Work Environment

Katherine Haramundanis, in her book the Art of Technical Documentation, identifies five major work environments, which dictate how tech writers manage their documents.

 Work environment  
 Description
 Small company  At a small company, you would most likely work with only a handful of people, and you would be responsible for all aspects of managing the document (18).
 Writing team within a larger company  You would have a supervisor who gives specific assignments to your team (18).
 Engineering team  As a tech writer who is part of the engineering team, you would  actually work in the same department as engineers and would be supervised by a documentation manager (19).
 External documents division  Some companies have external suppliers, who provide information on their products. In this type of environment, you would be revising documents to fit company standards (20).
 Freelance Working as a freelance tech writer, you would be in charge of finding contracts with companies and negotiating your pay. The length of time that you work with a company depends on the project that you are tackling. Some projects take a few weeks, while others can take six months or longer. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 2% of tech writers are self-employed. It is a challenge to build a client base and to seek out and land new contracts. But, some tech writers love the freedom of being their own boss.

Office Environment and Work Week 

As the Occupational Outlook Handbook explains, some tech writers have their own offices, while others work in "noisy rooms filled with the sound of keyboards and computer printers, as well as the voices of other writers tracking down information over the phone" (233).

While the nature of the job depends largely on communicating with other teams, some companies do allow writers to work from home (U.S. Department of Labor). Technological advances in conferencing and data sharing allow workers to participate in meetings from remote locations.

Gathering information goes beyond online research, phone calls, and e-mail messages. This forces some tech writers to travel to a different city or even abroad (Bureau of Labor Statistic 233). In an effort to better understand the information, a tech writer may visit a manufacturing facility to gain first-hand knowledge of a product (Bureau of Labor Statistics 233).

Often times tech writers do this while trying to meet deadlines, which means putting in long hours and working on the weekends. For some, this level of stress is a daily occurrence.


Works Cited

Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Technical Writers." Occupational Outlook Handbook, 17 Dec. 2009. Web. <http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos319.htm>.

Haramundanis, Katherine. The Art of Technical Documentation. 2nd ed. Boston: Digital Press, 1998. Print.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic. Occupational Outlook Handbook. 2006-2008 ed. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor, 2006. Print.