Often when people think about telework in a negative way, they assume consultants are in the bath while taking conference calls, and binging on Netflix until they have to answer an email. I’m sure there are the odd slackers but I hardly think this is the majority of consultants. In fact, many of us who prefer telework have a system in place at home: an office with all the necessary equipment and a work ethic to get the job done.
Serious consultants don’t regularly choose telework so they can put on the laundry at the same time. More often than not we do it so we can get more tasks done without interruption. Whenever I worked from home, I felt far more productive than at the client site.
The nature of my job influenced my decision to telework. I was a technical writer. Often we tech-writing consultants get placed wherever a spot is available. Invariably it’s not in a quiet section of a department. This hindered my ability to concentrate as I was proofreading and even writing documents. On one contract, a full-time colleague who consistently hadn’t enough work to do for an entire day would spend the afternoon on the phone talking to everyone in their directory. At least it seemed that way to me. I thought I would lose my mind after a while, and did ask to move. The client put me in another noisy section.
My disability is fibromyalgia, which includes brain fog and misophonia. When I’m in an environment that is filled with constant chatter and repetitive sounds, it’s like I cannot access the files in my brain. If you were to ask me a question about something I know really well, I would have a difficult time answering it. It’s as if I forget everything, and I come across ill-prepared or incompetent. But I am neither of those things. My brain function is impaired by pain signals and the overreaction to noise, which is part of the way my nerves process stimulation.
I have no children or pets, and my spouse works in an office. My home office is quiet as a tomb, if I want it to be. This allows me to think clearly and work effectively. If you phone me, I will answer. If you have a deadline for me, I will meet it. And I will enjoy the contract so much better if the needs of my disability are met. A happy spoonie is an efficient spoonie. (Read more about Spoony Theory!)
Rather than automatically judging consultants who work from home, you can ask them about their work environment there, and negotiate terms that will instill trust between you. A conscientious consultant wants more work, so they will strive to meet or exceed your expectations. A satisfied client is a good reference, and our ticket to future contracts. We don’t want to tick you off. We want to work with you.
Let’s figure out how to make this happen. And remember, if your consultant discloses that they have a disability and telework is their only option, give them a chance to show you how they can rock that contract from home. We with disabilities need work, too. If you’re flexible with us, we will reward you with a job very well done.
Cait Gordon is Madam President of Dynamic Canvas Inc., author of Life in the ’Cosm, and editor of the Spoonie Authors Network. She likes giving websites facelifts and arranging the alphabet into readable paragraphs.