When you hear the words “working remotely,” does it conjure up an image of someone sloppily dressed in their ratty pajama, hair unkempt, with a huge mug of coffee cradled in one hand, while sitting in front of the television with a computer, haphazardly propped on their lap?
How about someone who uses the company time to run personal errands, or someone doing their job with minimal effort?
Granted that might be true in some cases, however, not for the majority of us who have had the opportunity to work remotely for our company.
A couple of years ago, I was contacted by a department director from a pharmaceutical company overseas via LinkedIn for a contract project–proof that LinkedIn does work in your favor if you cultivate your network properly. Since the company was based in Australia and the USA, and I was based in New Zealand at the time, it was an interesting way to conduct work with 2 different time zones and teams of people.
I will dive into the pros first since there are many. First, you have a set the amount of work to be completed in a given time, and how you choose to complete the work is almost completely up to you.
You could be an early riser and do your work before the early bird even thought about the worm, or you could wait until the dead of the night when there are minimal interruptions. You could even divide up your work hours in blocks, depending on what is most efficient for you in terms of overall productivity.
Second, there are no hassles with commuting. There is less frustration being tailed by agro speedsters..
Third, that brushing teeth, showering and the collective nonsense of making oneself presentable to the general public, is clearly overrated. You can actually do work in your favorite stained sweatpants, and no one will give you the stink eye.
Fourth, let’s face it, when you are in a corporate environment, there are often numerous time stealers, such as the unnecessary meetings that are organized by people who really just like to hear the sound of their own voice, and would like you to be an honored audience, or sometimes, the endless train wreck of interruptions by people who would like to rehash their weekend fun with you, when you were just about to achieve an epiphany or discover the meaning of life (maybe a slight exaggeration here, but you get the drift).
Fifth, since you are physically removed from the corporate environment, distance does have another advantage. Any communications that are not so friendly at first sight, can be put aside while you curse the misalignment of the celestial stars. You do not have to respond straight away, as in the case of face-to-face meetings. You also have the opportunity to polish your responses in a civilized fashion, and conduct your work in a constructive manner.
Lastly, this one is for people with ankle bitters, those little cherubic munchkins often have the gall of maiming themselves or the uncanny ability to catch the latest, most fashionable sickness of the month on a weekday, between the hours of 8 to 5, the cheek of some people! But if you can do remote work, you might be able to swing work when the little honey bunnies are knocked out cold by infant Tylenol.
Wow, all those perks, so what’s the catch?
Due to the time zone difference, 16 hours to be precise in my case, if the team in the US wanted to have a teleconference meeting at 9 am EST on a Friday morning, before wrapping things up for the week, then I will have to stay up, all bleary-eyed at 1am on a Saturday morning to catch the meeting.
It can be a hassle to synchronize everybody’s schedules to have a meeting. Since you work remotely, when you need answers or help for a quick question, it would be at least a few hours later before you get a response. It’s not as simple as popping down to a colleague’s office for a wee chat.
Also, in your home office, it can seem lonely at times, and it’s difficult to feel included in a “team.” I have actually never met some of my former colleagues in person. They are merely voices on the teleconference meetings, meshed with a LinkedIn profile shot.
Sometimes it takes a lot longer playing email-tag with someone when you encounter a problem, and written communications lack the subtle, but vital, nuance of human interaction, and the all-important body language.
Lastly, to work remotely, you have to have the type of expertise and resources to be able to conduct all your work via a laptop, which is a bummer for someone who is a diehard bench scientist. It’s simply impossible to pull off a full GLP-certified laboratory in your basement, or set up an animal facility in your backyard for in vivo experiments.
To sum it up, working remotely is like eating licorice: you either love it at first taste or you despise it from then on. However, even if you do love licorice, you still have to watch out for its possible side-effect of high blood pressure as a result of some of the disadvantages I’ve mentioned above.
I’ve enjoyed my experience and have retained my friendships with some of my colleagues. I guess I am just one of those weird people who adore the taste of licorice with glee.