5 Remote work myths that are so 2019
Before Covid hit and forever changed our lives, if we were to believe Google image search we’d think that remote working is like a forever holiday, but with photo enhancing filters.
An image tells a thousand words, and many of these words have been telling stories that have been hurting the prospects of remote work since time immemorial. They have helped perpetuate myths that ensure, surprisingly, to this day.
Here’s what you would normally find when looking up “remote work” before the pandemic:
(isn’t that laptop overheating?)
It is indisputable that the Covid-19 pandemic has turbo-charged the future of work, opening our minds to more flexible work arrangements faster than a piñata at a kids party.
BUT... as much as some of us have relished in the newfound flexibility, time gained from not commuting, etc. for others yet, when they think of #WFH this is what comes up:
Oh look, a squirrel. Be my friend, please? Pleeeaase??
As much as some things have evolved at lightning speed, other ideas remain oddly sticky, such as the perception that remote workers are somehow antisocial, misanthropic introverts who would rather work from the moon than sit through another team meeting. Or that they suffer horribly from the isolation.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Data shows that remote workers are notoriously:
Less likely to quit their jobs
Companies who embrace flexible or hybrid work arrangements end up saving money on a multitude of things, such as:
Recruitment costs (higher staff retention)
Increased employee wellbeing, and fewer sick days
...and much more
Most of the largest companies around the world are getting with the times and embracing this approach, such as Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and more.
As long as remote work isn’t used as an excuse to now commandeer the time that your staff would be spending on their commute by lumping more work onto them (which we might think helps our businesses, but actually hurts everyone in the long term, by driving wages down and hurting the economy at large.)
Unfortunately, some people still believe these myths that are so, so 2019, and just need to be gone already.
1. Remote employees are lazy and barely do any work
When you are working remotely, it is true that your colleagues and superiors often have no idea what you might be doing at any particular time during the day. But because remote employees aren’t physically sitting next to their bosses in the office this doesn’t mean that no work is being done. Time and time again it has been shown that remote workers are actually more productive than in-office workers. This isn’t to say that there isn’t some benefit to being in the office, but the key word here is occasionally. Meanwhile it is undisputed that the ability to work remotely is helpful, especially when it comes to doing deep work, a skill which is increasingly of value and in high demand as our workplaces and lives become increasingly taken over by incessant notifications that facilitate shallow work with many interruptions.
2. It’s impossible to manage a distributed team
While employers may feel skeptical about hiring employees they are unable to manage in person at the office - this is made much worse when it applies to hiring managing team members. It is an enduring myth that remote employees cannot be managers.
Covid has shown this to be a myth by forcing everyone to work from home, managers and employees alike - and that productivity hasn’t suffered as a result. In fact, many have reported they are more productive while remote.
It's all about trust.
3. Remote work is lonely
Where there is some truth to this, remote work doesn’t have to be. There is myriad tools at everyone’s disposal to remain connected. And quite often, just because we are working in the presence of other humans (while in an office) doesn’t mean we automatically feel more connected to them - in fact, one of the most insidious forms of loneliness is feeling disconnected from people are physically near to.
While we may take others for granted when working together in an office - when we work remotely we need to make a little more of an effort to stay connected, which can actually improve our working relationships. Often, friendships blossomed by way of the shared experience of working remotely and weathering the increased anxieties that came with uncertain times. We learn the importance of staying in communication about your wins, challenges, priorities.
Do you have them?
4. There are too many distractions
The image of the remote worker in their pyjamas distracting themselves with Netflix is quite the stereotype:
So much Netflix... so little time...
Then there are the concerns about other distractions around the home, such as chores, children, daytime TV, and more. This myth goes with myth #3 above, and stems from the idea that if a manager isn’t there physically to oversee the employee, the employee will just do… whatever?
This myth is fuelled by the same mindset that treats employees like children that need constant supervision. If team members have no “skin in the game”, no ownership over their work, and no independence then whatever sense of “authority” the managerial team members have is only temporary and only applies when they are physically present.
Time to get with the times and update your managerial style to 2021:
Treat your team members like adults,
Give them independence and ownership over their work
...and you will upgrade your game from a “boss” to a “leader”, while you watch your team blossom and produce their best work from home.
Cal Newport has written extensively about the value of what he has called Deep Work, an ability that, like a muscle, can be developed… or atrophied. The classic “open plan office” has a lot to answer for in damaging people’s ability to do deep work by creating an environment where interruptions are constant, whether they come from the phone ringing on your neighbors’ desk, your colleague coming over for a chat, a visitor coming in, or any random noise around you.
In fact it is estimated that in an open plan office only X hours of productive work are done in an 8 hour period. Therein lies the best case for #WFH.
Of course, if you have a family, pets or roommates, your WFH environment can come with its own distractions - a few simple tips can help with this, and maintaining good boundaries around your work hours.
5. Remote workers are less committed to their jobs
Let’s put this one to rest: commitment to work is not, I repeat, NOT connected with where you work from. It is down to your sense of connection with your work, your sense of autonomy and ownership over your work, and your sense of being part of a team, with a mission.
Hear a lot of this lately...?
Working from home, or from the office, has ZERO impact on this. Good management, delegation, training and communication, on the other hand is everything.
Just because you cannot see your team members finish their work doesn’t mean the work isn’t done, and to help with this there are a million tools to support remote, hybrid, and distributed teams - with new tools emerging every day. I mean, it’s 2021. Let’s get with the times!
While there seems to be no single magical formula for the particular combination of in-office work to remote work (which also can vary according to various aspects, such as the nature of work, etc), everything seems to point to the fact that affording some degree of flexibility and ability to work from home (or near home) to your team leads to a net benefit across a variety of areas:
Increased employee retention
Re-engineering your office operations in a way that allows for remote work also risk-proofs your office (just imagine the impact of an office fire in the 1980s vs today and you’ll see what I mean!).
A whole forest died to produce this gif.
Sure, remote workers don’t need to be in a defined workspace every day, but this doesn’t mean they cannot be just as connected to their team members and get to know them. Tools such as Slack, Zoom, project management tools, and much more ensure that we get to stay connected, no matter where we are. The sky is truly the limit as we can even organize meetings, teambuilding, and retreats remotely. :)
Working from home is sometimes also the privilege of the ones who have a home good enough to work from. Sometimes this just isn’t the case, as distractions may not be possible to easily control and mitigate; there might be issues with space availability, suitable workspace ergonomics and more.
This is where it is important for employers to not end up unwittingly discriminating against these team members by forcing them back to the office and deny them the flexibility that comes with working near home. Their energy levels, wellbeing, and the environment will thank you as little by little, we #endthecommute.
Remote, hybrid and flexible working is not a fad or a trend, it’s here to stay.
Why not set up your team members with a nimbld account, where they can access a variety of flexible, affordable spaces, wherever they are? This way you can easily track expenses and budgets for your remote or hybrid team, saving on your office costs.
Why not try nimbld as a way to explore new, affordable, and flexible workspaces at the click of a button? It's free to join.
Photo credits: Yasmina H, and Damir Spanic on Unsplash.