The concept of remote work is plagued by myths and misconceptions.
This is, in part, thanks to the rising popularity of telecommuting. While many people read the facts and statistics, many more prefer to listen to half-truths and outright lies. After all, they are much quicker and easier to believe simply checking the facts.
Guess what’s worse: some (no many!) of these people are managers, HR professionals and even company leaders. Many of them balk at the idea of letting their employees work from home.
To these managers, leaders and human resource professionals, being unable to physically see their employees and peer over their shoulders means they may as well not be working at all.
Well… at least until said employee breaks their leg and needs to stay home for a few weeks. That’s far too long to wait and there’s lots of work to do… Ah, simply let them bring their laptop home and work from their.
But only until they’re better! Apparently, working from home is perfectly fine if you’ve done yourself an intense injury.
For these people, working from home is also a very viable solution. If it happens to be the weekend. Somehow, though, it just doesn’t work during the week. Must be the magical weekend fairies and their productivity dust.
It is this particular type of poisonous attitude towards remote work that causes a lot of people to be miserable, holed up in atrocious “open plan” offices, get on each other’s nerves, significantly decrease their productivity, lose money and commute for nearly two or three hours a day.
Younger, trendier companies have countless solutions. “Isolation” pods, pizza parties (yay?), foosball, games..!
Leaders decide against treating people like adults. Instead, they do a u-turn and every employee becomes a naughty child who must be carefully monitored. “Work from home? Why? Here, have whatever your want… right where I can see you!”
The truth is that in the knowledge economy, you’re being paid for your knowledge. Not your physical presence. You are not a tradesperson or a doctor. For decades (nay, CENTURIES), businesspeople were happy to pay external freelancers for tasks they didn’t want to do. Oftentimes, these people wouldn’t even be in the same building.
Nowadays, the only reason you have to be in an office is because of your contract.
Well, it’s time to give up the bullshit. Let me introduce you to some of the most common remote work myths I’ve common across and tell you why they are bullshit.
“Collaboration without face-to-face communication is impossible/ineffective!”
Yes, it is ineffective.
Until it isn’t.
Circumstances (like a business trip) may force colleagues to be apart for weeks or months. In fact, it happens quite a lot. Contracts are negotiated, products are sold and money is made all the time with neither party ever physically meeting one another.
This also happened long before even ARPANet existed. The thing is, when it comes to making money… business finds a way. Do not underestimate the power of human greed.
Just watch dramas from the 60s and 70s featuring businessmen who can’t leave work at the office. They still do paperwork on trains. They draw up strategize at home. They telephone their bosses and clients from their living rooms and hotels.
If you’re dedicated to your job and have shit that needs to get done, you will get it done.
This myth is weakened even more thanks to modern communications technology. Unless your job literally involves working on someone’s actual body, physical presence is wholly unnecessary. While there are many jobs which call for that, I’m pretty sure it’s actually inappropriate in most business contexts.
“You can’t let people work from home. They’ll just arse around on the Internet all day!”
That is very true. Certain people exist whose life ambition seems to be to do nothing but spend time looking at cat pictures on company time. But, here’s a secret: work shy layabouts who do nothing at home will go to the most extreme lengths to avoid doing work in the office, too. Sure, it may be harder for them, but you’ll amazed shocked at the ways people will try to appear busy.
Without actually being busy!
I’m no business genius. Yet if I set a series of tasks for someone on a team I’m leading, I can easily tell if they’re working because I can see the results. You, as a manager, should have a certain set of metrics by which you measure your employees’ success. Whether they’re sitting in the office or in Bangladesh, you’ll know if they’re working because shit is getting done.
It’s not rocket surgery, people.
Oh, and those lazy people who need ‘supervision’ in order to actually do their job? I have a simple question for you:
Why the fuck haven’t you fired them yet?
“Remote work is new-fangled, passing fad…”
I believed this remote work myth for the longest time. As the years trickled by, I started to realize that it probably wasn’t true. What really made the penny drop, however, was watching Bewitched (I kid you not!).
How many times did Darren Stevens (usually thanks to a spell of Endora’s) stay home and work on his advertising campaigns? Or call Larry Tate to say he was working from home? Or do work on the weekends because a client was coming to town the next day?
And people, people… That show was set and filmed in the damn sixties!
Yes, I know it probably wasn’t that common for a regular employee back then to work from home. I am also aware that it’s a television show about witches. But television reflects real life. Steven and Tate had urgent business to do, and they did it. Office or no office.
Let’s expand further. Accountants have been able to work from home… Since forever. So have newspaper/magazine journalists. Carpenters. Oh, and just take a look at this article while you’re at it.
Telecommuting is absolutely nothing new. It has just become more common and a hell of a lot easier.
“Everyone, everywhere can and should work from home… All the time!”
I personally would slightly prefer to work for a fully-distributed company. However, as long as they have an effective remote work policy in place and I can choose where I work, it’s not a necessity. I am also not opposed to fully-distributed companies, either. However, we need to realize that not everyone can or wants to work from home.
There are many dedicated, intelligent and talented employees who just prefer and even excel in an office environment. In the same way that I both prefer and excel at my work when I’m in my own space, listening to my own music and sitting on a bean bag rather than a back-crippling office chair.
Although I talk about “remote working” a lot, in reality what I’m trying to advocate is employers treating employees like adults and focusing on getting the work done and achieving results. NOT watching people like hawks, treating them like children and fussing over stupid rules that actually waste precious company time($$$). Sure, in jobs where physical presence is necessary, you have to be there. End of story.
But that’s exactly why I chose to be a digital marketer over being a receptionist.
For workers in the knowledge economy, we should ultimately be afforded the choice to work either in the office or at home or on top of Mount Vesuvius.
While remote work still has many myths surrounding it, it is my hope that one day we (read: MANAGERS) will have gotten these pedantic, patronizing attitudes we have towards employees. It is no wonder so many of us are miserable at work.
Just look at how we’re treated.