Remote work is on the rise. Believe it or not, employees are opting for 30 more minutes of shut eye over 30 minutes in traffic. Turns out they prefer home cooked meals at a kitchen table over microwaved frozen meals in the breakroom. They’re also choosing impactful co-worker collaboration over water cooler gossip. In short, remote work is working.
According to a 2019 Global State of Remote Work report, 68% of workers around the world have worked remotely, and that number is only rising. Yet, misconceptions and stigmas persist about remote work—things like work attire (Do remote workers even get dressed?) and level of commitment (If they can’t be bothered to get to an office, they can’t possibly care that much).
It’s time to put stereotypes to rest. For the naysayers of remote work, here are 10 debunked myths about this growing sector.
Myth 1: Remote Work Means Productivity Decreases
It’s easy to assume that someone who works remotely is more distracted because they don’t have a boss within earshot to keep tabs on them. But, a study by the Harvard Business Review proves the contrary, noting some companies saw worker productivity increase by 13.5% after permitting remote work.
Someone working outside of the office has fewer distractions to contend with, like the common breakroom effect—the idea that workers are being pulled away from their desks to chat over coffee or share a piece of cake for a colleague’s birthday. Remote workers avoid these interruptions and the time needed to refocus after the interruption.
Myth 2: Remote Workers Are Out Of Contact
Just because remote workers are not in an office doesn’t mean they’re off having a picnic somewhere. Their work is likely tied to a business that operates during regular business hours with a team clocking in a fairly standard eight hour work day. According to Maren Donovan, CEO of Zirtual, “Business thrives upon other people's deadlines and needs.”
In a survey conducted by TINYpulse on the satisfaction and productivity of remote workers, a whopping 52% reported having contact with their manager at least once daily, with an additional 34% reporting once a week interactions with managers.
So, it’s unlikely that a remote worker can take three hours in the middle of the day for a spa appointment without repercussion.
Myth 3: Remote Work Means Your Data Is Unsafe
Many worry that transferring company information and data to computers on unsecured servers will lead to breaches in confidentiality. This is simply not true. Technology has advanced as such that a qualified IT team can keep these types of issues to a minimum.
There are a wealth of safe solutions being leveraged by IT teams everywhere. Setting employees up with cloud-based applications means the security is outsourced to vetted software programs, and IT teams can monitor version control without needing access to an employee’s physical machine. In addition, good security practices like setting up two factor authentication and virtual private networks (VPN) ensures that information is locked down and unable to be breached by unauthorized people.
As many would argue, someone who intends to steal information will do so regardless of their work location. This, like many issues with remote work, are people problems, not location problems.
Myth 4: Communication Suffers
When someone works remotely it does not mean the quality of communication goes down. Telecommunication removes in-person nuances and helps employees to dive right into the meaningful work. Yet, for this to work, managers need to outline clear expectations and tools for communication should someone choose to work remotely.
There’s also a growing trend of remote companies going to great lengths to provide digital methods of socialization. Setting aside intentional blocks of time for casual “breakroom talk” via video calls, non-work related Slack channels (pets, kids, and sports channels are always a hit), and offsite meetups are all ways that remote teams foster communication and feel connected.
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Myth 5: Meetings Are Ineffective
Like other forms of communication, meetings actually become more effective when conducted via Skype, Zoom, or other tech.
When the people needed to accomplish a project work in the same space daily, there’s a feeling that the attention of the team and ability to work on this one initiative are unlimited. Remote teams, however, are more conscious of different time zones and workloads when there’s a specific time allotted for a particular project.
Myth 6: Remote Workers Are Lonely
Working remotely does not mean being holed up in a silo all day. It’s true that someone who works remotely may choose to work alone in their home on occasion. But that’s not their only option. Coffee shops, libraries, and coworking spaces are exceedingly popular among these “office-less” workers.
New sites like Workfrom are aggregating the feedback of remote workers to curate the best public locations for getting stuff done. There are even startups focused on bringing remote workers into unoccupied spaces, like restaurants, during work hours.
The social aspect of work is more deliberate, but certainly not diminished in a remote work setting.
Myth 7: Remote Work Increases Costs
Some people assume that the IT concerns actually increase the cost of employing a remote worker. Overall, this is simply not true. Admittedly there are added initial shipping costs to provide desks and equipment to someone wherever they’re located. Overall, however, remote workers end up being cheaper.
Overhead costs actually decrease because larger office spaces are not needed, reducing money spent on sky-high rent, furniture, maintenance, and in-office amenities such as coffee, food, and copy machines. Not to mention the reduced carbon footprint of the company due to employees’ lack of commutes.
Myth 8: Company Culture Suffers
It’s a valid claim that office camaraderie is not the same when some of the team works off site. But what makes a company great is not the water cooler gossip--which can actually make your company culture suffer--but the way employees are treated and the value they are shown. Simple tweaks to communication strategies ameliorate this issue entirely.
Managers do need to make a conscious effort to show the importance they place on each team member if they’re not available for a daily stop and chat, but it’s not seen to ruin positive cultures.
Myth 9: Remote Workers Are Working 24/7
Just because someone does not physically arrive at and leave an office each day does not mean that they never clock out. Remote workers keep similar schedules to their office counterparts and the same expectations of work-life balance should be placed upon them.
Similarly, for friends of remote workers, just because they work from home--or away from an office--does not mean they are the go-to person for an early happy hour drink or last minute airport ride. There’s still a job to get done.
Myth 10: Netflix Is Streaming All Day
Remote workers likely enjoy the same background noise as office workers--be it keeping the radio or Spotify on in the background. However, this group also tends to overcompensate for their lack of facetime by placing more structure in their days.
Remote workers report that they do actually put on pants every day and find it just as hard as office workers to focus and remain productive while watching their favorite show.
Editor's Note: This post has been updated as of March 2020