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Opinion Editorials Worried About Dollars, Not Sense




How would you feel if the professional organization you belonged to was making your job harder to do?


What would you think if the organization you paid dues to in order to look out for your best interests was involved with a company that was looking out for their pocketbooks at the expense of yours?

Keep on reading and you’ll find out… launched an AVM entitled “What’s Your Home Worth” a few weeks back. It allows consumers to put in an address and see an estimated market value for it. The widget is on the home page, as well as next to every listing displayed on the site. Obviously, they’re putting it in front of consumers as much as they can in order to promote it.

So what’s the big deal? A few things:

The new just made your job as a Realtor harder.

The values they’re spitting out are anywhere from somewhat to completely inaccurate. They are no better than Zillow or any other AVM out there. In fact, in many instances, Zillow was much more accurate.

As Realtors, we all know how much fun it is when our clients want to argue our opinion of a property’s value against a “Zestimate” or some other inaccurate AVM. Now we also have to argue against and an organization we’re directly affiliated with.

In addition, many consumers will likely believe that the values somehow have the input of the 1.3 million Realtors in the US (after all, it is called “Realtor”.com). Once they see just how inaccurate the values are, do you think that think that consumers will view give Realtors more or less credibility than before?

So why make our jobs harder and devalue our credibility even more?

It’s all about the Benjamins… Remember folks, this ain’t no not-for-profit charity. Real estate is a trillion dollar industry with millions of dollars of online advertising dollars at stake. And what compels companies to spend their advertising dollars on your site?


And what brings traffic?

Things like “Zestimates” and “What’s Your Home Worth”.

Does it truly help consumers? No. Does it truly help Realtors? No. Does it put money into the pockets of Yes. Doesn’t sound quite right, does it?


So how about do this…

  1. Let Zillow and all the other sites out there that have AVM’s continue to make money off of their Zestimates and further discredit themselves as a source for accurate information.
  2. Focus on providing consumers the most accurate data and help interpret that data and show how to apply it in real life. This will help bring credibility to “Realtor” name in general.
  3. Start worrying about retaining Realtor members as well as attracting new ones by looking out for their best interests. We’re the ones who pay dues to keep you around in the first place, remember?

P.S. Sorry to for picking on them again.

Danilo Bogdanovic is a Real Estate Consultant/REALTOR(R) in Northern Virginia and author/owner of and Danilo serves on various committees with the Dulles Area Association of REALTORS(R) and the Virginia Association of REALTORS(R).

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  1. Barry Cunningham

    June 19, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    You are talking about an organization that has Larry Yun as it’s economic prognosticator you know? What do you expect?

  2. Benn Rosales

    June 19, 2008 at 7:46 pm


  3. Frank Jewett

    June 19, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    It could be worse. The California AOR’s new website crashed on opening day. For several days they posted an anonymous apology (stand up leadership?), but now that’s gone, too. C.A.R. 2.0, we hardly knew ya!

  4. ines

    June 19, 2008 at 8:19 pm

    I just don’t get why they don’t ask for our opinion, do a poll, test it out first, put some thought behind it. It’s a shame.

  5. Jim Little

    June 19, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    Do we want to get into the question of the R word in domain names?
    Just more NAR doing what it does well.

  6. Eric- New Orleans Condos and Lofts

    June 19, 2008 at 9:28 pm

    They try harder and harder but are following behind the real estate leaders. Most of the Brokers in this area compete with then and beat them with local knowledge and sites. At one time they were the only dog. Now they have to use google Ad sense to help people find the site.

  7. Jim Lee

    June 19, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    Forget the sacred “R” word Jim; NAR is off to bigger and better acronyms now like “MLS”

  8. Jay Thompson

    June 19, 2008 at 11:36 pm

    You don’t even want to get me started on Try opening an independent brokerage and see how many hard sell unsolicited phone calls you get from them. I f’ing hate them. And I’m really not a hater….

  9. Bill Lublin

    June 20, 2008 at 5:29 am

    Danilo; Interesting post – though the comments surprised me. In an arena where we usually see a lot of conversation about the importance of transparency and providing what the consumer wants, we’re saying that we should be gatekeepers of this data (which I agree with by the way)

    Don’t get me wrong. I don’t like AVM’s I would disagree with with you that Zillow is more accurate – I would actually call it less inaccurate – becase I havent found one yet that is close to my opinion in any area where I work – and the whole idea of the AVM is flawed because it is a result built on inadequate data –

    That being said, if we take for granted that REALTOR.COM’s model is not as good as its competitors, but throw in an “inevitability” factor (consumers want it, many sites will have it, therefore it is inevitable that they will also) can we really fault them for exploring this as a feature of their site? I haven’t seen a post about how crappy Zillow, or Cyberhomes or any ohter AVM site is so far , even though we may all agree that they are not accurate nor benefcial to the consumer. (Though in all fairness, maybe I just missed them)

  10. Bill Lublin

    June 20, 2008 at 5:38 am

    @Jim Little and Jim Lee You guys are mixing apples and oranges here – The use of the trademarked word REALTOR is permitted by memners but restricted and montiored no differently then the use fo the words CENTURY 21, COLDWELL BANKER, KELLER WILLIAMS, ERA, etc etc etc. As a franchisee, I pay tons more to the franchisor then I do in NAR dues and they are exremely rigorous in their enforcement of their rights as a trademark holder (which they have to be inorder to maintain their rights) My company’s name is CENTURY 21 Advantage Gold – and when I write it, I am required by my fanchise agreement ot use all caps in the work Century, though when I use the phrase Century 21 other then in my company name I am required to type it in sentence case. Is that any more restrictive then the use of the word REALTOR allowed to the members of NAR? I don;t think so. And if you think their C&D letters are bad, when we registered Advatage Gold as a trademark, I got a letter from Americam Airlines who were trying to protect their use of the American AAdvantage frequent flyer program – does that make them foolish (the two terms and their uses are not even close)

    As far as the MLS isue, it seems from your comment that you just dont understand the sitution. The use of those three letters is not a trademark issue, it is a “true picture” issue. If the letters are being used in a manner which is not misleading to the public, there is no problem – For example, the URL “IamnotanMLS” would not in any way be misleading. But other uses could be misleading, and WE ALL HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO PRACTICE OUR BUSINESS IN AN ETHICAL MANNER WITHOUT MISLEADING THE PUBLIC (sorry for yelling, but this seems really hard for people to get).

    Thanks for playing

  11. Jim Lee

    June 20, 2008 at 6:06 am

    You know Bill, you’re absolutely correct. The MLS domain name issue does seem really hard for people to get.

    A big part of the issue is making a ruling so long after the fact AND making it retroactive (defacto), not to mention only being able to enforce it against NAR members.

    The general public, aka aggregators and lead sellers are still able to use it with impunity since of course NAR has no control over what they do.

  12. Bill Lublin

    June 20, 2008 at 6:48 am

    Jim – Thanks for telling my I was absolutely correct – that’s so rare for me. Could I aks you for a letter to my wife verifiyng that at some point in the universe that occured?

    Its really not an issue of being retroactive. Its more a matter of clarification. If you were doing something wrong, and didn’t know it, wouldn’t you want someone to tell you so that you could stop?

    And in terms of enforcement and membership. I actually am proud that I hold myself to the standards of the Code of Ethics – I believe that its a good thing – and I’m proud of my colleagues in the business who do the same. Its one of the reasons I think being a REALTOR matters.

    I’m not worried bout what someone else does. I believe that its what I do that matters, not what others do. If someone else wants to mislead the public – let them – it won’t take me down that road.

  13. Mack in Atlanta

    June 20, 2008 at 6:57 am

    Danilo thinks that is more accurate, Bill thinks that is less accurate and I think that in my basic trade area that I am more accurate. needs to promote the REALTORS, God knows we pay them enough!!!!!

  14. Jim Lee

    June 20, 2008 at 7:40 am

    Just one more point and we can then agree to disagree on this subject.

    You more than most understand that any violation of Article 12 occurs at the local level and you are likely familiar that several associations and boards across the country have had Article 12 violations filed and hearings held with widely varying results.

    I know that these hearings and the results are theoretically confidential but if the alleged offending website remains some months after the hearing it’s reasonable to assume that some respondents won and some lost.

    How do you and NAR reconcile the uneven enforcement of the MLS issue, i.e. why is OK in one city and is not in another?

    I’m only using those cities for illustration purposes, I have no knowledge of any proceedings or the outcomes.

    Just curious.

  15. Mack in Atlanta

    June 20, 2008 at 8:05 am

    Jim – to expand on your example, is the public site of Georgia MLS, one of the listing services in the metro Atlanta market and does not appear to be a part of the listing service for Chicago.

  16. Jim Lee

    June 20, 2008 at 9:58 am

    I only used those cities for illustration Mack.

    “I’m only using those cities for illustration purposes”

    The point and the question for Bill is why is it OK for to be allowed in one board or association and to be found in violation in another when both are prosecuted (hypothetically speaking) under the same new SOPs to Article 12 of NAR’s COE.

    Same NAR, same COE violation allegation, different results.

  17. Bill Lublin

    June 20, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    Makc – Thanks for your input and actually creating the basis for the explanation

    As I said earlier, its about being misleading, not using those three little letters. In Mack’s explanation of the as the public face of an MLS, that is in no way misleading. In other examples that I have seen, an individual or company that is not an MLS organization has created a URL to make it look to the consumer searching the Internet that they were clicking on an MLS site. For example the page seemed to be a landing page owned by someone who moetized by renting it as a place to launch to other sites. When I landed on that one, I felt annoyed and misled. I would imagine that a consumer might feel the same way.

    As far as different panels having different findings, I don’t have a problem with that. The practice of real estate is local and in different areas, panels might find different ways. Heck, even in the same board, different panels might find in different ways, just as judges or arbitrators might hear two similar cases and have different verdicts. However in any case, the participants are provided with a due process, and are given an opportunity to make their presentation to the panel as best they can.

    Same NAR, same COE violation allegation, different panels, different results is the same as
    Same LAWS, same violation allegations, different judge or jury, different results.

    Aren’t they both ok?

  18. Danilo Bogdanovic

    June 20, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    Bill – I am not saying that we should hold on to the information. Quite the opposite, I’m a huge fan of transparency, practice it in my real estate career and believe that all agents, brokers, Realtors, NAR, etc should be much more transparent than they currently are.

    What I am saying is that we should provide ACCURATE information. Consumers don’t just want information. They want accurate information. When you search a term on Google, are you looking for any information or the most relevant and accurate information?

    What said with it’s “What’s Your Home Worth” feature was “screw accuracy” and followed in Zillow’s and other AVM’s footsteps of providing inaccurate information for the sake of traffic/money.

    It’s pathetic that an organization with “Realtor” in it’s name that’s preaching “Realtors are experts” turns around and provides inaccurate information, makes us all look like morons and makes our jobs harder.

  19. Eric Blackwell

    June 20, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    Hey Danilo;

    You owe them no apology. It is they, who owe us one.

    @Jay–No doubt. I am on the receiving end WAY to many of those…

    @Mack- Spot on. AVM’s do NOT work. You cannot set the price for the house without SEEING it and having a good idea of the value of others in the area. And yet they persist with their pipe dream…wonder what is in the pipe? (grin) Sad part is, they bought it with our money.

  20. Dan Connolly

    June 20, 2008 at 11:45 pm

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not a big fan of NAR, but when I went to the site and put in my address, it said the range was from 265K to 875K and went on to say directly below the range of solds:

    “To find the specific value of your home and a strategy to make it worth more you should contact and work with a real estate professional in your area. Click Go to locate a REALTOR® near you.”

    To me that is not quite like an estimate of value, and I don’t really have a problem with it. Zestimates, on the other hand assign an exact dollar value without any immediate disclaimer, unless you dig on the site for it, and to me, that’s a problem.

    Of course on the low sales were townhomes and I was asking for single family homes, but that was probably the listing agents fault, putting them in the wrong section to trick some people into looking… and on the site they go back 18 months for comps, because I guess the news hasn’t drifted up to the Ivory tower yet that appraisers are only concerned about the last 6 months….

  21. Paula Henry

    June 20, 2008 at 11:55 pm

    Danilo – This is a conversation for the ages. basically sucks the $$$ out of Realtors and provides less than adequate service.

    AVM’s can not evaluate a property like a Realtor in the field day in and day out. They only make our job more difficult with their inaccuracies.

    It is so important to provide accurate information about homes we list. I’ve seen time and again, one agent depends on the previous information provided, who depended on the previous agents information and so on it goes. How difficult is it to measure a room correctly; to detail the specifics.
    We owe it to our clients and owes it to us to display the information we provide accurately.

  22. Paul Francis

    June 21, 2008 at 5:47 am

    Despite all of the complaining, just continues to go in the wrong direction. I have not even looked at it for such a long time until you brought up the widgets being placed near every listing.

    YUCK! It’s cluttered with so many crappy, annoying banner ads they deserve to continue sinking.

    New home builders, etc..etc.. Way too many obvious attempts to distract visitors. And is supposed to help us sell our listings?

  23. Paul Francis

    June 21, 2008 at 5:53 am

    Ok.. I had to try it out for a neighborhood I specialize in. The square footages for the homes listed as comparables were not even correct — and I sold one of the houses! What’s up with that???

  24. Jennifer in Louisville

    June 21, 2008 at 6:02 am

    The Big R should be advocates for REALTORs, but the persons calling the shots on it aren’t leading the way in the real estate profession. They seem to be trying to play catch up by implementing other sites ideas (which by the way – weren’t any good to begin with).

  25. Mack in Atlanta

    June 21, 2008 at 6:13 am

    @ Dan- You wrote – “To find the specific value of your home and a strategy to make it worth more you should contact and work with a real estate professional in your area. Click Go to locate a REALTOR® near you.” The way I see it will just use this to sell more cities or zip codes for $500 to $1,000 a month. Why should we have to compete with them?

  26. Bill Lublin

    June 21, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    @ Mack – My comment about Zillow was that I found it less inaccurate in comparison to another AVM – not that I found it accurate at all – And as any real estate professional would point out again – without seeing the interior there’s just no way to know- I would like to saa all of these AVMs go away, I think however that consumer demand will keep them round. I think the best thing that we could see would a number of them on the same page. They would all disagree about the value on the same page, demonstrating to the consumer that they should be getting a real estate professional over to figure it out with them.

  27. Eric Blackwell

    June 21, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    GREAT idea Bill! I will take that one on…(grin) Why don’t WE put them on the same page. We KNOW that they are mostly fiction…

    A compare your home’s value page on a blog with a Zesstimate, Trestimate and a Restmate! (others?) and followed up with a ….

    Want to know what it’s worth for REAL? Call me 555-5555 (hehe)

    Could be fun! Would generate some buzz as well



  28. Bill Lublin

    June 21, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    Eric – That’s exactly the deal – let’s do a page called REAL OR NO(T) REAL with avatars of really hot women holding aluminum cases – when you click on each one you get a different valuation on your home, but between each one, you get an offer from an investor to buy before you see the next number- (I can want to be the Banker on that show

  29. Eric Blackwell

    June 21, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    Too funny! And it could be any value from .01 to $1MM , Howie…

    Open the next case! Yikes! Your value went down ;-(

    Sad truth is though that people DO rely on these fictional figures to their detriment.

    Would make a GREAT cartoon for a blog post, though. Hey Russ….hehe

    Thanks for cracking me up, Bill!

  30. Braxton Beyer

    July 17, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    NAR is absolutely ridiculous. They are a good lobbying group and that is about it. Everything they try to offer consumers or agents just gets in the way.

  31. Bill Inman

    July 28, 2008 at 3:06 am

    I have had issues with for years. As the “Official web site of the National Association of Realtors” it does not provide a service for me a NAR member. Any service to include a simple Realtor search excludes every Realtor that does not pay up. The information that allows them to exist is information I have acquired and put into my local MLS, and then I am expected to pay for my information to be displayed and links back to me. charges more than any other web site for their services and they have more third party advertisements than any other web site I have seen. We (Realtors) have rolled over and played dead for years and have allowed OUR associations to take advantage of us…we pay large dues for an association that is to work for us, not us for “them”…nobody will respect us until we respect ourselves.

  32. Kaw Manyur

    November 13, 2008 at 11:58 pm is a joke, and always been… it shows what kind of “professionals” run it (down)…

  33. Mark Antonowsky

    May 10, 2009 at 7:53 am

    I agree completely with Bill Inman! I’ve been boycotting for about 5 years now. To think our own trade group website, given the importance of the internet to real estate, would operate the way it does i.e., blackmail agents to pay extra to have our listings contain OUR contact info, when any other IDX, zillow, yahoo, trulia, etc provides that info without charge, while selling and displaying banner advertising along with our listing content, is despicable!, to put it simply, sucks.

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Opinion Editorials

Ways to socialize safely during quarantine

(EDITORIAL) Months of isolation due to quarantine is causing loneliness for many, but joining virtual social groups from home may help fill the need for interaction.




Quarantining, sheltering in place, staying home. We’re tired of hearing it; we’re tired of doing it. Yet, it’s what we still need to be doing to stay safe for a while longer. All of this can be lonesome. As the days turn into weeks and weeks into months, the alone time is getting to even the most introverted among us.

Solitary confinement is considered one of the most psychologically damaging punishments a human can endure. The New Yorker reported on this in a 1992 study of prisoners in detention camps in the former Yugoslavia, as well as Vietnam veterans who experienced isolation. These studies showed that prisoners who had experienced solitary confinement demonstrated similar brain activity to those who’d suffered a severe head injury, noting that “Without sustained social interaction, the human brain may become as impaired as one that has incurred a traumatic injury.”

We aren’t meant to be solitary creatures. Your “pandemic brain” is real. That fogginess, the lack of productivity, can be attributed to many things, including anxiety, but being kept apart from other humans is a big part of it too. Be kind to yourself, give yourself grace, and join others virtually. Be it an app, a class, a Facebook group, a chat room, or a livestream, someone somewhere is out there waiting to connect with you too.

The good news? We are lucky enough to live in an era of near limitless ways to interact socially online. Sure, it is different, but it is something. It’s important. The best thing about this type of social interaction is being able to hone in on your specific interests, though I’d caution you against getting caught in an online echo chamber. Diversity of interests, personality, and opinion make for a richer experience, with opportunities for connecting and expanding your worldview.

Here are a few suggestions on ways to socialize while staying home and staying safe. Communicating with other humans is good for you, physically and mentally.

Interactive Livestreams on Twitch:

Twitch is best known as a streaming service for video game fans, but it offers multiple streams appealing to different interests. This is more than passive watching (although that is an option, too) as Twitch livestream channels also have chat rooms. Twitch is fun for people who like multi-tasking because the chat rooms for popular livestream channels can get busy with chatter.

While people watch the Twitch hosts play a video game, film a live podcast, make music or art, mix cocktails, or dance, they can comment on what they’re watching, make suggestions, ask questions, crack jokes, and get to know each other (by Twitch handle, so it is still as anonymous as you want it to be) in the chat room. The best hosts take time every so often to interact directly with the chat room questions and comments.

Many Twitch channels develop loyal followers who get to know each other, thus forming communities. I have participated in the Alamo Drafthouse Master Pancake movie mocks a few times because they are fun and local to Austin, where I live. Plus, in my non-quarantine life, I would go to Master Pancake shows live sometimes. The chat room feels familiar in a nice way. While watching online is free, you can (and totally should) tip them.

Online trivia in real time:

There are some good options for real-time online trivia, but I’m impressed with the NYC Trivia League’s model. They have trivia games online on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. The NYC Trivia League seems to have figured out a good way to run the game live while keeping answers private from the other teams. They run games on Instagram Live with a live video of the host, and participants answer via the question feature. Clever!

Online book club:

First I have to shout out my Austin local independent bookstore, BookPeople, because they are fantastic. They run book clubs throughout the year, along with readings, book signings, and all things book-related. BookPeople hosts several online book clubs during these lockdown days, and most people will find something that appeals to them.

I’m also impressed with this list from Hugo House, a writer’s resource based out of Seattle. This list includes Instagram and Goodread book clubs, book clubs for Black women, rebels, and poetry lovers. The Financial Diet recommends the Reddit book club, if you are comfortable with the Reddit format. Please note that it’s a busy place, but if you like Reddit, you already know this.

Cooking class or virtual tasting:

This is doubly satisfying because you can follow these chefs in real time, and you end up with a meal. There are a couple on Instagram Live, such as The Culinistas or Chef Massimo Bottura.

You can also participate in virtual tastings for wine, whiskey, or chocolate, though you will have to buy the product to participate in the classes (usually held over Zoom or Facebook Live). If you are in Austin, Dallas, or Houston, I recommend BeenThere Locals. The cost of the course includes the wine, spirits, or cooking kit in most cases, and all of the money goes to the business and expert hosting the class.

Look for your favorite wine, spirits, cheese, chocolate makers, and chefs that are local to you to find a similar experience. Most either prepare the class kit for pickup or delivery within a local area.

Quarantine chat:

To interact with another quarantined person seeking social interaction, there’s Quarantine Chat. Quarantine chat is one of the ways to connect through the Dialup app, available on iOS and Android devices. Sign up to make and receive calls when you want to speak with someone. The Dialup app pairs you randomly with another person for a phone conversation, at a scheduled time, either with anyone or with someone with shared interests.

Quarantine chat takes it a step further with calls at random times. When your quarantine chat caller calls, you will not see their number (or they yours), only the “Quarantine Chat” caller ID. If you are unable to pick up when they call, they will be connected with someone else, so there is no pressure to answer. It’s nice to hear someone else’s voice, merely to talk about what you’ve been cooking or what hilarious thing your pet is doing.

Play Uno:

Uno Freak lets people set up games and play Uno online with friends or strangers. Players do not need to register or download anything to play. Uno Freak is web-based.

Talk to mental health professionals:

If your state of loneliness starts sliding toward depression, call someone you can speak to right away to talk over your concerns. When in doubt, call a trained professional! Here are a few resources:

  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): The NAMI HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 am–6 pm, ET, 800-950-NAMI (6264) or
  • Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to this text line 24/7 for someone to text with who will also be able to refer you to other resources: U.S. and Canada: 74174, U.K. 85258, Ireland: 50808.
  • Psych Central has put together this comprehensive list of crisis intervention specialists and ways to contact them immediately.

There are many ways to connect even though we are physically apart. These are just a few real time ways to interact with others online. If you want something a little more flesh and blood, take a walk around the block or even sit in a chair in front of where you live.

Wave at people from afar, and remember that we have lots of brilliant doctors and scientists working on a way out of this. Hang in there, buddy. I’m rooting for you. I’m rooting for all of us.

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Opinion Editorials

Working remotely: Will we ever go back? (Probably not)

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Now that the pandemic has opened the door on working remotely, there’s no way we’ll put the genie back in the bottle. But, here’s some ways you can adapt.



Woman working remotely on her couch with a laptop on her lap.

When it comes to working remotely, will the toothpaste ever go back in the tube?

Mark Zuckerberg recently said, “We are going to be the most forward-leaning company on remote work at our scale…” By 2030, Zuckerberg anticipates that over half of Facebook’s workforce will be remote. Many other companies are jumping on the work from home bandwagon. Working remotely has helped many businesses manage the pandemic crisis, but it’s unsure what form remote working will take over the next 10 years.

We know that employees are responding positively to WFH, as reported in this article – Employers: Lacking remote work options may cause you to lose employees. As offices transition to a post-COVID normal, here are some things to consider about your office and remote work.

What does your business gain from allowing workers to WFH?
The future of remote work depends on a conscious application of WFH. It’s not just as easy as moving employees out of the office to home. You have to set up a system to manage workers, wherever they are working. The companies with good WFH cultures have set up rules and metrics to know whether it’s working for their business. You’ll need to have technology and resources that let your teams work remotely.

Can your business achieve its goals through remote work?
The pandemic may have proved the WFH model, but is this model sustainable? There are dozens of benefits to remote work. You can hire a more diverse workforce. You may save money on office space. Employees respond well to remote work. You reduce your carbon emissions.

But that can’t be your only measure of whether remote work fits into your vision for your organization. You should be looking at how employees will work remotely, but you need to consider why employees work remotely.

The work paradigm is shifting – how will you adapt?
The work environment has shifted over the past century. Remote work is here to stay, but how it fits into your company should be based on more than what employees want. You will have to work closely with managers and HR to build the WFH infrastructure that grows with your organization to support your teams.

We don’t know exactly how remote work will change over the next decade, but we do know that the workplace is being reinvented. Don’t just jump in because everyone is doing it. Make an investment in developing your WFH plan.

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Opinion Editorials

The truth about unemployment from someone who’s been through it

(EDITORIAL) Unemployment benefits aren’t what you thought they were. Here’s a first-hand experience and what you need to know.




Have I ever told you how I owed the government over two grand because of unemployment in 2019, and only just finished paying it back this year?

This isn’t exactly the forum for memoirs, but this is relevant to everyone. So I’ll tell y’all anyway.

It all started back in 2018 when I came into work early, microwaved my breakfast, poured coffee, and got pulled into a collaboration room to hear, “We love you and your work, April, but we’ve been bought out and you’re being laid off.”

It was kind of awkward carrying my stuff out to the car with that Jimmy Dean sandwich in my mouth.

More awkward still was the nine months of unemployment I went through afterwards. Between the fully clothed shower crying, the stream of job denial, catering to people who carried rocks in their nostrils at my part-time job (yes, ew, yes, really), and almost dying of no-health-insurance-itis, I learned a lot!

The bigger lesson though, came in the spring of the following year when I filed my taxes. I should back up for a moment and take the time to let those of you unfamiliar with unemployment in Texas in on a few things that aren’t common knowledge.

1: You’re only eligible if you were laid off. Not if you had quit. Not fired. Your former company can also choose to challenge your eligibility for benefits if they didn’t like your face on the way out. So the only way you’re 100% guaranteed to get paid in (what the state calls) “a timely manner”, is a completely amicable split.

2: Overpayments have to go back. Immediately. If there’s an error, like several thousand of Texans found out this week, the government needs that cash back before you can access any more. If you’re not watching your bank account to make sure you’re getting the exact same check each time and you have an overpayment, rest assured that mistake isn’t going to take long to correct. Unfortunately, if you spent that money unknowingly–thought you got an ‘in these uncertain times’ kinder and gentler adjustment and have 0 income, you have a problem. Tying into Coronavirus nonsense is point three!

3: There are no sick days. If ever you’re unable to work for any reason, be it a car accident, childbirth, horrible internal infection (see also no-health-insurance-itis), you are legally required to report it, and you will not be paid for any days you were incapacitated. Personally, my no-health-insurance-itis came with a bad fever and bedrest order that axed me out of my part time job AND killed my unemployment benefits for the week I spent getting my internal organs to like me again. But as it turned out, the payment denial came at the right time because–

4: Unemployment benefits are finite. Even if you choose to lie on your request forms about how hard you’re searching for work, coasting is ill-advised because once the number the state allots you runs out…it’s out. Don’t lie on your request forms, by the way. In my case, since I got cut from my part-time gig, I got a call from the Texas Workforce Commission about why my hours were short. I was able to point out where I’d reported my sickness to them and to my employer, so my unpaid week rolled over to a later request date. I continued to get paid right up until my hiring date which was also EXACTLY when my benefits ran out.

Unemployment isn’t a career, which is odd considering the fact that unemployment payments are qualified by the government as income.

Ergo, fact number five…

5: Your benefits? They’re taxed.

That’s right, you will be TAXED for not having a job.

The stereotype of the ‘lazy unemployment collector burdening society’ should be fading pretty quickly for the hitherto uninformed about now.

To bring it back to my story, I’d completely forgotten that when I filed for unemployment in the first place, I’d asked for my taxes NOT to be withheld from it–assuming that I wasn’t going to be searching for full time work for very long. I figured “Well, I’ll have a tax refund coming since I’ll get work again no problem, it’ll cancel out.”

Except, it was a problem. Because of the nine month situation.

I’d completely forgotten about it by the time I threw myself into my new job, but after doing my taxes, triple checking the laws and what I’d signed, it was clear. Somehow…despite being at my lowest point in life, I owed the highest amount in taxes, somewhere around the 2k mark.

Despite being based on a system that’s tied to how much income you were getting before, and all the frustrating “safeguards” put in place to keep payments as low and infrequent as possible, Uncle Sam still wants a bite out of the gas-station Hostess pie that is your unemployment check. And as I’m writing this, more and more people are finding that out. And even as we enter 2021, there is still more to be aware of – we’re not out of the woods yet.

I’d like to end this on a more positive note… So let’s say we’ve all been positively educated! That’s a net gain, surely.

Keep your heads up, and masked.

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