Mainstream internet is certainly up there when it comes to disrupting long-held ideas of what is possible or even normal. It’s allowed the ordinary consumer to bypass cinemas and cable television (thank you, Torrent and Netflix), long-distance phone bills, and even some of the most prestigious brick-and-mortar retail stores.
And now, the Internet is bringing its unique brand of disruption to the workplace itself.
In the US alone, 37% of the workforce do their jobs remotely thanks to the Internet, and that number is only rising. Heck, most of us on the iRemit staff also do part-time or full-time work from home or from the office and a good number of us consider it our proverbial bread and butter.
Yet despite how widespread remote work is becoming, there still appears to be a stigma around it, primarily due to the following misconceptions:
1. Remote work isn’t real work.
If you’re used to dressing up in full corporate attire, driving or commuting to an office, putting in the usual 9-5, and then clocking out shortly after, it’s tempting to assume that your remote counterpart isn’t as committed or as productive as you are.
However, remote workers are still expected to meet the same deadlines as their office-based colleagues because their output is still crucial to the business. Furthermore, it’s also possible for remote workers to be more productive since they typically have a quieter work environment, shorter breaks, and fewer sick days.
2. Company culture takes a hit when too many employees work remotely.
Yahoo President and CEO Marissa Mayer once made all the tech giant’s remote workers to go back to the office upon pain of losing their jobs. While many saw the move as a low-key way of downsizing, the official reason given was that there is no substitute for face-to-face collaborations at the workplace.
I’m not quite sure how Mayer’s move panned out, but effective collaboration can still be possible amidst remote workers so long as a culture of trust and open communication is cultivated. For instance, remote workers should still be consistently in touch with their supervisors and colleagues to discuss crucial topics like deadlines, productivity goals, and any other pressing concerns. Management should also create an atmosphere where remote workers are free to voice out their suggestions and explore different ideas.
This way, remote employees remain part of the discussion and are thus able to contribute to company culture.
3. Skype meetings aren’t as effective as face-to-face ones.
Quite the contrary. Because a lot of remote workers can be on varying time zones, there is a heightened sensitivity to everyone’s schedules during Skype meetings.
As a result, virtual space meetings tend to be more efficient and productive, what with less time being spent on meaningless small talk and waiting for that one person who’s always late.
4. Remote workers are on call 24/7.
One of the most annoying misconceptions that some employers have about remote staff is that they are on call so long as they are online (and come on, most of us are online during much of our waking hours).
Just because someone doesn’t physically arrive or leave the office every day doesn’t mean that all their time is at their employers’ disposal. Even if they work from home, remote workers should still be given a reasonable work schedule so that they can still maintain a healthy work-life balance (and thus be more effective as employees).
And speaking of work-life balance….
5. Working remotely can throw off your work-life balance.
Okay, it can be more challenging to draw the line between your personal and professional life if your home is your office, and vice versa.
It isn’t impossible to do, however. Sometimes, just a few minor adjustments can help you compartmentalize things and make this arrangement feel a lot less stressful.
6. There are too many distractions at home to allow for efficient work.
Remember that BBC interview that went viral? Where a political analyst’s small kids barged in on his Skype interview and stole the show? It’s quite funny, but it also brought up the reality of domestic distractions (e.g., crying little children, technical issues, etc.) in a remote work environment.
On the other hand, it should be noted that although these things happen, proper management and a bit of foresight (such as scheduling your working time after the kids have been put to bed or when they’re at school) can ensure that they don’t get in the way of getting things done.
7. Working remotely means working from home.
Not at all. So long as you have a working Internet connection, you can work from literally anywhere: the beach, a hotel room, a coffee shop, and even from an airplane.
The weirdest place I’ve ever worked remotely from was an ice plant in the province. Hey, when it comes to finding a good Internet connection, you gotta do what you gotta do, right?
8. It’s impossible to manage remote workers effectively.
Managing a team of people who all work from home simply takes a different approach, but you can still set specific task deadlines and productivity targets for them. Setting up live spreadsheets that reflect the time frames for deliverables also help remote workers touch base with the in-house team as well as remain updated with the whole productivity picture.
There are also many kinds of software that monitor a remote employees’ activities. You may want to look into these if you want to take a more proactive approach towards managing your remote staff more effectively.
9. Remote work increases company costs.
Hiring remote staff might bring about certain incremental costs such as purchasing monitoring software and developing new training programs, but having remote workers on staff can actually decrease overhead costs in the long run.
Less employees in the workplace also means less office space and amenities (e.g., subsidized food, coffee, and office supplies), so the company ends up spending less on rent and utilities. As a bonus, the firm’s carbon footprint is reduced simply because less of its workforce needs to commute or drive to the office.
10. Remote workers are lonely, out-of-touch introverts.
Hey, just because you can’t see us in person doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten how to be social beings.
Plus, us remote workers still remain in constant communication with each other (albeit not face-to-face) so we still know how to observe certain pleasantries and are more updated with the times than you might expect (on our Skype team chat, for instance, we discuss things like the recent earthquakes and other equally earth-shaking things that come out of local politicians’ mouths in between tasks).
Okay, so remote work seems to go against our basic ideas of what it means to work because it’s done in a seemingly more relaxed environment (i.e., at home or some other place where you don’t have a supervisor looking over your shoulder every few minutes). However, we should note that the word “work” is still very much present, and that certain things, such as taking responsibility for one’s own output and maintaining a level of professionalism, remain constant regardless.