April has been an interesting month for me. I feel as if I have spent as much time away from home as at home.
First, I took a business trip to attend a conference in the Washington, D.C., area. I learned quite a bit — maybe more from my fellow conference attendees than from the sessions themselves.
One of the primary lessons was that I hope to never become an expert at business travel, because that would imply I'm doing a lot of it. I honestly don't know how people who have to travel all the time make that work, but that's a topic for another column.
After a few days back home, I headed for California on a spring break trip with my family. This was a fun, relaxing time, as we enjoyed museums, walked around the La Brea Tar Pits and even had a chance to see the space shuttle Endeavour. However, it felt strange to be traveling yet again.
Naturally, time away from home also means time away from the office, and that's also been a mixed blessing. While it's great to get away from the daily grind now and then, these two trips in rapid succession have left me feeling disconnected from the daily happenings in my corner of Cubeville.
Some of that is by design. Especially during the California trip, I purposely tried to avoid obsessively checking my email. I had mixed success in those efforts. This happens to be an extremely busy time for me at work, and I couldn't help peeking occasionally just to stay on top of things.
Fortunately, I have an occupation that makes it relatively easy for me to work remotely, whether that means "looking over the shoulders" of my team from afar or writing this weekly column.
In fact, as a writer, I apparently have one of the most popular work-from-home jobs available, according to FlexJobs, an online service for professionals seeking telecommuting, flexible schedule, part-time and freelance jobs.
FlexJobs recently released a list of 20 job titles that most commonly appear in its listings of work-from-home jobs, and "writer" took the top spot. It was followed by consultant, customer service representative, sales representative, engineer, account executive/manager, software developer, case manager, medical coder and adjunct faculty.
The biggest surprise for me in that top 10 was the engineer job title. It seems as if most engineers would need to be either in an office or on a work site. Any work-from-home engineers out there want to clarify this for me?
Items 11-20 on the list were systems analyst, program/project manager, UI/UX designer, travel counselor, insurance adjuster, graphic designer, bilingual interpreter, SEO/marketing assistant, director of business development and marketing manager.
This is a pretty diverse group of jobs that shows, once again, that there are plenty of opportunities available for flexible work. For example, the business development team of the company I work for is scattered across the country to gain and maintain client accounts, and it would make absolutely no sense for them to work out of our central office in Salt Lake City.
“When people think of work-from-home jobs, there is often a misconception that these jobs are either scams or limited in their professional scope," said Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs, in a press release about the list. "However, the growth of job opportunities that allow employees to telecommute from their home offices is happening in all career industries and career levels.
“These 20 work-from-home job titles really show the increasing variety of career options available for people who want to telecommute.”
The information from FlexJobs also indicated that health care is the top category for work-from-home jobs, and that makes sense to me. That's my industry now, and while the company I work for offers primarily on-site jobs, I know of others that have several remote-work opportunities.
The release from FlexJobs went on to point out that, according to Global Workplace Analytics, telecommuting grew about 80 percent between 2005 and 2012. There's no way that's because of writers!
"There has been 122 percent growth for state government, 87 percent growth for not-for-profit, 70 percent growth in for-profit and 62 percent for local government," the FlexJobs release said. "The federal sector has also grown, but the growth shown of 421 percent includes a large amount of telecommuting that happened in 2005-2006 surrounding Hurricane Katrina."
I'm sure those numbers have continued to increase in 2014. No matter the industry, it seems that remote work arrangements are becoming more acceptable and more integrated into corporate plans for growth and development.
I appreciate every additional piece of evidence that shows this is the case. As more companies look for ways to promote remote work opportunities, I believe they will find that allowing people to work from home where that's practical will help both the business and its workers.
I'm certainly grateful for the flexibility of my work, both when I'm actually at home and when I'm on the road trying to keep up with all that's happening back at the office.
That said, I'm glad to be back in a more regular routine, with my weeks of traveling behind me. Working from home is one thing, but living out of a suitcase is something else entirely.
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