Billions of gallons of ink have been spilled on this subject. Google if you want any other perspective. I think this one angle has received…

Billions of gallons of ink have been spilled on this subject. Google if you want any other perspective. I think this one angle has received less attention than most (angles).

I’ve had this thought rolling around in my head since at least November of last year. Previous title ideas included:

  • Remoting: the terrific highs and terrible lows.
  • 513 things you didn’t know about Remoting but wished you did before you started.
  • Remoting sucks. This is why you should do it.
  • Want to hate yourself a little? Try remoting.

I jest. I’m only 3/8 serious. It’s important to be accurate when you work in the field of bioinformatics and statistical analysis.

We write a lot about our technical challenges, our innovations, our problem solving and tool adoption — all of that is exciting and fun to discuss. There’s a human element, a personal element, a uniquely individual element of working in this field and in this way that I think is oft ignored, and it is to that end that I’d like to call some attention. I think it’s as important as anything else — perhaps even more so. I can have the best of the best when it comes to hardware and software, but if I don’t have meaningful personal connections to those around the campfire — it’s all for naught.

Remoting is a challenge; and it’s supremely challenging because every single person on every single team is different and unique and has their own set of needs and expectations.

For me, I have five children. My day starts around 5:45 am. I’m sure that’s pretty late for some folks — I am not a morning person. I don’t like it. But that’s my day, and I love my kids, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. So I go from an instant on, hard focus on the kids => breakfast, kids => dressed, kids =>packed and ready routine to a space from about 7:30 am to 9:00 am where I try to get a power nap and “really” get focused on the day. That almost never works. And then there’s the whole other separate reality which is my personal life vs my work life. The kids have karate, basketball, soccer, horse riding, concerts, plays, parent teacher conferences, doctors appointments, dentist appointments, play dates, birthday parties. My partner has her own life. We only have one car. Ignoring everything else about the nature of work — life is hard.

Add your job on top of that. Meetings, requirements discussions, deadlines, real-time communications, conflicts, emotional engagements in that virtual office. For some, the profession comes first and the personal comes after; others invert that; I’m sure for some it’s neutral — but the challenge of remoting is that we open ourselves up to this realm wherein these worlds are going to collide against each other.

I hope that it’s not a bait-and-switch. I don’t actually have any concrete advice or statistically significant analysis to offer to anyone. I couldn’t be the kind of father or partner or employee were it not for the ability to remote. Remoting has enabled/opened opportunities that would not exist otherwise.

Remoting is a challenge. I’ve used almost all of my sick days for vacation. No matter how awful I might feel after getting the flu, I do this, “But I can put myself in front of the computer, so I can’t cop out today” sort of self-talk. I don’t give myself the care and attention that I deserve. I work longer hours than I think I would otherwise. The lack of physical contact and interaction makes it hard to self-assess about how well I’m executing/performing. A certain neurosis can set it.

All of this is surmountable and solvable and usually (easily) addressed by just getting on a call with some other human and expressing my feelings. It’s a simple solution. But it’s an easy solution to forget. I think if I could say anything concrete or absolute, it would be that a person’s ability to recognize when they just need to physically (as much as is possible) connect with another human is the single most important criteria for determining whether remoting is right for you or no.

I stand by it. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.