Home
August 11, 2004 8:33 AM   Subscribe

Do you work from home? How'd you get that gig? I'm an experienced Unix SysAdmin and most of what I do could easily be done remotely. I'm looking to move back west next year and would like to live farther out from a city center then I'd like to commute each day, so I'd like to find a job that would allow me to work home most of the time. Do people get hired into jobs like that or is it something that has to grow out of an existing job?
posted by dirtylittlemonkey to Work & Money (7 answers total)
The last sysadmin job I had involved working from home about half the time. The company I worked for didn't really care about specific hours worked, just as long as I had my pager on. So I think you need to look for small, informal companies to apply at.
posted by cmonkey at 8:51 AM on August 11, 2004

my situation grew from being with the company for a long time so they knew my work and was ok with me being remote (my argument also being that all my work was online/email and that the office situation was I couldn't sit on my boss's floor anyway so what was the difference?). good luck.
posted by evening at 8:51 AM on August 11, 2004

i have done so twice, and both times it was after working in the company for some time. both times it was "either i work from home or i leave" - the first time because i had to leave the area anyway (partner got a job elsewhere), but the second time because i was unhappy (it didn't help enough and i left soon after).

i have also applied for (and got as far as interviews before i turned them down because i got an offer locally with different, but also unusual conditions (8 days on, 6 days off)) a job with a company where they were initially looking for someone in the office, but considered me working remotely because (1) i had the specialist knowledge they wanted (2) i had experience home working (3) i was prepared to pay for a flight every 6 weeks to the uk for face-to-face meetings, out of my own wage, and (4) they seemed to be a very cool, friendly bunch fo people in a small startup and (5) they couldn't find anyone else...

it works really well - i prefer it to working in an office. no worries about loud music! however, i kept very rigid hours. no way do i want it eating up my whole life, nor do i want any doubt that i'm working when i "should" be.

do you expect the company to have more than one person, because it's likely they'd want at least one sys-admin present full-time, i would guess (unlike a coder, you need to be physically there to plug things in... apologies for my cliched view of sysadmin ;o)

in any case, get a webcam and do a test-run with netmeeting or whatever it's called. being able to do that is probably a requirement these days (for the first job i also wrote a small vpn system - in fact ssh can do all you need).

in my experience, people who will let you do this tend to be good employers in other ways too. so it's also a good test in general, and i'd consider it worth a cut in wage.
posted by andrew cooke at 9:08 AM on August 11, 2004

I've worked at home as a programmer for the last three years. I negotiated it into the hiring agreement; it was a really cool offer, except for the fact that the company is located in Texas. They'd have preferred that I relocate, but they were flexible - the team actually already had one other person working remote. Also, I had a bit of leverage, in that they were a smallish company and the position called for some unusual skills I happened to have specialized in.

As far as I can tell, working at home comes in two modes: either you're the out of town expert, who flies in every couple months for meetings; or you're the local commute avoider/parent, who comes in two or three days a week and works the rest at home. I've never heard of anyone who lives in the same town as their home office who isn't expected to show up at least once a week.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:08 AM on August 11, 2004

I've actually got 2 programming jobs working at home right now (the beauty of working at home :).

One is a full time permanent position working for a company based in MO (I'm in MN) who has a big client local to MN and they wanted to start the development near the client rather than back in MO. My skillset is rather rare and they weren't able to hire anyone in MO that could do the work. A headhunter found a friend of mine for this job. He worked for them for about a month and then recommended me for a position.

The other is a ~20 hour/week contracting gig for a local startup that just got an office (but still doesn't expect me to come in). I got this one just through networking contacts. Again, they needed someone with my skillset and were having difficulty finding the right people.

I've worked from home for large (35,000+) employee companies, but they normally expect you to come into the office at least a couple of days a week.

I've found that the best way to get a work at home gig is to work for small startup type companies. Unfortunately, unless you have contacts in this area, I think it might be hard to find something cold.

The other thing that really helps is to have some skills that are relatively rare. You've got a much better negotiating position, if they need you more than you need the job.

I'm often working really long hours (ex. I was up till 6 AM this Monday), but I love the flexibility of getting to set my own hours and not have a lot of the baggage that comes in with having a job that you go in to.

Good luck.
posted by freshgroundpepper at 11:37 AM on August 11, 2004

I have worked from home at a main job and I still have a 2nd job that is 100% remote, except for dropping of finished product.

Colleges are sometimes good for this. My fulltime gig where I worked from home 50% or more each week was a programmer for a college. I had subordinates, too. My full time current job doesn't "offer" this, but I haven't asked. In fact, I don't want it because I take off during the day for hours on end to go to class, and then unofficially work from home to make up the time.... so, I guess that is a sort of working at home. Colleges pay less, but with less pay and a more progressive attitude, you may get some flexibility.

The second job is for a very small company. WOrking at a fair wage for them and providing all of the hardware/software that is needed to do the job gave me some leverage (since I had the stuff). Plus, right place at the right time helped.

Good luck, and this could help with some information.
posted by pissfactory at 1:46 PM on August 11, 2004

I'm <ahem> working from home as I type this.

I started my own company, it's not as hard as you'd think. At the six month point, I'd mostly succeeded in burning a hole in my savings, but eventually I hit a breakeven point, and then a point where I become profitable.

If you're willing to risk your savings (or your credit lines), there are a lot of very positive things about working for yourself. The biggest one, in my opinion, being the feeling I get when I use phrases like 'my company'. Starting and building something is very rewarding.

To be fair, I'd be remiss if I didn't note that most small businesses fail. Many others provide lackluster results. It's high-risk, but there's nobody who says you can't work from home.
posted by mosch at 7:05 AM on August 12, 2004

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