Working remote has increased by about 159 percent since 2005, but it still has a long way to go to reach mainstream acceptance. Employers often believe in common misconceptions about remote work that make them hesitant to adopt work-from-home policies for many or all of their employees.
This is a real shame, as these myths about remote work can prevent an organization from reaping some major benefits when they allow employees to go remote. How about improved productivity, higher employee retention, and overall cost savings? Check, check, check. Oh, and remote work keeps employees happier, too. So… what’s the deal with these myths and how can we eliminate them from the conversation? Let the debunking begin.
Where Do Myths About Remote Work Come From?
Most of the myths about remote work honestly stem from a lack of understanding about how it actually works and what resources are available to support working remotely. In some cases, employers are stuck in an old-school way of thinking and believe employees need in-person oversight in order to work effectively.
The reality is very different, and evidence has shown the opposite—that these ideas are outdated and simply don’t hold water in today’s work environment. It’s not about wearing whatever you want and working from bed—it’s about having the freedom to work in a way that allows you to produce your best work. And for a lot of employees, that’s working remotely and not in the office.
Myth: Remote Work is Only Suitable for a Few Job Types
In the past, the pool of potential remote workers was limited to those who worked in occupations that were tech-heavy and had few client-facing responsibilities or interactions with colleagues. Programming, coding, data entry, copywriting, and other jobs where a person only needed a computer (and maybe some headphones) were ideally suited for remote work.
As technology has improved, so has the number of individuals who can work remotely. With access to video conferencing technology like Zoom, cloud-based software like Google Docs, collaboration tools like Slack, and pervasive high-speed internet access, virtually every industry has remote work opportunities. We’re talking about healthcare, education, customer service, finance, sales, marketing, and many other industries have seen a huge paradigm shift due to technology and the possibilities it creates for remote work.
Teachers can provide lessons and tutoring via video conferencing. Customer service reps can respond to calls and chat with customers around the world in real-time. Mental health professionals can connect with patients online without having to physically meet for an appointment. That’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. All this is made possible by technology and fast internet connections.
Myth: Remote Work Hurts Productivity
Au contraire! This is one of the bigger myths about remote work that just isn’t true. In fact, remote workers are actually more productive than those at the office—and there’s data to back that claim up. Enter: Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom.
Professor Bloom ran a controlled study with workers at a Chinese travel agency over a nearly two-year period. In it, he separated employees into two different groups. One—the control group—continued to work at the agency’s headquarters in Shanghai. The other was permitted to work remotely.
The study showed an astounding productivity boost among the remote workers equivalent to a full day’s work. Turns out work-from-home employees work a true full-shift (or more) versus being late to the office or leaving early multiple times a week and found it less distracting and easier to concentrate at home. Additionally, employee resignations decreased by 50 percent among the remote workers. They took shorter breaks, had fewer sick days, and took less time off. And, the company saved almost $2,000 per employee on rent by reducing the amount of HQ office space.
So, there you have some solid data extolling the benefits of working remotely, and that it lifts productivity—not hurts it. You can watch the video below to see Bloom describe the findings in more detail in his TEDx talk.
Myth: Remote Work Makes it Impossible to Supervise
Another prevailing myth is that a manager must be able to physically interact with their employees in order to supervise effectively. But let’s be honest, in-person supervision isn’t airtight. An employee surfing the web or playing online games can simply switch screens to look busy when their boss walks by.
If anything, working remotely can make a manager’s job easier—provided the system is set up adequately. By setting appropriate goals and benchmarks (we use OKRs and weekly subtasks), an employee’s boss can see when work is being done by measuring it based on output. Regular check-ins via video meetings can help to maintain accountability and ensure goal progress.
Remote supervision actually might be more effective than in-person, as systems are designed specifically to objectively track productivity. Yet on the other hand, when in the office the supervisor may assume that because an employee is at their desk, they’re working. Often, that’s just not the case.
There you have it, 3 myths about remote work—debunked. Employers need to let go of those remote work illusions and not be held back from gaining the serious benefits of lower business overhead, happier, more engaged employees and a stronger, more productive workforce.
Do you work full-time in the office and dream of working remotely? Maybe you’re not sure how to make it a reality. Take a look at our 6-step plan to convince your boss that it’s time for you to be able to make the jump to remote work. Or, if you’re looking for a remote job, we have your back—here are 20 active Facebook Groups where new remote positions are posted every day.
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