Before the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we all live and work earlier this year, the thought of remote work often conjured images of a young entrepreneur working on his or her laptop in some exotic location. Scrolling through social media pre-pandemic and we’d often be bombarded with posts from “remote bloggers” wanting to share their secrets to making a living working from wherever they wanted to work.
In fact, pre-pandemic, a Google search for “remote work” would result in images like this, a man working on the beach – without a care that sand or sea water could destroy his hard drive.
Fast-forward to fall of 2020, and remote work has become the new norm. Many larger companies have even taken the plunge of selling their brick-and-mortar offices and shifting to becoming fully-remote. And why not? It’s better for the planet (Global Workforce Analytics estimates that remote workers could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 54 million tons every year, and that’s just if people worked out of the office for only half of the work week) and also results in a healthier work-life balance for a lot of people.
And the list of benefits of remote work goes on and on. Not only do remote workers save companies money, but remote work opportunities increase job retention and allow employers to globally hire diverse or innovative employees that they couldn’t have otherwise due to location limitations.
Here are some common myths about remote work, debunked.
Myth #1 – “Remote workers are unproductive and lazy.”
Time and time again, it’s been disproven that remote employees are lazy and unproductive when they work from home. Because remote employees don’t sit a few feet away from their bosses, it’s sometimes difficult to gauge how much work they actually do. Therefore, many assume that remote employees work slowly and are dishonest about how often they actually work.
This couldn’t be farther from the truth. A Gallup study shows that remote employees are just as effective as their office counterparts, if not more. A study by Airtasker also found that remote employees work an average of 21.9 days a month, compared to 20.5 days for office workers. In fact, a study conducted by Stanford on China’s largest online travel agency Ctrip (over 44,000 employees) found that adopting remote work led to a 13% increase in employee performance. By cutting out commutes and achieving better work-life balance, employees can drive productivity and perform better in the long run.
Myth #2 – “Remote work destroys company culture.”
What is company culture? It’s often defined by strong relationships and friendly interactions between employees, which traditionally happens while people spend time together in the office. On paper, remote work can seem very lonely. And there are some who are interested in working remotely worry that they won’t gain valuable in-person connections with other people.
Yet, if the massive work-from-home shift brought on by the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that organizations with remote teams can be closer than ever. The right combination of technology and team building exercises can go a long way.
For instance, remote teams can hold a weekly happy hour video call to catch up on what’s new or to share weekend plans. Employees can also use a team messaging app like Slack, to communicate effectively on projects, but also to share recipes, funny memes, etc. On a larger scale, company leaders can host biweekly or monthly meetings to discuss hot-button topics and to keep the entire team informed.
Myth #3 – “It’s impossible to manage remote employees.”
Remote work skeptics argue that without proximity, managing remote teams simply won’t work. This is deeply-rooted in outdated management practices, where bosses preferred the convenience of working within a few feet of their employees and chatting at the swivel of a chair. These micromanaging bosses likely don’t have the skills or know-how to manage remote teams, and thus assume remote workers are impossible to manage.
Instead, without proximity, bosses and managers have to shift to evaluating employees based on performance rather than attendance. This also requires trusting employees to get the job done without close supervision or micromanagement. There are hundreds of tools that exist to help track the progress of tasks. Software like Asana and Airtable give every member of the team visibility into their colleague’s tasks so they can keep their goals aligned. At EX Media, we use a proprietary software called RipTide to track tasks and communicate with colleagues and clients.
Navigating Remote Work Myths
When it comes to remote work, there are plenty of first-hand employee stories, as well as research-backed studies that debunk most of the worst myths out there.
As you’ve seen above, the myths surrounding “poor work ethic” or “lack of company culture” are incredibly false. As someone considering a remote position, or as a remote employee manager, you’ll want to continue reading up on this work style to discover real benefits and challenges related to it.