The Online Family: Digital Work, School and Life

by Ariana Reece

TULSA – Working from home no longer means just working for your family.  A growing number of Americans are opting out of the traditional workforce and are entering the world of remote work or telecommuting according to recent studies.

The research was compiled for FlexJobs, a job search website for part-time and freelance employment and the workplace consultant group Global Workplace Analytics.  A recent report found telecommuting or working online rose 159% between 2005 and 2017. The website reported “eighty percent of U.S. workers say they would turn down a job that didn’t offer flexible working.”

But what does working online look like for an Oklahoma family?

The Reece family began to make the move to an online family seven years ago when their son Jaden began going to school online with EPIC Charter Schools.  Since then, the Reece family’s three other children have joined the virtual charter school program.

David Reece, the family’s patriarch, is the most recent family member to join the work-from-home trend. David is a Senior Manager for Capital One.  He supervises four teams, which he meets and communicates with from the office area inside his own home. 

Kelley Baxter-Hugghins is another parent who made the switch to work from home eight years ago.  Baxter-Hugghins owns a T-shirt company which she runs from an office in her home. In 2017, her daughter decided to take her education out of a traditional classroom and move her schoolwork to EPIC’s online platform. 

“Overworking is one of the easiest things to do when you work from home,” Baxter-Hugghins said.

Keeping a balanced home-work environment is a key to a successful career when working from the same place you live.  This requires scheduling and for David Reece, it is more than just a calendar, it is his personal mantra.

“What gets scheduled, gets done,” Reece said. 

For the students doing their public-school curriculum at home, scheduling is also important.  The Reece family students said overwork is not as big of a threat as getting behind. Keeping to a schedule avoids the risk of falling behind in their academics.

Jaden Reece said his flexible schedule as an EPIC student allows him to hold down a job that sometimes requires him to work during traditional brick-and-mortar school hours.  Jaden said the virtual program allows him flexibility with his learning.

The working adults say their work-from-home careers offer major incentives.  Baxter-Hugghins said she enjoys being able to spend more time with her children.  Reece agreed and said being at home while his children also did their schoolwork at home allowed him to be more involved in their education.

There are drawbacks to the online lifestyle.  The biggest risk, according to both families, is seclusion.  Working from home dramatically reduces opportunities to socialize with other people outside the family.  Face-to-face interaction is also scarce for the work-from-home family.

Students also face the risk of seclusion.  Khalil and Koda Reece are 12-years-old and said their social interaction is often limited to online meetings.  There are opportunities for EPIC students to participate in the so-called “home-school” athletic leagues, but Khalil and Koda are not a member of any of those programs. 

The fully online family is not necessarily an exception.  More companies are offering remote-work and flexible work environments.  A study by Condeco Software found the United States is tied for second-place in the world for companies offering employees a chance to work from home. 

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