TIME Careers & Workplace

These Are the Best Jobs You Can Do In Your Pajamas

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Here's what kinds of jobs offer this perk

Whenever the topic of flexible work arrangements or work-life balance comes up, telecommuting is one of the first ideas that comes up. Fortunately for dedicated employees who just want a job where the commute doesn’t drive them to distraction, more companies today are coming around to the idea that telecommuting is a good option to offer, according to FlexJobs.com, a job search site that focuses on flexible positions, including ones that permit telecommuting.

And it’s not just worker bees who can reap the benefits. FlexJobs found that there are executive-level options for department heads, vice presidents and even C-level bosses who are sick of battling rush-hour traffic and compiled a list of 15 of the best. Not surprisingly, jobs in consulting and technology — where much of the work is conducted remotely anyway — turn up, but there are also jobs in healthcare, education and even the nonprofit sector that extend telecommuting benefits. Positions in sales, finance or HR also can provide opportunity for telecommuting.

“I think something that will surprise job candidates looking for executive-level telecommuting jobs is the number of large and well-known employers offering them,” says Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs. “Companies of all sizes hire for telecommuting jobs even at the highest levels of leadership,” she says.

For instance, there’s an academic employer looking for a director of research is happy to have a full-time telecommuter step into the role, and a big national firm is looking to fill a senior vice president of managed travel position that will require logging plenty of frequent-flier miles but can otherwise be performed from home.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that only low-level positions are eligible for telecommuting. “A typical telecommuter is 49 years old, college educated, and in a management or professional role,” FlexJobs says. One vice president of consulting gig wants candidates with 15 years experience — at minimum. A VP-level sales job requires 10 years of management experience, plus another decade focusing specifically on project management. And even though working from home means saving on gas, parking and/or public transportation tickets, these jobs don’t pay peanuts. FlexJobs says three-quarters of people who work from home pull down $65,000 a year or more.

Not only does letting people work from home let companies extend their talent search beyond driving distance of the office, but there’s a growing pile of research that suggests people are both happier and more productive when they have the option to lead conference calls in a bathrobe at least part of the time.

But if you think there might be perks to working in your PJs, you might need to make your case during an interview, Fell says. If a job ad says telecommuting is limited or available on a case-by-case basis, “The job candidate should prepare him or herself to make a case as to why they’re both an excellent fit for the job, and an excellent fit for telecommuting as well,” Fell says. And if you score a job where you’re trading in your briefcase for bunny slippers, the lack of face-to-face interaction also puts the onus on you to be proactive and straightforward in their communication style, she adds. “Job candidates who are interested in working remotely need to hone their communication skills [and] their ability to set goals for themselves and their teams.”

TIME

Want to Get Ahead at Work Without Killing Yourself? Fake It

Once you make it, don't stop faking it

Here’s the depressing truth: If you want flexibility at work, you’ll have to do it on the DL, especially if you’re a younger worker.

The number of companies that let people take career breaks or practice job-sharing both fell last year, according to an employer survey conducted by the by the Families and Work Institute and Society for Human Resource Management.

And even for the “lucky” ones who work at a company that offers these kinds of perks, two new studies find that pursuing a flexible work schedule to juggle kids, other caregiving needs or personal objectives can actually harm your career.

Consulting company EY (the ones formerly known as Ernst & Young) found in a survey that almost 10% of American workers have “suffered a negative consequence as a result of having a flexible work schedule.” These workers have been reprimanded, denied promotions or raises. In some cases, they have lost their jobs. The rate of negative repercussions for young workers is even higher, with 15% reporting experiences like this.

“Millennials are moving into management at the same time that they are having children, facing increased demands at both work and home,” says EY global diversity and inclusiveness officer Karyn Twaronite. Since they’re juggling more in their professional and personal lives, this sets them up for more potential conflicts. Millennials also are more likely to be in two-earner households, Twaronite points out, which can make navigating logistics like childcare more complicated.

“Depending upon the work environment, people across all ages and levels of seniority could inevitably face some growing pains as workplaces try to become more flexible,” she says.

A study of 115 employees at a consulting firm with a hard-charging, workaholic culture conducted by Boston University professor Erin Reid comes to a similar conclusion: The consultants who put their heads down and plowed through 80-hour workweeks without asking to take time off for a kid’s dance recital or to chaperone a field trip were rewarded with good performance reviews. The ones who did speak up and ask for flexibility, even if they were getting all their work done, and even if they were asking for benefits they were legally allowed to take like family leave after the birth of a child, were perceived as slackers.

“We fall into the trap of thinking everyone is always available all the time,” one manager told Reid in an interview. Reid points out in her analysis that this viewpoint rewards loyalty and commitment more than actual knowledge or skills, which has the effect of leaving behind the talented people who can’t — or won’t — make themselves available 24-7.

But Reid says some employees were able to keep their jobs, reputations and sanity. They did this by carving out time for themselves — by selecting clients closer to home, making a deal with a colleague to cover for each other, finding ways to multi-task when telecommuting — without making a big about it. In fact, one worker told Reid, “No one knows where I am.” If he took a day to take his kid to go skiing, he didn’t advertise that or ask for permission. Reid characterizes this as “passing.” While they’re not faking the quality of the work they do, they don’t broadcast the fact that they’re not committed to their jobs 100% of the time.

It’s crummy to have to keep your personal life — and the belief that it’s OK to have one — under wraps at work, but for people who work in a certain kind of corporate culture, it may be the most prudent thing to do. Reid offers some observations about how people who do this successfully go about it: They get all of their work done, first of all, and don’t let clients or higher-ups get the impression that they’re anything less than 24-7 players. They form alliances with colleagues, so if someone needs to step in and pinch hit when a personal crisis strikes, nobody up the corporate food chain needs to be the wiser.

Although people who revealed that their job wasn’t their top priority were punished with lower performance reviews, their co-workers who took time for themselves but kept quiet about their behind-the-scenes maneuvering were reviewed as favorably as the employees who really did crank out those 80-hour workweeks.

“The personal information that people hid or shared… affected whether they passed or revealed,” Reid writes.

MONEY Careers

Why Your Boss is Working Harder to Keep You Happy

Revolving Door
ONOKY - Photononstop—Alamy

With hiring and job turnover up, a new survey finds that companies are having trouble attracting and hanging on to talented workers. Use that to your advantage.

Boss brought in cupcakes for no particular reason? Sweet. Even sweeter? You might be seeing more morale boosters at work these days, whether in the form of baked goods or bonuses. A new survey finds that employers are having a tough time attracting and retaining top talent—and with a little smart negotiating, that could mean good things for your career.

According to the new Towers Watson Global Talent Management and Rewards Survey, hiring and turnover are on the rise in offices around the world, including in the U.S. And mobility has its downsides.

Of 1,637 companies surveyed worldwide, nearly two-thirds report difficulty attracting top performers (65%) and high-potential employees (64%), an increase from two years ago. More than half of employers surveyed say it is hard to hold on to high-potential employees (56%) and top performers (54%).

Pay to Stay

Of course, one approach to getting workers to stick around is to offer them more money. And employers know that. “The survey data would indicate that they understand compensation is an important retention driver,” says Laura Sejen, managing director at Towers Watson.

Just last week, a survey by a major business group found that employers are starting to expand payrolls and raise wages. After years of decline, sign-on bonus programs are at an all-time high, and retention bonuses are surging, according to an analysis of bonus programs and practices by WorldatWork released in June. Of the businesses WorldatWork surveyed, 74% used sign-on bonus programs this year and 51% used retention bonus programs this year.

What Money Can’t Buy

So how come bosses still can’t figure out how to hold on to their best workers? Another new Towers Watson survey suggests they’re a little out of touch when it comes to judging the importance of other factors, such as perceived job security and confidence in senior management. In a separate survey, the Towers Watson Global Workforce Study of 32,000 employees worldwide, the group found that employees rank job security and confidence in senior leadership among the most important reasons they stay with a company. But employers didn’t rank either factor as a key attraction or retention driver.

“Those are really important to employees,” says Sejen. “Employers don’t necessarily rank those as highly as they should.”

To get a better sense of what it takes to keep employees enthusiastic, some bosses are trying to listen more closely, says Rose Stanley, a Total Rewards practice leader for WorldatWork. “A lot of organizations will do satisfaction or engagement surveys,” says Stanley.

They’ll even conduct “stay interviews” (as opposed to exit interviews) to pick employees’ brains about how their rewards packages, schedule flexibility, and work environment could be improved to inspire them to stay.

“It’s a way to connect with employees and figure out what’s going on,” says Stanley.

How You Can Leverage the News

Even if your employer hasn’t reached out to you yet, come up with your own requests. If you’ve been craving a more flexible schedule or higher pay, now could be the right time to ask, says career consultant Maggie Mistal.

Mistal has noticed that many employees have lingering anxiety from the financial crisis and fail to realize their own worth to their employers. “Some folks I work with are in a mindset of ‘I’m just lucky to have a job,’ when in reality they’re the people bosses want to hold on to,” she says.

To improve your own situation, Mistal advises, first figure out what would improve your job and make you likelier to stick with your company. Once you have a good idea of your goals, let your boss know you’d like to talk.

“The magic term is: ‘I’d like to get your feedback on some ideas,’” says Mistal. “Managers are willing—and a lot of them are even excited—to have that conversation.”

Open your discussion with gratitude, emphasizing how much you enjoy working at your company or with your boss, advises career coach Roy L. Cohen. Then make your request clearly, with a positive angle. If you’d like to telecommute two days a week, for instance, highlight that a more flexible schedule could make you more productive.

“Focus on how you’re helping the company achieve even greater success,” says Cohen.

Instead of making an ultimatum, stay open to feedback from your boss, Mistal advises. If your boss isn’t sold on the idea of telecommuting, offer to check in periodically throughout the day, or to give your flexible schedule a two-week test run.

But don’t demand too much all at once. Even in an environment where your boss is working harder to hold on to great employees like you, you don’t want to come off as smug.

“Never be greedy,” says Cohen. “Greediness is always remembered. Even if you feel you’re worth it, make sure you can back up your request.”

MONEY Telecommuting

Telecommuting: What Marissa Mayer Got Right—and Wrong

Marissa Mayer on mobile phone
Jason Alden—Bloomberg via Getty Images Marissa Mayer argued that speed and quality can be lost when people work from home.

A new survey finds that working from home can be good for you and your employer--but only if you don't abuse the privilege.

A year-plus after Yahoo! chief Marissa Mayer made headlines by banning the company’s popular telecommuting policy to boost worker productivity, a recent study proved her right—and wrong. A Gallup State of the American Workplace report found that people who work remotely are more engaged, enthusiastic and committed to their work — but only if they work outside the office 20% of the time or less.

Mayer’s February 2013 memo argued that in order to “become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side.” It went on:

Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”

The declaration ignited a firestorm of criticism, as it seemed to fly in the face of progressive thinking among both feminists and business leaders. A USA Today op-ed accused Mayer of “setting back the cause of working mothers.” Richard Branson tweeted that he was “perplexed” by the move and asserted: “Give people the freedom of where to work & they will excel.” Mayer’s move had some defenders, but most concluded that she was fighting the zeitgeist.

Gallup’s new poll suggests Mayer may have been right — or at least that the question of telecommuting deserves a more nuanced analysis. On one hand, it found evidence of added productivity from those working outside the office: People actually work more hours at home, in part because they weren’t commuting or running errands at lunch. Some of the productivity increase also comes from being away from office distractions, says Gallup CEO Jim Clifton.

But there is a point of diminishing returns, adds Clifton. People who spend 50% or more of their time working off site are less engaged than in-office counterparts and people who spend all of their time working remotely are twice as likely to feel disconnected from their work, Gallup found.

Technologies allowing workers to share files and stay connected have helped smooth the way for more telework. But technology only gets you so far, says Rose Stanley, WorldatWork work-life practice leader, who herself works at home two days a week. “Social interaction gives you energy and makes you and your colleagues feel like you’re part of the same team,” says Stanley. “The sweet spot for making telework work is spending more of your working hours in the office than at home,” says Stanley.

Intentionally or not, employer practices increasingly reflect this conclusion. While more companies are embracing telecommuting, it is mostly on a part-time basis. Today, 67% of companies allow workers to work remotely occasionally, up from 50% in 2008, according to the Society for Human Resource and Families and Work Institute’s 2014 National Study of Employers report.

If you want to pitch a telework arrangement to your boss, first make sure your job can be done remotely. If you need special tools that are available only if you are physically present in the office or manage a lot of workers who are in the office, telecommuting may not work for you. Second, ask to do it on a trial basis. Prove that you can be productive and trusted to do your job without your boss’s eyes watching you, and it’ll be easier to make working remotely a regular gig.

MONEY Workplace

Work from Home and Still be a Part of the Office

Love your commute-free workday away from the glare of fluorescent lights?

Just don’t get too comfortable. A recent study in the MIT Sloan Management Review found that bosses are more likely to attribute traits like “responsible” and “dependable” to in-office workers than those who work from home.

“This leads to lower performance evaluations for telecommuters,” says Kimberly Elsbach, an author of the study and a professor at the University of California at Davis.

If you’re among the 13 million U.S. employees who work remotely at least once a week, try these moves to seem as present as those who appear in the office every day.

Communicate constantly

Return calls as well as emails ASAP and make it easier for people to reach you by forwarding your office phone to a dedicated home-office line.

When you have to be out, make sure colleagues know in advance, and put an automatic reply on your email that says when you’ll be reachable again.

“Telecommuters need to overcompensate for being out of sight,” says Lynn Taylor, author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant.

Also, don’t be shy about self-promotion. Make a habit of sending your supervisor a weekly update summarizing recent accomplishments.

Working hard on a project? Send some late-day emails to show that you aren’t checking out at 5 p.m.

Get personal

When colleagues think of you as an integral part of the crew, they’re more likely to praise your efforts on a past project or suggest your participation in a future one.

So carve out some time on phone calls to talk to your co-workers about nonwork stuff like family or weekend plans.

“You want to build relationships the same way you would if you saw them in the hallway every day,” says Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs.

These chats can also serve as your virtual water cooler, giving you the inside scoop on office sentiment and clueing you in on potential new opportunities.

Know when to show up

A flexible deal can be an advantage when you want to prove your loyalty.

In the face of a major deadline, however, turn up at the office and show your boss that you’re willing to make an extra effort to get the job done, even when it’s inconvenient for you.

Coming in for important meetings is also key, since your physical presence will make your contribution more memorable than participation by speakerphone.

Whatever your arrangement, if the company should hit a rough patch or you start to hear layoff rumors, haul your keister into the office as much as possible.

Says New York City executive recruiter Stephen Viscusi: “No matter what your performance level, it’s a lot easier for a boss to let go of someone that he doesn’t see on a regular basis.”

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