Let’s see…raise your hand if you are a 9 to 5 project leader? Anyone? It happens from time to time, but the demands of project management are such that it is somewhat of a rarity. Now throw in the concept of consulting as a project manager or in any type of project role and the idea of 9 to 5 gets even rarer.
Why not stick to 9 to 5?
Why can’t project management just be a 9 to 5 position? If all projects are internal to your organization, then maybe it can be. But most of the postings I see from PM job descriptions involve handling some third party entity – if not the actual project customer – that may be in a different time zone. Quite frankly, for the past 10 years my entire project management existence has involved working with project clients who are two or three or five or eight time zones away from me. That isn’t usually very conducive to a 9 to 5 working environment. At least not if there are any issues that come up or meetings that need to accommodate the customer’s schedule more than my own. And on projects, that is almost always the case – it’s a way of life.
The remote project manager – pros and cons
Working from home and primarily remotely for several years now affords me some freedom to work when I want to and when I have to. I’ve gone to Disneyland without taking any vacation. How? I work wirelessly on the road using my phone as a mobile hotspot while someone else drives. I stay in the room at the beginning of the day and get calls and work done and join my family later on. I once successfully delivered a $165,000 deliverable – which was a huge project milestone – to the client while working from the business office of the Disneyland Inn.
I have my phone with me that has all my email and messaging on it so I’m available 24/7. But I also know when to expect contacts and what to expect through experience so we can all still enjoy ourselves. I also can and do work late at night on many occasions. The same goes for when we aren’t on a trip. I can produce a very up to date and accurate project schedule and status report using the latest team updates and produce the information at 2am, send it out via email and everyone has it at 8am the next day when they’re ready for it. And my information is 10 hours fresher than if I had used a typical 4pm time as my cutoff for information going into my project schedule and status report.
There are downsides as well. Like feeling your phone vibrate at 3am and a project customer is asking a question about a deliverable you sent over the previous day. You might think it can wait, but when my 3am is their 10am, then it really can’t. And since I’m an independent consultant, sometimes that 3am contact is a marketing director for an organization halfway around the world who wants to hire me for consulting work. Am I going to respond or go back to sleep? I’m going to respond, of course.
Is it ok?
The next question – is that a good thing? This is an individual question that only each project manager or consultant can answer. For me, yes, it is a good thing…though negotiating with someone in the UK in the middle of the night can be a little unnerving. I never said it was all good. But if you’re working at your employer’s location 9 to 5 and then you are also making yourself available at all hours for everything else then no, it’s not a good thing. You’ll go crazy. That’s too much for any sane person. It’s ok for a short period, but over any extended period of time you will likely end up getting burned out by the hours and workload. Again, it all depends on the individual, whether you are working remotely or onsite, and how your organization is structured.