Living with your boss. For many, it sounds like a nightmare. But for a handful of employees at ParaDocs Worldwide, which supplies medical staff at events around the country, living with boss and founder Alex Pollak is like living with family — and a family whose company they actually enjoy, at that.
“When we are at home [our relationship is] more like that of friends than boss/employee,” says Christina Chan, 30, a nurse and emergency medial technician (EMT) and one of the employee-housemates. “When we are at work, we definitely try to respect each other.”
Pollak, 37, a paramedic, pays most of the rent on the spacious six-bedroom Queens home since he uses the basement and garage to store ParaDocs company equipment and uses it as an office.
The other seven renter-employees pay between $500 and $600 a month, and most have other jobs — for example, Chan is an emergency-room nurse at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn and Billy Chen, 23, is an FDNY EMT working on the press desk at fire headquarters. Leo Vanegas, 33, works full time for ParaDocs as chief of operations.
The ParaDocs work at concerts, music festivals and fashion shows, which can involve extraordinarily long days, and they travel to venues across the country.
“And since we are a little family we decided to live together because we pretty much spend most of our time together,” says Pollak. “If we are working a music festival, we work 20-hour days, sometimes straight through. We rely on each other and place trust in each other — it’s very important.”
Some employees and bosses prefer to blur the lines of work and home life, reports Nancy Rothbard, the “David Pottruck” professor of management at Wharton.
“This is not entirely new. Family businesses are like this,” Rothbard says. “You are living with the people you are working with.”
The living arrangement came up last year among ParaDocs employees, who then asked Pollak if he wanted to join.
“I thought it was a great idea because even when I wasn’t working, we’d go and meet up and hang out,” says Chan. “Now we live together, we just come downstairs, and that’s it. It’s much easier for us.”
While working, “it’s totally different. We understand our roles, Alex is the boss,” says Vanegas. “When we are at home, it’s more of a friendship. There is no fear of saying, ‘This isn’t working out, that’s not working out, let’s see how we can make it better.’ ”
What about other employees? They may be jealous of those living with the boss, suspecting they are receiving favoritism for plum assignments.
“People always ask, ‘Why wasn’t I picked for this or that?’ ” says Pollak. “I am so careful about assigning cherry-picked roles. They have to be merit-based.”
Ben Dattner, an NYC-based executive coach and author of “Credit and Blame at Work,” cautions against the perceptions of special treatment by living with the boss.
“Who knows if you will be the boss’ favorite? If you leave the toilet seat up, you won’t be the boss’ favorite anymore,” Dattner says. “It can cut both ways. On one hand, you have unfettered intimate access, and on the other hand, there are a million more ways you can anger your boss because you are living together.”
Chen, an only child, has discovered an unintended perk from moving in. “These guys have always been like my older brothers to me, and now I earned an older sister. I am so happy about that,” says Chen. “It’s everything I have ever wanted.”