Ask Dr. Job’s chief contributor, Sandra Pesmen, is a member of the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame and author of “DR. JOB’s Complete Career Guide.”

Winner of several journalism awards, Pesmen is a graduate of the University of Illinois Media College at Urbana, and is listed in several Who’s Who editions. She also has been Corporate Features Editor of Crain Communications Inc., founding Features Editor of Crain’s Chicago Business and a reporter/features writer for The Chicago Daily News.

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DR JOB Q & A: Some Men Need Telecommuting Too!


 

Q.1. WHILE MANY WOMEN ARE HORRIFIED at Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer calling everyone back to office cubicles, I am horrified too--and I'm a man. I left my New York job years ago to follow my wife as she took amazing jobs around the world. Fortunately, my work lent it self to a home office and computer. It became even more productive as we added emails, faxes, Skype. conference calls and now Ipads and magic phones. For me, it IS the same as being there, sometimes even better, because I can be reached around the clock to attend to all issues and problems. There was an added bonus 11 years ago when our son joined the family, and I also became part- time baby-sitter. We had a second "bonus" three years later when his brother arrived. Our costs would have been prohibitive if we had to pay for full-time daycare or babysitters during their early years. I agree some workers may be more effective within brick and mortar buildings. But more would suffer, especially those in the middle class who cannot have nurseries built next to their desks. And I wonder if Ms. Mayer had a nanny stationed next to that nursery. I can't imagine her stopping a meeting to change diapers.

ANSWER;. WE CAN ARGUE BACK AND FORTH and never reach agreement over which is better. Each situation works for some, not for all.  Ms. Mayer's argument was that the company was suffering losses and she believed teamwork by full- time on- site attendance produced more profits in her experience. She's right that you cannot completely monitor workers working off site. Unfortunately, in today's offices, you can no long completely monitor workers ON site either, as they snap computer's shut or change screens to cover games and Facebook posts when bosses walk by. Some believe it's more effective to just hire excellent, trustworthy people to work hard day and/or night wherever they are and let them do it. You probably do speak for the majority of at-home workers, especially those paid by the number of products they complete satisfactory, not by hours punched into a clock. Many of those would not be able to work at all if they had to be present nine-to-five. We have not finished with this issue. A look at Yahoo's on-going financial reports should provide some insights.


Q 2. I HAVE BEEN SUCCESSFUL AND WOULD much like to see my children succeed although I realize it's so much more difficult for them now than it was for me in the booming 1970s, 80s, and 90s. But they won't listen to my suggestions. They are letting me pay for their college educations, but not letting me have input into what courses they take or where they are heading. So far I don't see any careers forming out of the courses they're taking to "find themselves." I believe they must be able to "feed themselves before they find themselves." How do I get through to them?

ANSWER'. FIRST OF ALL, YOU PROBABLY CAN'T get through to them with your ideas right now because they think of you as "old fashioned." They say you don't understand their plans because you probably don't. A wise rabbi once said, "Don't try and put your head on your children's shoulders. They are born of a different time." The best thing you can do is try to remember how you reacted to your own father's advice and roll with these uncomfortable "punches."  You ARE of a different time, and the rules you lived by don't apply as well today, if they work at all. Keep encouraging them to take courses that "set them on fire" and fulfill some passion they will want to work into a future career. Try and change you goals for them from "success" to work that makes them want to wake up and hurry to the office, waiting impatiently for red lights to change to green along the way. If you're all really lucky, the red lights in their personal lives also will change to green along the way.

Q. 3. WE HAVE RETIRED FRIENDS WHO KEEP boasting about how wisely they saved and invested their money and how much they are enjoying their new life of golf, theater, and travel. They keep saying, "We tell the kids we're spending their inheritance" and seem to think that is hilarious. I don't see it as particularly funny. Our goal always has been to do whatever we can to make our family's life better, and that includes our children's future. It would never occur to my wife and me to spend "all our children's inheritance" on selfish pleasures. Who's nuts here?

ANSWER;. NO ONE IS NUTS HERE. Different people have different goals and different views of parenthood. Many believe it's important to let children know they are to be independent and self-supporting once they have attained adulthood. That is very good. But others derive more pleasure from working as hard as they can to try and help ease their families' financial burdens later. Both views are perfectly fine and none represent "nuts." Anyone lucky enough to have survived the recession with enough money to play golf, and travel in retirement is entitled to do so. He or she is also entitled to put some into a trust for children if that's going to give him pleasure. You earned the money. The choice is yours-and your friends'. No one is entitled to judge that.

Q.4. I'M SO ANGRY BECAUSE I OFTEN TRAVEL for business and every time I get off a plane I carry some flu or cold bug with me. I hear people sneezing, blowing noses, and coughing the whole time I'm cooped up in a cabin, regardless of the class. I know the same air full of disease is being circulated back and forth. It's been especially bad this winter. Is there anything at all that can be done to prevent this?

ANSWER:. YOU MUST CHECK WITH YOUR MEDICIAL ADVISER for the best protection, but a simple paper surgical mask (purchased at any pharmacy) will certainly help if you're not going great distances. It's also wise to load up on vitamins, and keep some zinc cold pills handy to take the moment you feel the first sniffle. Otherwise, exercise, eat well and try adding a prayer for good health to the ones you probably whisper when you hit turbulence. 

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