This blog is contributed by our data science & analytics recruiting team
If the numerous opinion pieces and studies in the media over the past year are any indication, working from home has become an area of intense scrutiny, study, and speculation. Among our network of data scientists, data engineers, and their employers, this is a topic we’ve been hearing about continuously, and have even studied ourselves: How many days do professionals prefer to be in the office vs. at home? Do professionals feel as productive at home as in the office?
Looking into the future is challenging, as the situation is still evolving. It’s likely that it will continue to change as data teams respond to changes in the talent market, employee preferences, their competitor’s strategies, and more. However, we wanted to share a few insights from our experience recruiting for remote positions.
Are you considering a remote position? Or are you not sold on the idea of working from home? Wondering what to expect? Today we wanted to discuss some of the benefits and challenges of working from home, as well as some questions to ask yourself (and ask your employer) when considering a remote position.
Benefits vs. Challenges of Working from Home for Data Scientists
Benefits of Working Remotely
- Access to additional opportunities – Undoubtedly one of the major benefits to working remotely is that it opens up so many opportunities that you might not have access to otherwise! If you’re unable to relocate, living in a rural area, or just want to work for a company in another location without moving there, working remotely can allow you to do that.
- Ability to live (almost) anywhere or travel – Related to the previous point, remote working can open up your living options as well, and we know many data scientists who’ve decided to move to another location now that they’re able to work entirely from home! Some have also used WFH flexibility as an opportunity to work while traveling.
- Schedule flexibility – Working remotely can often offer more schedule flexibility and is consistently a huge draw for data professionals considering remote opportunities. This can also be beneficial for childcare. For example, you may find that you’re still able to get work done from home if you need to care for a sick child, instead of having to take time off.
- No commute – While not having a commute may mean you can sleep in and work in your pajamas, it can also be extremely beneficial if you’re living in an area with fewer opportunities, or in a relatively rural area that might otherwise involve a significant commute. Depending on where you live, another benefit is no more long drives in poor weather conditions.
- Ability to focus on complex data projects – Although this is certainly not the case for everyone, some data scientists and data engineers we’ve spoken with tell us that they’re able to work more intensely on data projects with less coworker distractions. Analytics and engineering can require a lot of uninterrupted focus and concentration, which, depending on one’s preferred vs. available office environment, might be easier to accomplish at home.
- Increased productivity – Related to other points above, we’ve seen many data scientists take advantage of the schedule flexibility and lack of commute to have more focus hours, or shift their schedule to accommodate their most productive times in the day. Some may prefer to sign on later at night after dinner once the kids are asleep, or log on early before the rest of the household wakes up.
- Cost management – You may find that you can save money on your commute, on eating lunch out, coffee on the way to work, etc. You may even be able to live in an area with a lower cost of living than where the company headquarters is located. At the same time, there are also some costs you may take on when working remotely (faster internet, tech upgrades, etc.), so it may be beneficial to check with company policy about what your employer will cover.
Challenges when Working Remotely
- No work/home boundaries – With more data professionals than ever working from home over the past year and a half, one widespread challenge is the struggle to delineate where work life ends and home life begins. This can also result in working more hours than if you’d been at the office, since some managers (or coworkers) might treat working remotely as being “always on call”.
- Difficulty collaborating – Regardless of web conference technology, collaboration can sometimes be more challenging when working from home. It can be tough to stay in the loop, so if you tend to prefer in-person interactions, or chatting through ideas during small chats with your coworkers in the office kitchen, it can take some adjustment to replicate this environment when working from home.
- Missing out on learning opportunities – Similar to collaboration, there are many non-official learning opportunities that you may miss out on by working remotely, which can sometimes cut you off from interpersonal learning experiences.
- Less exposure to management– While having less management oversight can be a relief, if you’re the only team member working remotely, it may also make promotions more difficult to attain since you’re not constantly within reach of the management team. However, now that WFH is becoming more popular with entire teams, it does not impact ability to move up in organization in the same way that it might have in the past if you were the only one working remotely.
- Difficulty being hands-on – Although it is possible to be a hands-on manager while working remotely, you may find that it requires some adjustment from both yourself and your team to make this work. If you are managing a team remotely, you must keep consistent touch points with your staff. Training early career professionals is no longer spontaneous and on-the-spot- learning by osmosis is tough to replicate when everyone is working remotely.
- Less access to tools/resources – Working from home may also mean that you have less access to tools, learning materials, or other resources that you might have at the office. It can also make professional development opportunities like mentorship more challenging.
- Less opportunities to socialize – Whether this means fewer happy hours or company outings, or whether it’s just fewer chances to chat with your coworkers around the water cooler, working remotely does tend to cut down on opportunities to socialize with your coworkers. Especially for early career professionals, this can sometimes feel isolating and make it more difficult to get a sense of the company culture.
Is working remotely the right option for you?
If you’re considering a remote data science position, how can you decide whether it’s the right fit for your career and evaluate how the company supports their remote staff? Here are some questions you might want to consider:
- In data science, tools and methodologies are evolving very quickly; will your employer provide full access to any tools, resources, or learning materials that you might need?
- Will you be provided with company-issued equipment or will you be expected to provide some of your own? What is the quality of the technology?
- Is the role planned to be 100% remote permanently? Is the company working in a hybrid model or are they planning to transition to in-person at some point? Is the majority of the team also WFH or is your position an outlier?
- What is the company policy for reimbursement if you accrue expenses?
- Will you have consistent channels of communication open to your manager, or would you find it more helpful to be able to “drop in” for in-person meetings?
- Is your home environment (or work space) conducive to spending a lot of time working remotely? Are you able to manage any distractions that might arise if you’re working from home, or is there another space where you can go to work?
- Will you be expected to travel to clients or to the main office? How often are in-person meetings and travel expected?
- Would you be happier working with your colleagues at the office? Do you prefer having time to interact in-person with coworkers or management?
- What infrastructure does the company have in place to collaborate? Are these tools well-equipped to help you collaborate with the team if needed?
Whether or not a remote opportunity is the right career move for you is very dependent on the company you’ll be working for, your own preferences, and the role itself, which is why it is so important to carefully weigh the opportunity before accepting. We hope this article has given you some insight into what factors you may want to consider, and as the widespread WFH situation continues to evolve, we’ll no doubt have more to say about this in the future!