working: from home vs uni



some of us work from home and others prefer to work in the library or in the pg rooms. i'm interested in ppls opinions on what works for them and why. what do they find are the pros and cons of each etc.

also for those of us who do work from home exclusively.. did you experience any pressure from the 'uni hierarchy' to 'conform' and be seen at your desk at uni? (or 'be an active participant in the vibrant departmental research culture'- as they so nicely frame it at my uni) lol

btw... i work at home .. and do my upmost to avoid all human (and otherwise) lifeforms at uni ... the ony time i come in is to do the printing/photocopying, library grabs, to present a paper at a conference or to sign the attendance list for a workshop... i was the same for my undergrad (DE mode - where i became a 'virtual email entity' for a few years ... which had some hilarious moments i.e. for some reason my uni thought i was a male and only realised that i 'm female when it came to issueing my degree diploma.. gotta love it when ppl assume and build mental pictures of ppl they've never met) lol


I'm only just about the start my PhD this september, but throughout my undergrad and my MA I worked from home as much as possible and I'm sure it will be like that for my PhD. I'll go into uni to pick up from the library, supervisor meetings, teaching commitments and then the various postgrad events (seminars, special lectures, social events etc) but I doubt I'll ever go there to work. I find it much more comfortable to work at home; I can watch tv, listen to radio, make unlimited cups of tea, use a nice computer, etc. The only problem is that I can go days without ever leaving the house, which isn't good for me. I've bought a laptop to use on research trips in the hope it will get me out more, but I just prefer being at home. I live with my fiancee though, so its not as if I'm completely starved of human contact. If I lived alone I think I'd need to work a few days at uni just to remind myself I'm still human.


Being part time I work mostly from home, working in education it is very difficult for me to get in to most of the seminars, because, of course they are in term time, not being a teacher makes that aspect even worse. I do go to the library from time to time, to pick up book etc., but it is quite quiet at home when everyomne else is at work - one advantage of being in education. i do feel, however that universities are still not geared up for people who are not able to come in at the drop of a hat, or are not full time. For example it is hard to get things signed, because people are not available when you can get in. Also, during the time the undergrads are in it is very very noisy, and of course since the whole thing is quite open plan, the noise even travels to the silent area because of the design of the building, plus I find a lot of journals quite tempting- even though their content is way off my subject, so home it is for the main part. The dragon by the door in the post grad building keeps me out of there, as her whole aim in life appears to revolve around making sure that if you ask anything she won't answer you until she has filed endless bits of paper, or tapped a few keys on her computer, just to make sure you know your place, or suggesting that she dosn't actually know the answer to your question, but has no inention of finding someone who does. There is no point in going there, and the computers aren't as good as my one at home anyway!


Yeah, there's pros and cons. I too work from home although my previous accommodation (a house share with 4 others) was distracting and didn't help my productivity. Since I've moved to a 2 person flat my productivity is much better and i've developed a good work ethic at home (although I still have pulses of working hard and procrastination). I have my nice laptop, cheap lunches, unlimited tea and no noise/distractions. You do miss out on some of the department goss and goings on and I do sometimes wonder that being out of sight makes you out of mind with some of the movers and shakers in the department for when interesting research projects come in. Nonetheless, I can't work in the communal office environment so I'm more productive and happier at home.

For some people (and this included me until recently), you physically have to go out to work in order to be able to do work. Sometimes the creature comforts of the distraction type can be a problem. However, i no longer have a TV/Games console etc, so only now have the internet to procrastinate with! 8-)


I think it depends partly on how good the provision for PhD students is. In my department there's virtually no office space for postgraduates (humanities: very different from science students on campus) and the library is far too noisy for long-term working. Plus I'm part-time so am not expecting to be on campus all the time. Plus I get more done at home. On the downside I can miss research seminars but that's more due to long-term illness and being too ill to make it in, particularly over the last couple of years. Best to stay at home, rest, and get more done. I was much more visible in the department a few years ago when doing my Masters and afterwards, and know most staff there. Just I'm not in much now.


======= Date Modified 22 Aug 2008 23:12:09 =======

Dzinxy, I also stay away from my uni. Most notably, because I'm provided with absolutely no office space. I think if you have an office, you should be seen a few days a week. But otherwise, no. I never use the university library or go to my department - most people wouldn't know who I am.

The last time I used the facilities of my 'international recognised research library' I was very glad I'm not stuck in the position where I find myself using library facilities as my study base. The place stunk to high heaven and was over-crowded with masters students checking emails and playing on computers (no work going on!). It was so bleak and scruffy that the experience eliminated any guilt I hold about not integrating myself into my university's 'vibrant research community'. :p

I often wonder if I should show my face, but unless an appointment is made with a particular academic, then no one will know I'm there anyway.


true it does depend (at least in part) on provisions made for pgs by individual unis... our one provides common pg rooms.. with about 15 pgs to a room.. you do get a small cubicle, a desk, 2 draw filing cabinet and a small bookcase to yourself (provided no one appropriates those when you're not looking)... they also felt kind enough to supply us with our own laptops... in essence i guess the facilities are good.. BUT for me at least it still doesnt compensate for being at home where you can listen to music, make endless cuppas, burp, fart and scratch your ass at your leisure... ;-P

mind you if we all got our private office space i would be persuaded to come into uni more often. ;-) this used to be the case in oz (where many a phd student has been known to unoffically live in their office in order to save cash)... but i'm at a uk uni now.


======= Date Modified 23 Aug 2008 10:14:05 =======
I just finishing my MRes and work almost exclusively from home. I feel more comfortable from home, save time travelling in, and work more productively in the afternoon if I have a long lunch break and go for a run (wouldn't be keen on the idea of doing this if I wasn't working from home). I also HATE working in the public computer clusters, and this is more or less impossible for me during term time anyway because it is too busy and noisy. But it does get a bit much just getting up, coming to the same room in the house and working without seeing anyone all day.

When I start my PhD I will have an office that will be shared with one or two other PhD students, so I'm assuming I'll be expected to show my face. Also, I am moving to a new area with my boyfriend who works from home, so I don't want us getting under each others feet and it would do my head in mainly seeing him all day every day and not getting out much.

I'll probably work from home once or twice a week I think.


I prefer to work from home to save travelling and parking costs. But I have been told that I should work in the library more rather than photocopy articles and take them home to read.


I too prefer working from home, for the same reasons others have mentioned (noise, time wasted travelling in, not great communal facilities, having to put up with other students' strange personal habits) but I don't think it is a good idea to cut yourself off completely from your institution and other PhD students. The latter writing up stage of a PhD can be a very isolating thing to do, and it really does help to talk to others doing the same thing occasionally, in real life and not just on the internet. This forum is great (I wish I'd discovered it ages ago) but I've also found it helpful to talk to other PhD students at my uni with imminent submission dates looming - not just as we're going through the same thing academically, but also because it's specific to my institution, the staff and their sometimes idiosyncratic way of doing things. Even if it's just a weekly moan over the photocopiers about where you're stuck in your current chapter or to catch up on departmental gossip, for me, it's a reminder that others are in the same situation which really helps, particularly as no-one in my personal life is doing/has completed one.

Also, I think it depends on what you want to do post-doc and whether you think you might want to maintain links with your institution. I've become aware recently of how my work could fit into several of our research centres and projects, both current and in the embryonic planning stage. I wouldn't have known about this if I hadn't been around in college and spoken to people informally. Existing researchers are likely to know about your work through internal monitoring procedures, but won't necessarily know you or how you might see your research developing post-doc without talking to you. Maybe it depends on how keen individual institutions are to retain students post completion as early stage researchers, or write them into future funding bids. It's made me realise how important it is not to be completely invisible at uni though.


yep i agree that it is helpful to be seen around the place if you wish to remain at your home institution after completing the phd.. all part of the networking and 'keeping in the loop' scenario. (i know this caused a few minor problems for me when i needed academic referees at my home institution in oz in order to get myself to europe for the MA and phd, mainly due to the fact that no one could comment on me other than on my ability to write essays and emails... LOL but some careful word choices and minor editing of reality took care of that and i finally obtained references from dept heads which were vague enough to do the trick)

personally i neither like the town nor the uni i'm in and will be glad to see the last of it after the phd... so remaining here is not something i aim for.[my sup has also done everything in her power to make sure that i do not get a job here by ringing up ppl in the dept that wanted to offer me an RA position and pulling seniority over them.. but that is another story].. i guess once i finish the phd (hopefully... fingers and toes crossed on that one) i can then try to go for a post doc in another country [or at least another uni]... or take up basket weaving ... lmao

i know what you mean about the need for a regular moan about the state of things with other students.. it is really helpful... and i do admit to coming in occasionally into the pg rooms just for that and an irreverent laugh at the state of things... i do take my work v seriously but i do have a habit of laughing at it and cracking inappropriate jokes about it... it keeps my sanity relatively intact ;-)

in an ideal world i would like to change sups, since my ones make the spanish inquisition look like a picnic in the park however im esrc funded which makes that difficult..not to mention the dept politics that would bring up (ooops.. i've gone off topic here .. sorry.. will post the sup change as a sep topic at some point)


======= Date Modified 23 Aug 2008 16:12:39 =======

Quote From dzinxy:

our one provides common pg rooms.. with about 15 pgs to a room.. you do get a small cubicle, a desk, 2 draw filing cabinet and a small bookcase to yourself (provided no one appropriates those when you're not looking)... they also felt kind enough to supply us with our own laptops... in essence i guess the facilities are good.

That's really good provision actually, and not too dissimilar from the situation my post-doc husband is in in a communal open-plan office. We've nothing remotely like that for PhD students in my department/school, and it's caused a lot of problems for full-timers on campus, never mind part-timers like myself. Science students in my university have much better provision.

Quote From Rubyw:

The latter writing up stage of a PhD can be a very isolating thing to do, and it really does help to talk to others doing the same thing occasionally, in real life andnot just on the internet.

I agree, and I've felt phenomenally cut off from other students and very isolated as a result. As an online alternative we have a Blackboard conference system but only the distance-learning students (scattered around the world) and myself use it. Full-timers and part-timers more local just don't. Occasionally I make it in and might run into another student and be able to share experiences, which really helps, but generally I've felt phenomenally cut off. Not a good situation. To be honest finding this forum has helped an awful lot, with people talking about the problems they are having. Puts my situation into a better perspective.


IMO it's extremely important to be visible and known in your department. even if you don't want to stay at the same uni later on it's important to be in the network. this is because the network is far more international than most people realise. everyone knows everyone and if they don't know you or can't enquire about you then you're going to find it hard getting a job later on. this is also why it's important to go to (international) conferences during your studies (i've been doing so for years and years now, ever since my 6th semester) so that you get to know the right people. socialising and occasionally asking questions after talks is really important. a good way of getting to know people is also writing them mails and asking for difficult to find articles. these kinds of mails can turn into interesting discussions on research.

i won't have office space in my first year, but i will certainly make sure that i show my face in the department every day and work in the PG room, even if it is less comfortable than at home. it's so easy to cut yourself out of the information loop and most people don't even realise how much they're hurting their careers that way...


swantje ....

this of course depends on your field.. and whether ppl in your dept are generally a part of that field (as in a sub specialisation).. like you say fields are much smaller, insular and more distibutive than apparent at first... international conferences are a great way of getting to know them and whether you want to be a part of them .. but having said that if your work is placed on the boundaries of a few fields and the ppl in your dept are minor local 'players' and/or part of only one of the fields.. then the significance of being 'known' by them is of little import and impact upon your future (yep i know that is not the nicest way of viewing things - very instrumental.. but then so is the other side of the arguement)

however it does make sense to 'be known' in the dept if the aim is to remain at the same uni or roughly in the same geographical area ...


Swantje, I agree with what you say (at least in theory anyway).
However, the notion of going into a department everyday is pretty much a fruitless endeavour unless you are part of a busy science department or on a leafy campus where students do use the facilities on a daily basis. I'm in Central London and research students rarely visit the department unless they have meeting or are teaching. Otherwise, there is no point attending on a daily basis as you won't see anyone...academics will only come in for specific purposes (lectures/meeting/or do-not-disturb time) and PG rooms are normally empty or Masters students will be chit-chatting or checking email between lectures. Staff never venture into the PG rooms, so there is little or no chance of valuable networking.

I started with intentions of attending seminars/conferences and showing my face etc. but it turned out to be a waste of time and a lot of money. This greatly contrasted with my time in a continental European university department!