I hate working from home every single day. And I miss a lot seeing my colleagues at the office (ok, I especially miss our coffees together, great for team building!). We don’t need to be together to write a paper or a project report but I still prefer face-to-face brainstorming sessions and chance encounters, even more, when they include people from other teams. In an interdisciplinary center like ours, this sometimes ends up in very interesting conversations at the intersection of computer science and other disciplines.
But it doesn’t really matter what I like. The pandemic is still going on strong and many universities are extending their work-from-home policies for researchers (for teachers is obviously more difficult though many faculties are also in a hybrid model where many courses are online anyway). Nothing seems to indicate that the situation is going to change in the next months.
So, how do we make the most of the current situation? I don’t like this grey area (problems of spending so much time surrounded by booleans): we can work from home for now. We’ve recently seen announcements of research positions allowing you to start your contract remotely but this also implies that at some point you could be asked to move to that place and work from there.
I think this is the time to be brave and follow the path of so many companies that have moved to a permanent work-from-home policy. I would like to see universities open to offering full-time permanent remote research positions. I don’t know any that openly promotes and encourages this hiring policy. This would be a great opportunity for small universities or universities in less sexy places (geographically speaking) to attract top talent. Again, this is already a acto situation since COVID came to our lives, it’s a matter of making it official and permanent and not just a temporal situation susceptible to change at any time.
We have all had brilliant postdocs that would love to keep working with us but that, for whatever reason, they are desperately trying to look for permanent positions somewhere else (e.g. close to where their family lives). Or that do not apply to your positions because they don’t want (or are unable) to move out of their country. So let’s be flexible (yes, I know, flexibility is not what universities are known for) and use COVID to at least attract the best researchers to your teams, no matter where they are.
As I said at the beginning, I’m looking forward to being able to return to the office with the local members of my team but, if all this situation has at least triggered a change on how universities see remote working/hiring, I’ll also be happy to mix it up with some remote researchers.
In the meantime, I’ll make sure to avoid this mistake pointed out by Paul Ralph
We admonish software professionals for ignoring our research, but how much research on online teaching have you read since you've started teaching online?
— Paul Ralph (@ProfPaulRalph) September 15, 2020
and start reading on how to effectively manage remote or partially-remote research teams. Like it or not, it’s our current, and probably future, reality. This book seems a good place to start but I’ll be happy to get your advice and know your personal experiences!