Telecommuting Jobs: Not Just for Worker Bees Anymore

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When Michelle Miller was laid off from a college management job she loved, she worried about finding a similar post without having to move away from her Kennewick, Washington, home.

“I value higher education,” says the former enrollment manager for University of Phoenix, which shuttered its rural Washington campuses in 2012. Nearby opportunities in Miller’s field were limited. Besides, her husband held a good job, and they weren’t ready to leave the city they’d come to love.

Miller started looking for “real work-from-home jobs” that weren’t scams and discovered an executive job posting through FlexJobs, a subscription-based online service connecting job seekers with remote and flexible opportunities.

“When searching with FlexJobs, I could really nail it down to ‘higher education administration,’ ” Miller told Money Talks News.

Today she is the CEO of the Americas for Aringo, a 12-year-old global company helping MBA applicants get into good schools. Miller matches applicants with Aringo consultants, whom she hires, evaluates and, in a few cases, terminates. She is in charge of marketing, client relations and building partnerships. She also manages a support staff that “really needs little oversight” with billing, contract work and taxes.

She’s also busting a myth.

Typical telecommuters

“The myth that telecommuting opportunities don’t exist at the highest executive level is finally being dismantled as telecommuting becomes more integrated in regular business practices,” said Sara Sutton Fell, FlexJobs founder and CEO.

Job seekers typically don’t associate remote work with C-level positions, the ones that have chief in their titles, like chief executive officer, chief financial officer, chief operating officer, chief information officer, among others. But those and titles such as director and vice president do exist for remote workers, Sutton Fell said.

A few recent examples of titles and fields posted in FlexJobs:

  • Vice president of research, education.
  • Director of professional services operations, computer software.
  • Senior vice president of global strategic meeting management, travel.
  • Vice president of capital markets, financial.
  • Executive director, nonprofit.

About 2.6 percent of the U.S. workforce, or 3.3 million people, not including the self-employed or unpaid volunteers, considered home their primary place of work in 2012, the most recent year for which figures are available, estimates.

A few facts about telecommuters, says FlexJobs:

  • A typical telecommuter is 49 years old, college educated and in a management or professional role.
  • More than 75 percent of employees who work from home earn more than $65,000 a year.
  • Telecommuting jobs typically pay in the same ballpark as similar jobs in traditional office environments, plus offer savings estimated from $2,000 to $7,000 a year in gas, eating out, work attire and clothing care.
  • Telecommuting jobs are available across a variety of industries and career fields, not just computer and IT, data entry and administrative fields. Based on an analysis of more than 30,000 companies and their job posting histories in 2014, FlexJobs found that medical and health telecommuting jobs lead the pack. Among those positions, though not executives, are the titles health care information specialist, medical coder, research scientist, pharmaceutical representative and nurse case manager.

Working at home

Miller says pretty much everyone she connects with is in a home office, but they’re not confined there.

“Some of my best work is at Starbucks or a park bench. And it’s not even just me. A Tel Aviv colleague was running to get lunch; I could hear the excitement of Tel Aviv in the background.”

To communicate with consultants, staff and clients, Michelle says she is on Skype regularly but also relies on emails, WhatsApp, the mobile messaging app, “and the good, old telephone.”

She also doesn’t have to dress up for work.

“I love to shop as much as the next girl, but now it’s because I want to, not because I have to.”

Other advantages include less office politics and fewer distractions.

She may have to walk her two dogs, but she doesn’t have to hear calls from adjoining cubicles or co-workers complaining.

“The drawback is you do find yourself working odd hours,” she said.

Telecommuting is not for everyone, Miller acknowledges. Some in work-from-home jobs felt as if they were always on the clock, mixing work and family time, or they missed dressing up for work.

For Miller, there was one unexpected advantage. While she started her work-from-home position to stay in Kennewick, eventually it came time to leave.

When her husband of 13 years, Brian, got a job offer in a Salem, Oregon, dental lab close to his extended family, they moved — and her job moved with her.

As a telecommuter, “I can literally move anywhere in the world,” Miller said.

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