Working from home has one huge pitfall you need to be aware of

So here we are the end of 2022. Time flies when you are having fun eh? The pandemic is mostly over but the new normal is well, normal. Part of that is working from home. Now full disclosure here I have been 100% remote for nearly 3 years. I don’t need to go to the office to do my job and I get paid well for doing it. I know there are a lot of people like me out there and while this is a great work outcome for me (and many others), it comes with one huge pitfall.

What is that? If you can do your job remotely, its highly likely someone else can do the job cheaper. Remote work has opened up the possibility of outsourcing more than ever. A few decades ago it was manufacturing that was outsourced to international workers who performed the labor cheaper. That’s why you’re getting T shirts at Walmart for 7 bucks. Then it became call centers, next? Your corporate job.

Let me use my situation as an example. In the role I am currently in I am a “senior financial analyst”. To be blunt I am over qualified for this role as I have management experience. I took it because I didn’t want to manage people any more. I make less then I could if I was still in management but I make very good money. I am processing data and summarizing its impact on a portfolio of business owned by the larger business I work for.

There is someone else out there who can do what you do.

It is by no means “light” work, its nuanced and requires experience and knowledge to execute the data in a way that can be consumed by decision makers. However, anyone can LEARN how I do it and learn how to deliver the product to the consumers (my bosses) nearly identical to how I do it. YES, I have established relationships with the people I work with and for but it’s the corporate world, we aren’t friends we are coworkers there is a major difference.

I could be replaced by someone in another part of the world who could be paid less. Not only in wages but in benefits. Now initially it would be problematic for the customers I serve. There is so much nuance to the work I do the only way to master it is to do it for a few business cycles. It can be learned though, like a lot of other remote work. Unless you are creating unique material you are essentially performing tasks others don’t want to do, or don’t have time for.

Hence the pitfall of working from home. There is likely someone else out there who can do the same work, and achieve 90% of what I (and likely you) achieve for less expense. This is why you always have to have a backup plan. What if that happens? For me I will get another job in finance somewhere. Even processing Accounts Payable I can at least make some money. You have to have contingency plans as well if you are a remote worker. The new normal is here and companies are looking to maximize profits (they always are). The new reality of people working from home provides opportunities for many, including company looking to cut staff expense.

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3 compensations factors that make companies great.

The great resignation marches on and in the U.S. unemployment is near record lows. Millions of people left the workforce due to the pandemic. Whether it was creating their own income streams or boomers retiring, there are a shortage of workers in the U.S. Now let’s be very clear here, the available jobs are not high end 6 figure salary roles. Sure there are some of those but nearly everyone has leveled up, so your traditional entry level positions are the ones that have the most openings presently.

Regardless of when you get a new job or if you are evaluating your current company there is one truism you always have to remember. Companies need you to perform tasks so they can make money. You wouldn’t be employed if you weren’t either generating income for the corporation, or supporting others who did. So in this sellers’ market (you the employee are the seller) we can now be even more selective of the places we want to work. There are 3 compensation factors that make companies great. This may not be in line with other lists you see out there but from an employee’s stand point, here they are.

Surviving 2020 & covid
Great, another list…..
  1. A robust retirement plan: This includes employer match, Roth and Traditional 401K/403B options. This should be managed through a large firm like a fidelity and the vesting time line is no longer than 3 years. Retirement planning is critical and most successful retirees in the modern era have created wealth through automatic withdrawals via their employer’s plan.
  • Comprehensive benefits: Health Insurance is obvious but you should have 3+ plans to choose from. Dental, LTD, STD, a 1-year life insurance of your salary. There should be A good PTO (Paid time off plan) that scales based on tenure. Every 5 years you should receive 1 additional week of PTO capping at 6 to 8. PTO should be one lump sum, vacation and sick and you get to manage it. Along with major federal holidays. This is where you really get value as this is part of your compensation package. It’s not just the annual salary, it’s the sum of the value of these “perks” as well.
  • Profit sharing: This is one of the rarest benefits you’re going to see out there. If you get into a company with this benefit you really lucked out. Most corporations keep their profits to make distributions to their shareholders. There is nothing wrong with that, they are paying you a salary and offering you benefits. It’s a fair exchange and one that has been the norm for decades. Profit sharing can come in all sorts of forms. Ideally what you get is if the company has a surplus to budget at the end of the year that amount is distributed to employees. Some managers are offered “profit sharing” of some form. I got quarterly performance bonuses based on budget performance in one role.

The 3 items listed above are in addition to your base salary. This is a sellers’ market and employees are now in a situation where they are empowered to create very good deals for themselves. THIS WILL NOT LAST FOREVER. Look, work isn’t meant to be easy. It’s likely you fall into one of two categories. You are either someone who truly loves what they do, or you work to obtain income so you can do the things you truly love.

Most of us fall into the latter category. Work is a means to get income to live life. The more perks you can get the better life becomes. Now is the time to look around, see what’s out there, measure your current work situation. Believe me if the situation was reversed and there was a surplus of workers your company would be looking to see if they could pay you less.

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Great Resignation? One thing you should never do

So the resignation is ongoing or we are near the end I’m not sure. Another odd circumstance derived from the overzealous application of shutdowns. “This store can stay open but that one can’t” …. Don’t worry I’m not going to go off on a tangent here. So here we are, people are leaving the workforce, and some are not coming back. Of course there are more factors then just the pandemic that have led to this. Boomers are retiring, Side hustles are viable, people have downgraded their living standards.

Maybe you resigned from a role or are thinking about it? It’s not a bad option, inflation is high, employers need staff = the chance to make more money. I am pretty comfortable where I am now but if this were a few years ago I would have parlayed this into a new job for sure. However, there is one issue that comes up from time to time when you do resign that you need to be aware of.

Your current employer counter offers.

This happens, I’ve received them and on behalf of a company I have offered them to people leaving. Companies do this for a few reasons, but mainly it’s because they don’t have someone who can do what you do. So this begs the question, if they are counter offering does that mean you were undervalued? The answer is yes. Don’t be fooled here, just like you want to make as much money as you can working for a company, they want to pay you the least amount possible.

Plastic destroys the environment
Some companies are absolute garbage

I think that’s pretty obvious, sure HR dept.’s spends their resources trying to cultivate a “community” to provide non-monetary benefits but have no illusions here the single biggest measure you have for a company is how much it costs them to employ you. So a counter offer is flattering, in many cases it might even be financially lucrative. The issue is, the counter offer doesn’t change the reasons you wanted to leave. If the reason was financial, the counter offer confirms your rational.

There isn’t a positive outcome here for you except you make more money. If you had another job you were going to likely make more money, there anyway or have the potential too. Maybe this current job is comfortable for you, maybe you don’t really want to leave, maybe there are a 100 other reasons to stay. You got a counter offer because you told them you wanted to leave. Do you think they are going to look at you the same going forward?

Everything changes if you take the counter offer. Management knows you were willing to leave which is huge. Sure in the short term maybe they will kiss your ass because they need you (hence the counter offer) but you can bet they are already planning a contingency to replace you, I know I have been in those meetings. You may be getting more money but your “value” as a staff member is far less than it was. They not only know you are willing to leave; they know you are capable of leaving. That scares the crap out of companies because they have to have someone do the work. If not you then someone new, or other staff pick up the slack.

A counter offer is a hedge for them, they aren’t happy about it. This isn’t a performance review; you are essentially forcing their hand. The reasons you are leaving? They haven’t gone away, unless it was exclusively money but it’s rarely that. Never accept a counter offer unless you are a very high level executive as those circles are very small. Regular employees like you and me? Move on.

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Dressing to feel good !

How much are you worth to an employer?

  • Get Paid What You’re Worth and Spend Less Than You Earn.

Okay but what am I worth? First, I think you are priceless but I’m not hiring you. One of the hardest things to do when determining your worth is gauging the value of your experience. I’ve seen it many times as a former manager, people with great educations and no experience over price themselves, people with great experience and average education under price.

So, a few tips for you when determining your worth in the workforce.

  1. Research your field: There are many, many websites that aggregate pay for specific professions. These will help you get a general idea of what type of pay you can command.
  2. The cost of living where you work, might be different then where you live: If you live in the city and are working in the burbs, chances are your pay isn’t commensurate with the cost of living you are experiencing.
  3. Experience, and specific targeted experience, increases your value: If you are an RN with a lot of Phlebotomy experience and you are going for a pediatric position, your experience won’t be as valuable. TLDR: Stay in your lane if you want to maximize your earning potential.
  4. You must gauge their demand: Has this job been open for a while? Do they seem “desperate”? that affects your value tremendously.

Being in the workforce is a bastion of anxiety for all sorts of reasons but feeling like you’re not getting paid what you are worth is horrible. It’s up to you to determine your value, taking a job just to have a job is okay but you won’t be happy. Remember this is a financial transaction and you must remove yourself personally (as best you can) from the transaction.

Experience is priceless.

They want to pay you the least amount possible for the most work, you want to work the least amount as possible for the most pay. The answer is always somewhere in the middle but take the time BEFORE you get the offer to determine how much you are willing to work for.

If you know going in that you will not do this job for any less than 60K a year, you’re in control of your worth. So many times, we leave it up to the company to “make an offer” then we are in reaction mode. Take some time before hand to determine what the job should be paying, and this will help relieve a lot of anxiety.

Remember many of us work for money to do the things we love to do outside of work. A precious few of us get to work at something we really love. If you are the later, I cant help you as you’ve nailed it already. If you are the former, take the time to formulate a value for your work before getting into a serious job search. This is going to help you straight out of the gate with the new job anxiety, you will be working for a wage you determined was fair.

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Surviving 2020 & covid

A quick heads up from your Gen X friend

I realize that many people who read my content are younger than I am, in some cases much younger. Like I have children your age… that’s okay I’m glad you are here. I’m thankful for all the people who frequent my content, age is just a number but I am fascinated by generational trends etc.

So the “quick heads up?” Anxiety sucks and it strikes you at any time REGARDLESS of age. I started a new job this week, everything is fine but let me give you a run-down of what the week looked like for me at various points:

  1. I had an acne breakout on my forehead, yes at 50.
  2. I was 2 hours early on my first day for fear of my car breaking down or getting lost.
  3. Before bed during the week I studied a phone list so I could remember people’s names.
  4. I scrubbed my teeth every morning with hydrogen peroxide so they would be whiter.
  5. I doubled my dose of CBD oil so I could sleep Tuesday night because at 1AM I was having a panic attack that I forgot my password at work.

On and on. The point here is I have anxiety and worse I have intrusive thoughts that sometimes I can’t overcome. They consume me in a way that isn’t physically harmful but I cannot exercise myself from them no matter how hard I try. I am 50, I have been working since I was 14 years old. This isn’t my first new job.

On top of that, I am a middle manager. That in of itself doesn’t mean a whole lot, I still have to produce like everyone else but what I project and how I carry myself is important. Staff see it and some emulate it.

You might have anxiety too, you might be 20ish, and struggling with something and it might seem ridiculous to you. It isn’t. Moreover let this post serve as a reminder that anxiety is likely going to be a lifelong battle for you. I didn’t recognize early in my life I had it and medicated. Here I am decades later still from time to time struggling.

If you are struggling remember the person you see walking down the street who appears to have it all together might be struggling too. Keep attacking it every day, keep showing up and do your best to manage your specific circumstances. Hang in there, I am and if I can do it so can you.

Beyond the Trees

Blog & life update

First let me say thank you, thank you for supporting my blog I really appreciate it. The last few months have been a whirlwind of shit, ending in a wonderful outcome. I don’t normally use vulgarity in my posts but its appropriate here to illustrate the negativity. Since Xmas work has been straight out a shit show. I am a senior finance professional I have seen my share of poop in my career. Its run the whole gambit here over the last few months.

Sickness, people quitting, anger, blow outs… Look I’m not going to go over all the specifics but needless to say around the middle of January I asked my self a very important question “Do I need this crap?” The answer was no, and I don’t say that lightly. Jobs like mine you simply can’t replace with ease. I make a good income, I am on a management team, those jobs don’t grow on trees.

Now I earned this role, I’ve got the degree’s and the years in the trenches, but I’ve had enough of these people and its time to move on. AS someone who has worked in finance for 30 years, I’ve been able to cultivate a good network. While I did say above jobs like mine don’t grow on trees, I have a professional tree I have grown that has enabled me to get another job faster than I anticipated.

The economy is good, companies are hiring at least in my world. So, on 3.2.20 I start a new job with someone I have worked with in the past. It’s a good gig and I will be make more money with corporate earnings bonuses. This is good news for me and my family, as I approach the last full decade of work the more money, I can bank now the better.

The blog will not change much. I will still be postings 3 times a week but the day in which the post actually gets up might be different. I have maintained a mon -wed-fri posting schedule but I think this may change to tues-thurs-sat. Or I have to change the time in which I post. I normally post in the AM US time. I will keep an eye on the statistics and see what new schedule works best. I am committed to the blog and the work I am doing here, its important for me and I think it helps others. I do have to focus on this new role as well, so I will be working on balance going forward.

Thank again for all your support – 2020 is shaping up to be a great year.