This week, I celebrated my first “work-a-versary” at my new job; although, I guess that I’ve been with my job for a full 12 months now, it’s not all that “new” anymore. When I chose to return to the workforce after several years as a freelancer, I wasn’t sure what to expect; after all, it was more than just a new job – it was really a new career, in a completely different industry, doing a completely different kind of work. And unlike my old job, where I’d spent virtually all my time in a traditional workplace, my new career would have me working remotely.

Over the past year, I’ve learned many workplace lessons – even though I don’t work in a “traditional” office setting. For example…

  1. The “traditional” workplace is changing. Although I’m the only employee in my division who works from home all the time, everyone has at least one or two days a week when they telecommute. And this isn’t specific to my industry: I have many friends in a variety of professional settings who have the opportunity to work from home on a regular basis.
  2. A “40-hour workweek” is never 40 hours. This wasn’t necessarily true at my old job – 45-hours a week was pretty standard for me there – but my schedule itself was fairly predictable: in by 9, out by 6. Now, there are some days when I put in 5 hours, and other days when I’m working from the crack of dawn until long after the sun has set. Sure, it might average out to 40 hours a week, but rarely do my days look the same.
  3. Traveling for work comes with the territory. Until I took this job, I’d never taken a business trip. During my first year on the job, I took 6. I have some friends who are on the road for work week in and week out, but for me, a business trip every other month or so is more than doable – it can feel like a vacation!
  4. But business travel isn’t as luxurious as it once wasI’ve seen this change happen over the course of the past year. My first business trip had me staying at a 4-star hotel in a trendy part of one of America’s most glamorous towns; now, our corporate travel adviser (I work for a huge company, and we’re all required to book our travel through a specific agent) tends to put us in significantly less-glamorous digs. Even the per diem has been drastically cut over the past year, and is no longer based on your destination (in other words, a trip to NYC gets you the same per diem as a trip to the significantly less-expensive Detroit).
  5. A smartphone is no longer an “option.” No, it’s not an option – it’s a necessity. I spend just as much time working off my phone (my clients would rather text than email) as I do working on my computer. Thankfully, my employer pays for my mobile plan, as well as my home Internet.

What workplace lessons have you learned on the job over the past year, whether it’s with a new job or in a position you’ve had for far longer?

Libby Balke
Libby Balke