This website is maintained by Emma Plumb, who is passionate about helping people rethink how work gets done.
When Emma’s boyfriend fell 30 feet and broke his back in 2009, Emma spent nearly a week with him in the hospital as they waited first to find out if he would walk again, and then what his recovery would require. Luckily, his prognosis was good, and he was ultimately sent home from the hospital in a back brace with strict instructions not to stand for more than 30 minutes a day. Checkups would determine his progress, but the hope was he would be back to normal within 6 months.
With the immediate disaster behind them, Emma and Russell focused their energies on coming up with a plan for his care while he healed. Russell didn’t need full-time assistance, he just needed someone in the house with him to help keep him hydrated and make sure he wasn’t overexerting himself. Because they weren’t married, Emma didn’t qualify for FMLA to look after him. But she was now the only bread-winner in their relationship, and so time off without pay wasn’t feasible anyway—and wasn’t necessary either. Emma wanted to continue to work, she just needed the flexibility to work from home to be able to do her job and look after Russell at the same time.
Emma submitted a request to her employer for the ability to telecommute during Russell’s recovery. Her request was denied due to her employer’s long-standing rule against workplace flexibility.
To keep her job, Emma had no choice but to leave Russell alone at home while she trudged off to the office to spend all day in a cubicle in front of a computer doing work she knew she could be doing from anywhere. She was distracted and anxious thinking about Russell alone at home.
As Russell healed, Emma threw herself into trying to change the way that her employer thought about workplace flexibility. She scoured the research and put together proposals and reports, and over the following two years she had a series of meetings with senior management, making the case for change. The more Emma read, the more she realized that working from home is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to changing the way we work. But despite her best efforts, her employer refused to budge.
In the meantime, Russell recovered and returned to work himself, and he and Emma got married. With the security of his employment, Emma had a new choice: stay at her job where she’d been told things would never change, or leave. She left.
Emma wasn’t able to change things at her workplace. She was one voice against a tide of tradition. But she is convinced that change is not only possible, but necessary. She knows her situation is not unique, and she knows her voice isn’t alone. This website is her way of elevating all the individual voices speaking out for change, and helping bring them together to create a chorus that cannot be ignored.
With a background in computer science and philosophy (and a BS and MA from Stanford), Emma designed and built this website herself. Unless otherwise noted, any opinions expressed are her own.
Update July 2013: Emma has a new job working from home for a company called FlexJobs, an organization she had been watching closely as a model of workplace flexibility. Not only does FlexJobs promote flexible options in the workplace at large, but the FlexJobs team also practices what they preach: they work flexible hours, and everyone works remotely. Emma’s new role is director of the new movement 1 Million for Work Flexibility, the first national initiative calling for a collective voice in support of work flexibility.