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I took a higher-paying job instead of one where I could work from home. I'm not sure it was the right move.

Tim Paradis   

I took a higher-paying job instead of one where I could work from home. I'm not sure it was the right move.
  • Erik Bernard chose a government job over one where he could work from home most days.
  • Salary transparency, overtime pay, and investment plans influenced his decision.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Erik Bernard, 26, who lives near Brisbane, Australia. He recently took a government job that paid more than another role where he would have been able to work remotely four days a week. He's limited to one day a week at home in his new role. While he likes the job, he has a long commute, so some days he's not sure he made the right decision. The following has been edited for brevity and clarity.

When I got the offer for the government role I have now, I also had an offer to work at a nonprofit. I was lost because I didn't know which job to pick.

The difference in salary between the two jobs was about 20,000 Australian dollars — about $13,000 — plus the superannuation. I think you call it a 401(k) in America. The superannuation was a bit higher with the government job, and it was 20 grand in extra pay, but I had to be in the office four days a week instead of working from home.

To get to the government job, I have to drive an hour each way. I was like, "Man, it's so hard to pick which one to do." And I thought, "I'll ask Reddit." It was it was 50/50. A lot of people said to take the government job for the stability. They also said earning more would make it easier to borrow money from the bank.

But other people said, "If you're happier to work from home, then take that." It was really hard. And, to be honest, every time I sit in traffic for that hour, I think, "Man, should I have taken less money just to not have to sit in this traffic?"

Why I took the government job

I decided to go for the government job partly because they're very transparent with your pay increases. And, when you do overtime, you get paid for it. You do so many extra hours working in the private sector, and it's expected of you.

The other job was at a nonprofit. With that kind of work, you don't always have as many opportunities to excel financially.

And I really like the work I'm doing now in this new job.

Plus, I've got a house, and I'm looking at investing in another. So my thought was, "I'll stick it out and go to the office every day even though I love working from home." When I get a bit older and specialize in something else, I will try to find a remote job even though I like what I'm doing now.

At my last job, I worked in IT at a law firm and didn't know what I'd make in the future. But with the government, we've actually got several years of income already planned out. Everyone can see how much we're going to be paid, and it gets updated every few years.

In my role, I'm kind of like tech support, but at a higher level. I do events and some system administration stuff as well.

I get more sleep, and I'm closer to the gym.

On the day I now work from home, it's really nice to get that extra hour of sleep.

Also, I fight. I do MMA. I coach it as well; I teach jujitsu. It's just a hobby, but it keeps me mentally sound. So, on the days when I work from home, I can train in the morning at 6 a.m. If I leave any later than 7 a.m. for work on the other days, the traffic is just insane. But if I train from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. on the day I don't commute, I can come home, shower, and be ready to start at 8 a.m. It's about quality of life. I want to train; I want to get more sleep.

I have friends in the office. We can get lunch, or I can meet other friends who work nearby. But I'm also a little bit introverted, so I don't mind being at home most of the time.

I don't need too much social interaction. People online said, "You'll hate working from home because you'll be lonely." But when my social battery runs out, I just want to be alone. I can put a face on, chat, and make jokes, and I'm happy to do that. But as soon as the day is over, man, I just want to go home and relax. Plus, I have two cats, and my girlfriend's here sometimes, so I'm happy.

How I got my remote day

When I was at the law firm, I found another job that paid more and would let me work from home for two days. At that point, I had zero days. But the law firm said they couldn't match the salary. Then, about a month later, someone from the firm called and said, "Hey, we actually kind of want you back. What if we matched the salary and gave you one day working from home?"

So, I had to quit to get the one day. They wouldn't have let me otherwise. Maybe they were under the assumption that I would train during the day or something.

But IT is ones and zeros. If the job is being done, you'll see it being done. If the job isn't being done, it's obvious who isn't doing their part. So you can't really muck around. You can't be like, "Oh, I'm happy to work from home," and then do absolutely nothing because it's so obvious. I've got tickets that I work on. And if I've got tickets open from God knows when, my managers will be like, "Why aren't those tickets closed?"

I get more done at home.

I loved my one day at home at the law firm so much that I was applying for many work-from-home jobs.

It's so nice to just sit at home and just churn away. If I have to make calls, I'll make calls. But, otherwise, I'm sitting here in the peace of my own house just fixing stuff, doing tickets. I'm on a roll — I'm in my zone.

But when you're in the office, people are chatting around you and making jokes. It's fun, but I smash out a lot more IT work sitting at home than in the office. It's just quieter, and I can relax. People aren't coming up to my desk every two seconds.

Some of the IT questions I get could be a very simple fix. But when I'm in the office, I'll walk down two flights of stairs to go to their desk because that's the kind of service I like to provide. I won't say, "Go back to your office and give me a call." So, it'll take 20 minutes to chat and then fix something that could have taken one minute over the phone.

It's not just that. You're also tempted by going and getting coffee and by going out and getting lunch when in the office.

Monday is the day I work from home. It's so nice going to bed on Sunday, knowing that I don't have to drive in the next day.

I still haven't decided if the extra money is worth losing those additional days of working from home. Job satisfaction-wise, it's really cool. But the traffic sucks.


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