Thursday, May 1, 2008

Who Needs an Office??

I really miss working outside of the office.

In graduate school I shared an office so I was only in there between classes to check email, when setting up experiments or when holding office hours. Thus, I got used to working at home or out at coffee shops. I analyzed and wrote all of my dissertation at a local coffee shop. It was great to just grab my lab top and my headphones, get a super sized latte and crank out chapters for hours on end.

My post-doc mentor wants me in the office all the time. On one hand, I get it. The studies I do here are way more intense than in grad school and I am literally in the lab for every single participant. Also, this is a training post doc for me so it has been really helpful to be in the lab and have a graduate student or my mentor to turn to whenever I had a question about the new techniques and research I'm learning.

However, I feel really confined by the fact that I have to go to the office every day. I'm not getting nearly as much writing down as I would like and I feel resentful. I had so much freedom as a grad student, when I wasn't on campus nobody was looking for me. Now, whenever I want to work from home (like today as it's easier to get to my undergrad from home than from post doc institution) I worry my mentor is going to get mad. It's almost like I have to call in to let them know I won't be around.

I've tried appealing to my mentor by saying I write better when I'm not in the office I share with two other people but they just don't buy it. Apparently, they always write in the office and have always written in their office even if it meant sticking around after everyone else when home so they don't get it that I'd be way more productive if I could take 1 day a week as my writing day. Instead they think I should just learn to write while I'm at the office. It's so frustrating. It's impossible with the constant stream of RAs and other personnel streaming through my office. Not to mention the other two people who talk and play their music (granted, they try to be considerate, but they're in the office > 40 hours a week too so they have a right to want to have it be conducive to their work habits).

I have shifted my work schedule so I get to the office 2 hours before anyone else does so that I can get some writing done but how I long for the days of working in the coffee shop for hours on end without interruption.


Di Di said...

Wow, they shouldn't expect you to work in the office just because they do -- surely as academics they have heard of countless people who are more productive from home, or in other specific working conditions?

I'm productive at home because there is no one to talk to, and because I can satisfy hunger, thirst, and my e-mail addiction quickly and go right back to work (instead of walking somewhere to do any of these things).

I didn't realize that people monitored you so closely for a post-doc... I thought you just did research on your own time, mostly... but nobody has ever really explained it to me in detail.

Psychgrad said...

I have somewhat of a similar situation in that my supervisor likes for me to be in the lab on a daily basis. As the years have gone on, he's gotten more lax about this, but I still feel like I should be in every day or at least send an e-mail excuse if I'm not in. Other graduate students in my department are always shocked and maybe somewhat appauled by this lack of freedom. However, I am often alone in my lab (only sharing the space with a clinical student) and actually do work better in my lab than elsewhere.

I must say that I am surprised that this is an issue at the post doc level. I really thought post docs were much more independent (e.g., only speaking/seeing supervisor when necessary, carrying on own resarch program/schedule, etc.). I guess they range. Perhaps you can negotiate further with something like - coming in for half days, so that you're at least around some of the time, but able to work in other environments when it is to your benefit.

I don't understand the benefit of "learning" to write in a busy office. If you were to go on in academia, it's not like you'd be sharing an office.

Psych Post Doc said...

Thanks for the comments.

In the beginning it wasn't so bad to be in the office as this is a training post doc so I am basically learning a whole new field.

But, I think you guys are right that just because my mentor writes in the office I shouldn't be forced to. Besides the fact that her office is just her and she can shut the door, my door is always open and 2 other people are in there.

The even weirder part is that the graduate students in my lab don't report to her. They are in the office when they're running participants but mostly work from home.

Oh, and I don't really have any freedom to do the research I want. I'm on her dime so I have to do the work she wants me to do, the lab is so crowded that there's not time for me to work in my own stuff. I'm definitely stifled here.

I'm happy to hear that others think this is weird.

Mamabeek said...

I agree it's lousy, but probably not so uncommon. I have the same situation in my practica. Even when I have nothing to do but writen my supervisors prefer I do so at an agency computer rather than from home. Maybe because THEY have to be there themselves?

My husband is a computer engineer/programmer and for 20 years he's been fighting this same battle. There is no reason on the planet he needs to be anywhere near the places he contracts with and he can fix things remotely with the flick of a few keys. But alas his clients are consistently mistrustful and somehow think if they don't actually SEE him he must not be working for the hours he charges them. Never mind that when they CAN see him they invariably harass him with an endless stream of inane little questions and "oops I dumped coffee in my keyboard" bullshit that 1. isn't what they contracted for and 1. slows his productivity FOR THEM to a snail's pace. It's maddening!

I think it's a security issue, and I don't mean the fear of data getting into the wrong hands kind of security. Managers of every flavor just feel better when they can see the people they manage, even if that actually makes those people less efficient or productive. Makes no sense, but there it is. (ok, I don't have any citations to prove it, so I guess I should add the caveat IMOP :)