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Experiences and Realities of an Homesourced IT Worker 114

Posted by samzenpus
from the remember-to-wear-pants dept.
toygeek writes "Some companies have small corporate offices with a few desks and some basic staff, and the balance of their staff works from home. I have worked for two companies that have home-sourced their staffing. I wish to take you through my journey in working from home in the IT world and share some facts that I've accumulated along the way."
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Experiences and Realities of an Homesourced IT Worker

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  • Do not want (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MacDork (560499) on Sunday August 18, 2013 @12:09PM (#44600595) Journal
    Work from home is a trap. I would only consider working from home if my employer is me. Work from home blurs the lines between home life and work life to the point where you are always on call. I work 40hrs a week as a software developer and sys admin. The rest of the time in my week is mine.
    • Re:Do not want (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 18, 2013 @12:15PM (#44600625)
      Sorry to hear you had a sadistic employer who took advantage of his ability to contact you outside the office, but it's not always like that. In my case, I found that working from home allowed me to work fewer hours. When I went to the office every day, I was forced to stay there 8 hours a day even if I had finished my tasks in 5. Working from home, I do what I need to do for my own company and then pursue my own interests. Plus, working from home is not necessarily working from home as a reliable internet connection can be had cheaply nearly everywhere now. I was able to backpack Asia for months while still fulfilling my duties.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I think being on the call 24/7 is fine... if I'm paid for 24/7 as well!

      • by Luckyo (1726890)

        That really depends on the task. In some cases, like being a high level manager 24/7 on call is a reality today. The job description assumes this and compensation also accounts for this.

        In some other cases, like base level IT workers, it can happen if you work from home without any kind of extra compensation and you're not strong enough to resist the employer's push. Many people fall into this category.

    • Re: Do not want (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hawks5999 (588198) on Sunday August 18, 2013 @12:23PM (#44600663)
      Exactly backwards. Working for yourself you have the hardest boss. Working as TFA article describes you can log out of chat and set your phone on DND when your workday ends.
    • Re:Do not want (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MysteriousPreacher (702266) on Sunday August 18, 2013 @12:49PM (#44600813) Journal

      Another problem of working from home is that it hinders the building of contacts. A lot if what I can do is through chance contact: I go for a smoke and get chatting with a person in logistics. I receive and email from somebody, who I realise is in the building, so I go chat with them. Face to face makes a difference. It's way easier to fix something if I've had a beer or two with the right people. It's not deliberate; more serendipitous resultsof wanting to be social, and more easily done in person.

      • by CRCulver (715279)
        It's no surprise that social people will find social ways to advance their career and make their work easier, but that doesn't mean there aren't other ways to do so that don't require that face-to-face interaction.
      • by mrflash818 (226638) on Sunday August 18, 2013 @02:01PM (#44601251) Homepage Journal

        It is true that telecommuting can hinder networking with people in water-cooler/cigarette breaks.

        For the company I work for, a very large healthcare, the offices are all distributed nationally, no no real chance at face time with those units, even if I was in the office every day.

        Not probably as good a substitute, but we end up using instant messaging a lot and get to do a bit of social networking that way, like in the old dot-com days.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Same here. I supervise a team of 5 network and system engineers spread across 3 physical locations at a large US based law firm.. We are responsible for all things network and system related for 15 offices in 6 different countries. When I am doing my day to day I don't know if the engineer I am talking to is home or in their designated work office or at a remote office and they don't know where I am either. It does not matter. If I need them they are just an IM, phone call, or an email away and the sam

        • Yeah, chatting greatly helps. From personal experience though I found chatting was more about sustaining the relationships I built after visiting colleagues in other regions. I suppose I'm more a face to face person.

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        For me, I prefer the janitorial service at the office to the lazy SOB who cleans up at home. Also the fridge has more stuff in it at the office, it has air conditioning, a larger desk, and a full set of lab equipment.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Im a software developer that can work from home 95% of the time (I go in for design meetings once or twice a month.) I'm sorry you have had problems setting boundaries.

    • Re:Do not want (Score:4, Insightful)

      by TobinLathrop (551137) on Sunday August 18, 2013 @01:03PM (#44600897)

      Thanks to my current work position I am out of on call rotation, so other than the odd big outage or emergency (well customer needs it yesterday) server build I rarely put much extra time *knock wood*. But due to long ago lack of desk space the company decided to push server admins in to telecommuting cause a cable internet is cheaper than desk space. Not that they pay for it anymore and there is still no permanent desk space but it is cheaper than gas on the 40 mile round trip if I had to drive it every day. My biggest problem is remembering to get out every day for a walk or something, while I am good at locking the work machine/setting away at quitting time sometimes it is a yeah still the same old walls I have been looking at all day stir crazy that really gets to me.

    • Work from home is a trap.

      Unless you're a schizoid.

    • by King_TJ (85913) on Sunday August 18, 2013 @02:24PM (#44601349) Journal

      I currently work in I.T. for a company that is fairly flexible about my working from home. Truthfully, the biggest issues with it are the more subtle things. Since many of the people I do support for have to be in the office the vast majority of the time, there's that psychological issue where they don't see me, so they begin to feel like I don't put in as much time/effort as they do. (And by the same token, I eventually start feeling a sense of guilt or concern that I'll get perceived that way if I don't make an appearance sometimes, despite there really being no pressing reason to spend money on the gas to drive 45 minutes into work and back again.)

      The "always on call" thing is definitely a problem, especially since there are only a few of us working in I.T. supporting around 150 users in multiple time zones. If one of us is on vacation, you can bet on getting at least a few calls or emails about "need it now" issues happening after you should really be done for the day. But I don't find it's any worse working from home than in the office? Either way, people are going to put in their requests whenever they need to and you either see it on a PC at home or on a PC at work, or on your smartphone while you're out someplace. If you don't push back a bit ,saying "This time is now MY time... so I'll just ignore this one until tomorrow.", then yes - you're caught in a trap. But it's a trap you allowed yourself to get locked into....

    • Re:Do not want (Score:5, Insightful)

      by currently_awake (1248758) on Sunday August 18, 2013 @02:29PM (#44601365)
      If you can do the job from home, then so can someone with better (on paper) qualifications in the 3rd world, getting paid 1/10.
    • by gweihir (88907)

      I do work from home without fixed work times. As all time spent working goes into my time-sheet in 1/4 hour increments, I do not see any trap here. True, "work-time" cannot reasonably be accumulated anymore by staring out the window at the office, but if I have an idea while doing something private, that goes into the time-sheet as well.

      It does require honesty though, against your employer and against yourself, and it does require trust in the other direction.

    • by evilviper (135110)

      Work from home blurs the lines between home life and work life to the point where you are always on call.

      Depending on where you work, the line between work life and home life has been blurred for years, or it never will be no matter what.

      I've had work-from-home jobs where I worked 8-5, never any overtime nor after-hours calls. I've also had jobs where remote work wasn't aloud, yet I'd be on-call once a month, and get several calls, and need to drive-in to the office. The work environment, not your locatio

  • work while living out in the countryside. I'd put a pretty high value on that myself. Good luck to you!

  • I'm an iOS developer (and used to do OS X) who has worked at home for over 2 decades now. I did have one year where the new boss wanted me in the office. (I upgraded bosses via the resume route eventually.) And I once was laid off because I refused to move halfway across the country (new boss wanted me sitting there.) You need discipline to not blur the line between home and work. For me that means regular hours and an office with a door that shuts. Once place I lived even had the office in a studio that was attached but I needed to go outside to get to it. I loved it. Family also knows what working means and treats it as such. I wouldn't change it for anything.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by theskipper (461997)

      iOS developer for over two decades? Is that like being a quantum physicist for over 150 years?

      (Apologies, embarrassing myself by using that line has been on my todo list forever. Check.)

      • you missed the "used to do OS X" part... but I was coding iOS before the app store was open, briefly, but I was!
        • by mapuche (41699)

          Yeah, because OS X has over to decades of life.

          • Let's examine the sentence you're insisting on continuing to pick at:

            I'm an iOS developer (and used to do OS X) who has worked at home for over 2 decades now

            Where did the poster say he's spent his entire working life on OS X? 10.0 was released on March 24, 2001, which was over 12 years ago. He's an iOS developer now, has worked on Mac OS X in the past, and didn't say that was the only thing he's developed on in his entire life.

            If we assume the poster entered the professional IT workforce at 22 and spent his first 3 years or so working conventional office jobs, adding 20 years of working remote

            • Thank you!

              I was out on the road and couldn't respond. Glad you did for me.

              Yes, I did OS X before then. And before then it was MacOS 9 and then 8. And before that was System 7. And before that was System Software 6. Before that was SunOS (not Solaris, and MassComp, remember them?). Before that was VMS and before that was RXS-11M. Before that I was at MIT, best one I remembered was called Q on Perkin-Elmer hardware. You had to call out "Ok to to compile" before compiling. Of course some ITS and a smidge o

              • Post like yours make me want to turn on my PDP-11. I still have a working one in the garage(at least it worked the last time I plugged it in about ten years ago).
  • Wage scale is wrong (Score:4, Informative)

    by egcagrac0 (1410377) on Sunday August 18, 2013 @12:31PM (#44600709)

    $20/hr ... So much for that high paying job.

    $20/hr is not a high-paying job anymore, (unless you're comparing it to stocking shelves at the discount store, which you shouldn't).

    • by plopez (54068)

      Where I live you are luck to get $10 for labor and construction.

    • $20 is high paying if you're low-level IT, helpdesk, etc. One of my first jobs out of high-school was helpdesk for a DSL company, making $20/hr. You're lucky if you get that much now for the same job.

      I've since moved onto programming/development - and make substantially more money (ironically, with less stress).
      • You're adjusting for the type of work being performed. ("$20/hr is good money, for what I'm doing.")

        I am not.

        If we assume that $50,000/yr in 1986 is good money (as the song says, that will buy a lot of beer), and adjust for inflation [bls.gov], that's $53/hr (I use a 2000 hour work-year, which gives a lousy 2 weeks of vacation, but simplifies the arithmetic).

      • by Ryanrule (1657199)

        You can make $20 an hour driving forklifts at a unionized warehouse. And you get OT.

    • by fred911 (83970)

      $20 an hour goes fairly far in Central and S. America and most of Asia. It puts you in the top 10% of wage earners.

    • by toygeek (473120)

      Perhaps I should had said "well paying" instead. $20/hr for the average folk is pretty decent. More than that, it gave me some nice easy numbers to play with ;-)

    • by evilviper (135110)

      Depends on location. Rent or mortgage will be the majority of your expenses.

      If you're somewhere that they're just about giving away abandoned houses, $20/hr would be very good money.

      • by gagol (583737)
        Abandoned 1$ houses are rarely habitable and generally need at least new plumbing and wiring (copper thiefs). Think of it as free land but you need a new house on it.
        • by evilviper (135110)

          Wiring and plumbing is easy enough to do, and fairly inexpensive. Building a whole new house costs several orders of magnitude more than fixing even extensive damage, and can be VERY cheap depending on how much of the work you can do yourself.

  • 1998-2004: worked from home as a freelancer; 2004-2007: full-time job working from home (the company didn't even have an office in the country where I was living at the time); 2007-present: after transferring to my employer's home country, have continued to work from home whenever I feel like it (which is most of the time).

    Somebody would have to give me a LOT of money before I'd agreed to be forced to work in an office 40 hours/week again.

  • by plopez (54068) on Sunday August 18, 2013 @12:54PM (#44600843) Journal

    1) Money savings by not eating out. Where I work most people I see eat out either in the company cafeteria or off campus. I estimate would be about $10/day, or $160/month. Which could be about an insurance payment or a wifi plan. Personally I only eat out about twice a month as a treat, right after payday. Otherwise it is normally leftovers and sandwiches. Working from home you just walk over to the fridge.

    2) Free gym membership! Get some weights or an exercise bike. Then take a break over lunch and work out.

    • by toygeek (473120)

      That's very true! I didn't even consider the cost of eating out. There can be a significant savings for sure. Plus, admit it: You don't go to the place that sells healthy sammiches, you go down to McDonalds and buy 5 $1 items and hog out. Working from home all but eliminates that.

      • by MrKaos (858439)

        That's very true! I didn't even consider the cost of eating out. There can be a significant savings for sure. Plus, admit it: You don't go to the place that sells healthy sammiches, you go down to McDonalds and buy 5 $1 items and hog out. Working from home all but eliminates that.

        I've been telecommuting on and off for 15-20 years and have found it has numerous benefits for myself, the employer and my own business.

        First the diet issue. When I'm at home I found that I eat healthy food because I actually make a meal at lunch, consequently over the years, I have become quite a good cook.

        Avoiding traffic has made me extremely productive as my output is generally higher than when I commute simply because the "slog" of driving isn't there and my brain is permitted a slow start for creat

  • by urbanriot (924981) on Sunday August 18, 2013 @01:24PM (#44601033)
    A large component of my job is working from home and my experiences are entirely the same as Ryan's. I often start 'work' as soon as I wake up while sipping my morning coffee and before I know it the day is over at 6 PM and I've worked through what regular people think of as breaks, hopefully having snacked at some point in between. There are entire weeks of week days where I don't leave the house for no explainable reason other than I have no reason to and I'm tired. Similarly to Ryan, I have to remind myself to shower for the benefit of people I may encounter throughout the day and wear clean clothes.

    There is the benefit of saving gas, avoiding car maintenance, less time involved in a commute and the convenience of having access to things like juicers or blenders for a healthy bite to eat when I think about it. I can also change throughout the day as the weather changes and that's always convenient. However since I'm in a seasonal climate there are additional energy costs that would be absorbed by an employer.

    I suppose additional benefits include the ability to loudly listen to whatever music I like if I'm not actively voice communicating and I suppose I'm less likely to die in a car accident.

    The question is, is this a big deal that seriously affects the quality of my life? No, not really, there are also pros and cons about working in an environment with more structure and the time I save in avoiding a commute, I could make it up at an office with less personal distractions. I wouldn't say one way is better or worse than the other for me, they're just different.
    • by toygeek (473120)

      Thanks for the reply! I'm glad to see that this post resonated with people in the way that it has. Your comment about changing clothes as the day goes by hits home with me too (pun intended). Shorts, jeans, socks, no socks, back to shorts, oops spilled lunch on my shirt...

      • by urbanriot (924981)
        Haha! My wife gave me heck last week because my foot prints travelled across the dark hardwood living room floor, "You never wear socks inside!!"
        • by gagol (583737)
          Floors are supposed to be practical, not art. The whole thing about turning a house into a pristine magazine ad you are afraid to touch, I really dont get it.
          • I have a friend who's wife covers the lounge suite with plastic and although it is regularly used the plastic only comes off when someone she deems important enough to warrant it visits. I cannot imagine her reaction if someone sitting on it farted.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Another great thing about working from home: no more traffic jams and computers left on in the office...I wake up and walk down stairs, exuding 0 green house emmisions and only usually turn on my laptop and speakers, consuming (on average) around 200kwh. Driving to office usually starts and ends me in a traffic jam for a total of 2 hours a day (another bonus, time back from commuting), producing some grand number of metric tons of CO2 a year, top that with all of the office lighting used becuase building ma

  • by Stiletto (12066) on Sunday August 18, 2013 @01:36PM (#44601115)

    If your job can be done from home, it can be done from India.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Not necessarily true. IT support has to communicate in real time with both customers and with L3 engineers, who tend to be the regular feature developers of the software product. True, this could be done in India but with a time zone shift of 9 1/2 hours, the better talent in India will probably find 9-5 work.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Whatever. If Indian IT workers can be gainfully employed, more power to them. I have worked (and currently work) with colleagues from India, Russia, Romania, you name it. A large part of it has taken place from home because the coworkers wouldn't have been in the local office anyway.

      I'm hired for a job and I need to do the job well without getting entangled in ethnic animosity. It may well be that the Western coder goes the way of clocksmiths, but at the moment I'm busy with interesting development work. So

    • Looks like only the AC's are biting on this one. Regardless of whether it makes sense on a technical level, this is exactly what the bean counters and VP's are thinking. They don't care if the folks providing support know what FTP is, they have a contract and someone to yell at if it all goes south - and a mountain of provable cost efficiencies. If they're particularly smart, they will keep just enough dedicated talent on-hand to babysit during the transition offshore, chewing up all of their work/life bala
    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      It could be, if people in India were able to work instead of just play office politics to a science.

      You don't outsource IT work to India if you want the product to be of any use to anyone 2-3 years from now. That's twice the case for systems or DBA work. (Just ask an immigrated Indian if it's a good idea... they won't even do it.)

  • by sirwired (27582) on Sunday August 18, 2013 @01:50PM (#44601183)

    I just started WFH in April after 13 years doing L2 support for enterprise storage equipment. The team I came from was, to be totally honest, really great to work for. We had a great manager (the same one) the entire time up until he retired in April, and there was nothing wrong with his replacement other than being a little green. We were a tight-knit group with little turnover (which is good, as it took about 2 years of OTJ to train somebody new), and most of us worked from home rarely, even though our manager encouraged us to do so at least once a week if we were so inclined; the nature of the work (solving new, unique, and subtle ways customers found to break our stuff) involved a lot of collaboration and whiteboarding that would have been nearly impossible remotely. Lots of eavesdropping over the cube walls and hearing a co-worker describe a problem that vaguely resembles one you just fixed five months ago. I left not out of any deep-seated problem, but rather it was time for me to move my career forward; I had no complaints about my pay or anything, but there was no way for me to advance, as there was an engineer senior to me (and just as good) next in line for the team-lead position.

    My new team (pre-sales DR architecture) is spread out all over, and only one even bothers with a desk to go to. While we all get along, and chat on the phone and over IM all the time (I'm on the phone for 3-4 hours every day), it's not nearly the same. With the new job, the work definitely comes and goes in spurts, so the flexible work hours are a plus; sometimes I take a long lunch and clock-punch right at five, and others I have to work a long day to get a sales proposal rolled out in time. I miss carpooling with my wife (20 minute commute), and I miss shooting the $hit with my coworkers.

    I need to do better job finishing the setup of my home office, so I have a "real" place to work besides the kitchen table or the screened-in porch (namely, I need a whiteboard and bigger monitor.) I need to be better about getting dressed in actual clothes in the AM instead of when it's time to leave the house next. I could get myself a cube assigned by my employer at my former site (probably the same cube I left if I wanted it) but it's just not the same hanging around your former co-workers if you are now doing a completely different job (not to mention I'd probably routinely get asked for my advice there.)

    In the end, I won't say it's better or worse, but it IS very different. My new job works better from home than the office, and my old one was better done in the office.

  • by mrflash818 (226638) on Sunday August 18, 2013 @01:53PM (#44601201) Homepage Journal

    Mondays - in the office. Face time. Dept meetings.

    Tuesdays through Fridays - telecommute from home.

    Tools work provided: laptop, VPN RSA dongle, cell phone.

    Tools I provided: DSL, home network (netgear router connected to the DSL), desk, chair.

    Love it! Allows me to sleep in till 8:15am, then walk to work PC, boot it, and start my workday at 8:30a. I do not have to drive to and from work. Saves a tank of gasoline a week, and wear-and-tear on the car. No worries about fwy traffic, car accidents, or road rage making me late to work.

    Also allows me to be home, working, when the kids get home from school. Money savings there, too, by not having to have them in after-school daycare. Money savings not having to eat out, can eat what is in the fridge.

    Stress is lower, too. No having to hear nonconsensual gossip or phone calls from co-workers in office cubes around me. Do not have to wear 'office attire', and usually wear t-shirts and shorts at home. Can play music I like, as loud as I like, as long as I am not on a work phone call. Can use my network to listen to youtube, or surf the web on my non-work PC while I work, no worries about triggering IT alert that I am accessing non-sanctioned websites, as for that I am not using work's network or PC.

    Caveat: a person has to have a strong work ethic, and make sure to get the work done, and even do extra work, to keep boss 'happy' that you are deserving to be allowed to be a telecommuter. I always pick up work phone in first or second ring. I always work an extra hour a day, minimum (I never work under 45hrs a week).

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I did freelance for over a year once I learned enough programming to quit my day job. I would find a job that took 2-6 weeks and work like crazy and then take 1-2 off, go to events, meet people, and look for more work (I highly recommend if you're not full-time "home-sourced," you find some job that pays enough regularly so you are not constantly worried about rent between jobs.). The greatest part is you can travel and work, and I think every developer with a yearning for adventure should try it. We're at

  • by Anonymous Coward

    After a decade of working in the social work / child welfare world, I got headhunted by a smallish software company that noticed I was using some technical solutions I made up on my own to solve some of the issues I had with structural/process gaps in the landscape of the job ... a wiki of social services providers here, a small app that visually mapped out family risk factors there, simple stuff. They hired me as a proto-Business Analyst - they needed a guy with industry intel with a little technical back

  • by chad_r (79875) on Sunday August 18, 2013 @05:01PM (#44602289)

    The article is rather light on the cons of working at home. I have been self-employed for 7 years consulting for my ex-employer. Over the years I've come across various pitfalls of being paid hourly, such as:

    • - Sitting in a regular chair instead of an office chair, resulting in a year of back problems before I figured it out
    • - Your coworkers think you're rich because you make a good hourly amount, without considering they get paid vacation, health care, 401k and many other benefits
    • - For any errands or chores that have to be done during work hours, you're expected to do it since your family can't leave work to do it
    • - You can't work after hours because you're expected to be with the family
    • - You can't work after hours because there is way too much noise and interruption, and no door is thick enough to block it out
    • - It's difficult to leave the house, knowing how much it's effectively costing you
    • - With no place to walk to, you could go a whole day and not walk more than 200 steps
    • - Less than ideal lighting and air movement
    • - Time goes much slower with nobody around, and 6 hours feels like a full day
    • - Vacation is unpaid, so you're less likely to take one
    • - Being at home 24 fucking hours a day for weeks on end

    My goal was 6 hours a day of work, and it was difficult most days to fill this amount. I got crazy after 6 years, and am now renting an inexpensive office space. It's a much better environment for many reasons, and the additional hours I can put in per month makes it pay for itself within a day. I have an office mate, and even though he works in a different field, it makes a difference having someone else around. It has been great being able to work in a real office environment, and I'm a more cheerful person as a result. Lessons learned the hard way.

    • by BVis (267028)

      Working at home is not for everyone. It sounds like you're not doing a great job of managing it.

    • All of these fall into two categories
      1) Environment- You have contorl over this. If you fail to control your rnvironment, it is your own fault.
      2) self employment- True even if you worked at a clients office

      None of these are elated to 'working from home' except maybe the 'being at home for days on end and no place to walk to. Both can be fixed by getting off your ass and exercising.

  • Come on editors, that should be "a Homesourced IT Worker". There should be an "a" before a consonant sound and an "an" before a vowel sound. Just google it, here's an example [dailywritingtips.com].

  • I've been working from home for two years, the first year as a full time employee at a software consultancy, the second year as a self employed contractor.

    At the first job, pay was good, benefits were ok, and work paid for my phone, unlimited data plan, and a high end laptop, with a docking station and a big monitor, and loads of licenced commercial software including a $10,000 GIS platform. We used Skype chat a lot, both video and audio, and email. There was a monthly newsletter and an annual meeting whe

  • I'm more productive when working from home. Much less distraction from coworkers, and much happier working while being able to listen to the radio station of my choosing. And one of the biggest benefits for me has been the exercise. When I was in corporate America, I had to drive an hour through rush hour twice a day (to work and back) and never had time to exercise. When I switched to working from home, I used the time I got back to exercise and started routinely riding my bike at least 15 miles each morni
  • I'm in a job search at the moment, and pretty much every time I raise the possibility of working remotely (hellish commute for any jobs in nearest big city) I can hear my resume hitting the circular file over the phone. Most workplaces do not value employees as the asset that they are, but instead view them as walking cost centers who work as little as possible not out of valuing their time appropriately, but out of spite for their employer. The first rule of managing costs is know what is going on with t

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