Many people are naturally skeptical about remote work—especially company managers and execs—and their skepticism isn’t all that surprising. When the norm is for employees to be under manager surveillance for the duration of the workday, there are fears that deviating from that norm will lead to laziness, procrastination, and a host of other concerns.
We’re going to take a look at some of the most common remote work myths because, thankfully, they’re mostly unfounded. While some specific employees or job descriptions might not be suited for a remote work approach, the vast majority of teams can maintain (or, often, exceed) existing success after making the remote transition.
Myth #1: Remote Employees Aren’t Productive
Ah, the classic. This is the most commonly cited myth by managers and execs who distrust the remote work system. They worry about employees lounging in bed and binging Netflix shows on the company dime.
We’re not going to lie–this is a possibility, and some rare (and foolish) employees may decide that this is the correct approach. But, thankfully, this is almost never the standard result across a team or company. And make no mistake—anyone who takes remote work as an excuse to slack off was probably not very productive in-office, either.
Exceptions aside, most employees recognize that remote work is a privilege that comes with a whole host of benefits—no commute, increased autonomy, optimized work environment, etc.—and that it’s in everyone’s best interest to make remote work successful.
What’s more, most employees find that they’re actually more productive when they’re in control of their days. One study found that most workers were 35-40% more productive remotely than their in-office counterparts. This makes sense when you think about it. When you cut out office chit-chat, commute time, unnecessary meetings, and other in-office time-wasters, there are more hours in the day for uninterrupted work.
Myth #2: Remote Employees Need to Be Carefully Monitored
Myth #2 is an offshoot of myth #1. When companies or managers are worried about their employees taking advantage of the remote system, they feel the need to monitor employees who aren’t in the office. There are a couple of common routes companies will take in pursuit of this goal. The two most common are time-tracking software and incessant communication.
Time-tracking software tracks remote employees’ computers to monitor exactly how they are spending their time. One of the most common providers is Time Doctor, which tracks the websites and applications that employees use and can even provide screenshots of daily activity. Managers can opt-into reports that specifically target potentially time-wasting websites like Facebook or YouTube, with detailed logs of how long an employee used those sites.
On the other hand, a low-tech alternative to monitoring employees is incessant communication. This might mean a manager asking for hourly updates on an employee’s progress and what they’re currently working on. Unfortunately, some bosses take this a step further, having hour-by-hour deadlines for projects to maintain control over how an employee is spending his or her time.
The reality is that most employees don’t need this level of monitoring to be successful remotely. Monitoring your team is useful and necessary, yes, but going overboard with supervision is not. Time-tracking sends a message to employees that you don’t trust them to manage their own time appropriately, which can ruin morale and create a culture of suspicion. Incessant communication, on the other hand, interrupts workflows. More often than not, it actually decreases productivity because employees are spending so much time giving updates and over-communicating that there’s no time left for actual work.
Finally, as we shared before, most employees are more productive when they work remotely, not less. Rather than obsessively tracking employees’ work when they aren’t in-office, consider confronting your own misconceptions about your team’s ability to execute without your guidance, and then give them a chance to prove you wrong.
Myth #3: Remote Work Ruins Company Culture
The next myth covers company culture, which some people feel can’t exist between remote employees. The idea behind the myth is that company culture is driven by people spending time in the same space and interacting with each other. In reality, though, company culture exists when management and executive teams set a tone that the rest of the company adopts.
This can absolutely be done remotely, and many remote teams boast incredible company cultures. For one thing, you can still have in-person gatherings for remote teams. Many remote-only teams will have occasional team meet-ups, both for work purposes and leisure purposes. Spending one night every few months doing a team bonding activity like bowling or karaoke can really unite the team during remote workdays.
For another thing, phone calls and video can fill in the gaps between in-person meetings. Those small bonding moments or lighthearted conversations can still happen whether you’re in the office or not, and video calls especially help foster those moments of connectivity between teams. Some teams even start their remote meetings by sharing pics of workspaces, discussing the day’s coffee mug slogans, and other mini-icebreakers to start off with small talk before jumping into work.
Myth #4: Managers Can’t Work Remotely
Many people who are unsure about remote work make the assumption that managers can’t effectively manage without being in the same place as their employees. To that, we say this: If a manager is incapable of effectively managing remote employees, he or she is probably not equipped to be a manager.
At the end of the day, management isn’t about standing over your team’s shoulders and making sure they do what they’re supposed to do. It’s about supporting their needs and giving them the tools and feedback that they need to do their jobs successfully. What part of that job description requires constant face-to-face interaction?
There are several strategies that managers can use to oversee remote teams successfully, which we share in depth in our free remote work eBook here. But rest assured—none of the strategies require face-to-face interaction to be effective.
Myth #5: Remote Work Threatens Data Privacy
Lastly, a more tech-focused myth. Some companies feel that there’s no way to allow employees to work remotely without jeopardizing the safety of private company information, passwords, or other critical internal data. This myth may be half true—if you have employees conducting work with highly-sensitive information using the free WiFi at their local coffee shop, you might have cause for concern.
But, there are many protective tools you can put into place to keep your information safe, and you can also set policies to encourage employees to practice safe digital habits. If this a concern for your team, you can eliminate worry by taking actions to make your team’s digital actions more secure, which starts with educating employees on best practices to keep your data safe from home.
There you have it! Five of the most common work-from-home myths busted. If you’re looking for more information on the benefits of remote work and how to mitigate some of the challenges, we do a deeper dive in our eBook here. It’s written with both managers and employees in mind and provides tangible action steps to make the remote work shift more seamless.