To make a broad statement like “I can work from anywhere” is simply not true. It's like Green Eggs and Ham. Would you really work a project in a boat, with a goat, in the rain, in the dark, on a train, in a car, in a tree, in a box, with a fox, in a house, and with a mouse? Probably just “in a house.” But not with a mouse. Although I have actually performed project work in several of those other places listed above. But not knowingly with a mouse... So many of the others are fallacies, but they make a great story.
No, not everyone can work remotely and from anywhere. There are many things to be considered...
Where is your team located? Is your team co-located with you? If not, then there may be no need to work onsite and remote management may be the best route to take. There are many benefits as I've pointed out in articles along the way. But if your team is mostly co-located where you are, then you should be there as well. I worked for a Las Vegas based tech organization leading projects for many Fortune 500 organizations. I worked remotely about 95% of the time during my tenure because me project teams were dispersed across the US and around the world. But for two of my projects, most of my project team members were located at the Las Vegas headquarters and it just made good sense to work side by side with them. And it was by far the best call to make as we developed great working relationships and pulled off two highly successful implementations. I'm not saying we wouldn't have even if I had continued working from my home office, but since we could all be together and there were some stressful issue laden times on both projects, it was good that we could have project team meetings most of the time with a majority of the team side by side in the same room.
Do you have an escape route? You can't just have a great home office setup and call yourself a remote project manager. It won't work. What happens when you're on that critical weekly status call with the customer and your 5 year old son runs in the room begging for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? No matter what agreement or arrangement you've worked out with the rest of your family “team” as far as watching children and keeping them at bay especially when you're on a call or they themselves avoiding calling out for you to fix something, someone can and will slip through the clutches like a catastrophic risk you forget to plan for. It's not that big of a deal usually, but depending on the discussion, the nature of the call, and the way the project is going with the customer, it can cause issues or concerns – especially if it happens repeatedly. The solution? Have 2-3 more go-to locations where you have something setup or you can get to quickly if an emergency should arise. For me it's our library above the garage. Has great wi-fi reception, is very bright with lots of windows (and great mountain views) and has lots of workspace – I'd work from there all the time if my wife would let me but she is my home office manager and that isn't going to happen. I also have a downstairs guest bedroom I can go to if needed and between those two places I'm usually covered. There's always Starbucks for most of us, but since the closest to me is over 3 miles away, I need advanced notice to head over to that office away from home.
Does everyone approve? Does your senior management approve? How about your PMO Director, if that's applicable. You may say it's the greatest thing in the world and you're most productive working remotely – and I'd certainly buy in to that – but not everyone does. Many bosses think that if they can't see you work, then you're not actually working. Yes, that's silly – especially in the 2010's and current technology – but it happens and those “leaders” are still out there. You can do some cost benefit analysis' or provide other documentation to back you up, but if you can't change their mind then it's not going to happen. You'll either have to comply or move on.
What does the customer need? Think about the customer. I can't really think of a need from the customer's standpoint unless they tend to spend a lot of time at your organization's headquarters or if you mainly lead internal projects for business units in your own organization. But it happens and you may not be able to work – without customer concerns or issues – remotely. Thankfully, this one would likely be rare and only on a project by project basis so as the next project rolls around you probably won't face the same issue or concern.
Summary / call for input
The bottom line is this – I feel that remote work and remote project management is the best way to go if you are managing clients in different timezones, overseeing project staff in different timezones, and have the dedication, organization and office and equipment setup to pull this off. You are then flexible in your hours, able to meet with staff and customers at 2am if needed and may be willing to work for a bit less if it's that important to you because the life benefits – depending on your circumstances – can be huge. But it isn't for everyone.
Readers – please share your thoughts and opinions. Does it work for you? Were you denied remote work options if you requested them? Please share your experiences and thoughts on the topic.