Approximately 12% of employees work from their homes (Stats. Can. 2008) and about 60% of this group are self-employed. I am encompassed in both of these statistics, and I work from my home as a contracted scientist, ecologist, and data analyst.
While pursing graduate studies, the majority of my time was spent in an office at the university, and I had difficulty imagining myself working a traditional 9 to 5 job. I didn’t seek a position as a research professor or instructor, and instead, after completing my PhD, I held several postdoctoral fellowships. When the last fellowship wrapped up, factors in my personal life pulled me back to Quebec to be near my family. I will always be grateful that my employer (Dave) accommodated my wishes and gave me the opportunity to spend time with my ill mother and be closer with family.
Currently, I work with FluxLab which is based in Nova Scotia, and I’ve also had contracts with start-up companies (both interactive dashboards) in Alberta and Ontario. Honestly, not having job security is stressful by times, but it is the comprise I am willing to pay for the flexibility and freedom afforded by contracts for remote work. I like working very early in the morning or spending a few hours plugged in during the weekend, so I can spend some time during the day horse riding or kayaking. I can seamlessly intermix my work and personal life this way: laundry happens while my computer is running code!
This flexibility is also advantageous for my sister who has four children: two boys and two girls who range in age from 8 to 16. She loves that I can often babysit or help by bringing one of the four (or all four!) kids to the dentist or the doctor.
Obviously, this work environment is not for everyone. To make it work you need to be organized, self-disciplined, and engage in clear and regular communication with your employer and co-workers. You also need to be comfortable working without physically present peers. Every day, a part of me wishes to be in Antigonish with the rest of my co-workers, but luckily tools (e.g., Slack, Skype) help promote connections from afar. On Slack, I “talk” to some of you every day!
That said, real face to face time remains very important and, if possible, should be periodically built into teleworking. The practice of having a general lab meeting twice a year is a great opportunity to strengthen working relationships with colleagues. I feel that just a few days can make a substantial difference!
I’m very pleased with my current work arrangement, and that it has also suited my employers. My fiancée and I recently bought our first home in Quebec, and I look forward to continuing this combination of living and work from my new basecamp when we move in next month.
Martin Lavoie PhD