This article was written by Kristin Thomas. Kristin is the Director of Employer Outreach for FlexJobs, the leading site for telecommuting and flexible job listings and recruiting for flexible professionals. Kristin and her team work to help employers recruit professionals in over 50 career fields for their flexible and work-from-home job listings. She’s a mother to four boys (including twins!) and lives in Pennsylvania.
Many of us work in jobs where flexibility is not yet a reality. Some of us have more control over our work schedules, and a growing number of us work remotely. I fall into the latter virtual/work-from-home category, as our entire company works 100 percent remotely, dispersed around the country. We walk the talk—we are champions of work flexibility for our job seeker members and employers.
Even with the most flexible work option, those of us who work from home run into obstacles. This winter my obstacle was living through the second largest power outage our area has ever experienced. As I waited for my turn to use an available electrical outlet to charge my phone and do some work on my laptop, I was reminded of McGraw Hill’s remote work success during Hurricane Sandy and our FlexJobs CEO during the 2013 Colorado floods.
And I was also reminded of my failure to better prepare my own contingency plan. Sigh. I should say that my employer, FlexJobs, is by far the most understanding and flexible employer on the planet. They did not encourage or ask that I work or attend meetings while living in a declared disaster area. I did that to myself.
Hindsight is twenty-twenty, so here is my advice for those who work remotely (especially those with children):
1. Don’t get too comfortable with your Internet access. One storm, one fallen tree, one car crash, one power surge can take it away just like that. Know which local establishments offer free Wi-Fi ahead of time. Save the list as a Word document, post it on your fridge, write it on your hand—do whatever you need to do.
2. Don’t show up empty handed. Bring a power strip and all of the cords necessary to charge your various devices. For me, this is a laptop, phones, a Kindle, and kid’s Nintendo 3DS games. You will make LOTS of new friends at the free Wi-Fi establishment with your popular power strip.
3. Don’t rely solely on your sitter. S/he will likely be in the same situation as you in a storm and won’t be able to make it to your house. If there’s no school, then what? No school means that there are plenty of middle school and high school kids in your neighborhood that are home too—a tween/teen helper is an affordable alternative. You also probably have friends with kids the same age in the same situation. Offer to share the workday in exchange for watching each other’s children. Or meet up at a local cafe with Wi-Fi and bring a portable DVD or game devices for all of the kids so you can get a little bit of work done—if only to reschedule meetings to another day.