You’ve got to love technology. It wasn’t too terribly long ago that everyone thought faxing was amazing. The image came across on the other side on a long, scrolling piece of thermal paper that looked similar to a big roll of toilet paper. Plus, you needed to read the fax pretty quickly because the image seemed to fade and disappear in just a matter of weeks. Regardless of minor inconveniences, it was remarkable that documents and images could be transmitted from one side of the world to the next within seconds.
Now, faxing is so 1990. Think about what we have now: webinars, video conferences, the ability to take control of someone else’s computer remotely, remote whiteboard sessions, and long distance phone calls that don’t cost a thing! All of this new technology is NOW amazing (think about what we’ll have in the next 20 years) and extremely affordable for everyone.
The accessibility and affordability of technology has made working remotely not so remote anymore. It’s commonplace for teams to be spread throughout the state, country, and even world and still collaborate as if they are right in the same building. This has brought with it new found freedoms as well as challenges for you as a project manager.
The following are some of the practical pros and cons of working remotely as a project manager.
 

The Pros of Working Remotely
There is definitely an upside to working remotely. The following are some based upon my own experience as well as those of other colleagues that have an office in their home.
 

1.   HUGE Timesaver
Working remotely is a HUGE timesaver on so many fronts. I know for those who work in a metropolitan area, it can easily take 1+ hours of commuting to get into the office and home at the end of the day. Now, we’re not talking about 1+ hour for getting to the office AND home at the end of the day. We are talking about over an hour to get into the office and then ANOTHER hour to get home at the end of the day. That’s over two hours each day spent on the road.
Do the math on that one. Two hours per day, five days per week is 10 hours per week. There’s a little over 4 weeks each month (4.3 to be exact) for a total of over 43 hours that someone is in their car per month. Over one work week per month is spent behind the wheel!
Then, think of the morning rituals that people need to go through in order to decompress once they’ve made it into the office. It may consist of a stop at the coffee machine on the way in, a quick chat with a friend on way to their desk, and then 30 minutes of aimlessly clicking through email to take your mind off the frustration of the morning rush.
Ah, finally, work can crank up about 10:00am. Working remotely can save over 500 hours per year that would otherwise be spent on the road battling traffic and losing your sanity.

2.   HUGE Money Saver
Another very practical benefit to working remotely is the substantial reduction in expenses. Do you know what it takes to drive an hour each way into and home from work? Gas. And, gas costs money, and lots of it.
Plus, despite the best of intentions of wanting to bring your lunch into work…it’s oh so tempting and easy to just grab a quick bite out with your friends. It may start out as only a twice a week thing, then it becomes three times per week, and next thing you know the days are few and far between when you bring your lunch in from home at all.
You can quickly save $400 – $500 or more each month by working remotely. Wouldn’t it be better to put that money toward YOUR 401(k) instead of the retirement plan of some executive at BP or Exxon each time you filled up your car?

3.   Great For Your Health
Another surprising benefit of working remotely as a project manager are those related to health. A colleague of mine lost 15kg in 6 months simply by swapping out being on the road for two hours each day for the treadmill 45 minutes each day. Plus, he was in more of a position to control what he ate from home instead of the calorie-laden choices that beckoned him each day around his office. This still requires a bit of discipline on your part. You can’t just sit at your desk all day eating potato chips and expect to derive some health benefits. Get your exercise out of the way first thing in the morning and you’ll feel better for the rest of the day!

The Cons of Working Remotely
Yes, there is a darker side of working remotely. You may or may not hear this from your colleagues but, there are some things you need to be conscious of if you have the choice of being able to work remotely.
 

1.   Camaraderie Suffers
Remember your morning routine of battling the traffic, grabbing a cup of coffee and chatting it up on the way back to your desk each day? Two of those three things are gone when you work remotely. You won’t battle traffic and you can still grab your cup of coffee, but you won’t have that friendly banter you used to have.
You may think it’s not a big deal to lose that friendly conversation with your workmates, but it does have a downside. With friendly banter comes insight. Insight into what is going on with the company. Insight into what the other person overheard somebody else say after a meeting late yesterday afternoon. Insight into a change in the direction of the company. Insight into the fact that a new project is starting up on the other side of the building and it’s something you will want to be involved with.
You’ll still get bits and pieces of this information when you work remotely, but it will be just bits and pieces and it will be somewhat outdated and stale by the time you receive it.

2.   It’s Hard to Turn Things Off
You know you’ve got to be out of the office by a certain time or your stay in traffic will be even that much longer. So, you shut things down, pack it up, and hit the road.
You don’t have that concern when you work remotely as a project manager. You can just keep working and working and working.
The next thing you know the clock says its 9 PM. You missed dinner, the kids are getting ready for bed, and your spouse is ticked. Or, you may trick yourself and say you’ve wrapped things up around 6 PM, which still gives yourself plenty of time to head downstairs and have dinner with the family.
But, you don’t turn things off.
Lights are flickering, all your gear is running, and files are downloading while you hurry through a rushed and distracted meal. Then, you come up with an excuse to head back into your home office (“I need to get my keys,” for example) and hunker down for another hour to really wrap up your day.

3.   Other People Live In Your Office
Here’s the catch…it’s called a home office for a reason. The reason is that your office is in your home…along with your family, spouse, kids, pets, delivery guys, neighbour’s dogs, mail people and others that will ring your doorbell at inopportune times throughout the day. You’ll find yourself interrupted more often than expected, loud noises and ringing phones sneaking their way into conference calls more often than you’d like, and the buzzer going off on the dishwasher right when you are about ready to speak. I haven’t quite figured this one out yet…but will let you know when I do!
We’ve all come a long way from the fax machine. The flexibility, freedom, and opportunity afforded to us as remote project managers is unprecedented. Look at the ability to work from home with eyes wide open and you’ll do just fine as a remote project manager.


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