I’ve worked in a variety of environments including full-time office, periodic telework, and now, full-time virtual.
I get asked a lot of questions about virtual work. Here are my responses to the top three:
1-Wait…you work from home? (Or, what kind of work did you say you do again?)
I’ve transitioned from working in an office environment to working remotely. I’m still a federal employee, and I still have the same job doing instructional design for a distance learning program. When I worked in the office, I was already working on a number of virtual teams designing training projects and providing consulting services to our staff. Making the move to remote work was actually a pretty easy decision.
2-That sounds great. What’s it like to work from home?
There are still challenges–just different ones. Sometimes it’s hard to stay engaged when I don’t have daily face-to-face interactions with colleagues. I do regularly talk with clients and support staff via phone and sometimes webcam, but it’s not always an equivalent experience. My current responsibilities fit well for virtual work, but if I want to advance, I expect my options to be limited.
Conversely, there are all the obvious advantaged of teleworking. On the government side, there are cost savings such as reduced overhead and more space (my original office was quickly filled by another employee).
Personally, I’ve gained time I would have spent commuting, and I’m more accessible to my family. Sure, there are challenges with distractions, but they are not unlike those I experienced in the office, and setting clear boundaries helps.
3-How do you get evaluated? (Or, What’s to say you’re not just watching TV all day?)
I have an excellent management team, and we’ve worked together to put in place controls for accountability. Among other things, there are regular check-ins, and a shared calendar and schedule. More importantly, I’ve worked to build and maintain trust. In terms of evaluation, most of my work can be evaluated asynchronously, and project updates are a regular addition to performance evaluations.
Working remotely is a good fit for my current work responsibilities and the needs of my family, but I know I’ll be back in the office again at some point in my career, and I’m hopeful that the challenges of both environments will make me better prepared for the long-haul.