Boundaryless Landscape

Six Remote-Work Myths That Need to Die in 2020

By January 8, 2020 4 min read

Forbes recently published an article titled 10 Potential Developments for Businesses When Adopting Remote Working Arrangements. It featured ten members of the Forbes Finance Council.

Although the article was insightful in some sections, I found that it ultimately spread more myths than facts.

The problem with today’s remote-work myths is that they cause needless apprehension that prevents companies from being competitive. These myths also prevent hundreds of thousands of employees worldwide from being as productive and fulfilled as they could be.

The first six points in the Forbes article were mostly accurate. Remote work creates:

  • More Accessibility and Flexibility
  • Lower Labor Costs
  • Reduced Space Needs
  • Improved Employee Longevity
  • Reduced Scaling Costs
  • Increased Effectiveness While Capturing Top Talent

But the article’s last four points are where the myths emerged.

Myth 1: Remote Work Creates “A Need for Sophisticated IT Solutions.”

Turing's Boundaryless Landscape of Remote Distributed Products

Turing’s Boundaryless Landscape of Remote Distributed Products

According to the article, remote work “requires sophisticated IT solutions to execute properly and ensure work continues seamlessly at work or at home.” What the article doesn’t mention is that an entire landscape of apps exists for ensuring that work continues seamlessly.

While these apps are certainly sophisticated, IT departments aren’t needed to use them.

Myth 2: Remote Work Leads to “Fluctuating Productivity Levels”

According to one of the article’s contributors, “it can be challenging to help your remote employees to either maintain or improve their productivity levels when required.”

The reality is that remote workers are generally more productive than office employees, and we’ve known this for quite some time. See, for example, this study from 2015, this one from 2018, and this one from 2019.

Myth 3: Remote Work Creates “Communication Issues Leading to Bigger Costs”

According to one of the contributors of the article:

Communication is at the root of most problems, so a resource strategy that makes communication less direct will be challenged. What is lost is synergy, collaboration, accountability and more that benefit most from face-to-face experiences. What is gained are inefficiencies and, therefore, costs.

There are several misconceptions there. In reality, the robust landscape  of communication tools makes it possible for remote professionals to collaborate as effectively (or even more effectively) than office employees.

Face-to-face communication has diminished in the office. On-site employees are already accustomed to emailing their colleagues or touching base via Slack. Since office employees are already using these apps to collaborate with co-workers down the hall or a couple cubicles away, they might as well be working remotely. There’s no difference.

Further, when office employees do come together for in-person meetings, the chief complaint is, “I could’ve saved an hour of my workday by getting a Slack message instead.”

So, contrary to the claims of the article, remote work does not lead to communication issues, inefficiencies, or greater costs. In fact, remote work boosts communication and efficiencies, thereby reducing costs.

Myth 4: Remote Work Creates “Negative Energy”

No other myth makes me scratch my head as much as this one – especially when the same Forbes article, in the “Improved Employee Longevity” paragraph, contradicts this negative-energy paragraph. (Earlier in the article, one of the contributors correctly writes, “Letting your employees work one regular day from home can do wonders for morale.”)

Here’s the “negative-energy” blurb, quoted from the last paragraph of the Forbes article:

The culture of a team and an office is becoming very important, and not having the team all in one place can create negative energy.

Wrong.

As studies like this one have demonstrated, “Among other findings, we learned that remote work or the ability to work remotely makes employees happier, feel more trusted, better able to achieve work-life balance, and more inclined to take a pay cut to benefit from added flexibility.”

Myth 5: An Office Is Needed for a Healthy Corporate Culture

The culture of a team and an office is becoming very important…

While a healthy team culture is indeed very important, it’s certainly not true that an office is necessary for this. In fact, two-thirds of knowledge workers think the office will disappear by 2030.

The reality is that the landscape of communication tools makes a robust team culture possible with no central headquarters. Remote teams collaborate without the necessary evils that accompany life in an office – including gossip, corporate politics, micromanaging, and other negatives that suffocate a good team culture.

Myth 6: Remote Workers Don’t “Work”

Again focusing on the last paragraph of the Forbes article:

We see more and more employees who want to “work” from home. I believe that less work is being done, and other employees see them as not being team players. Things come up during the day, and when things go sideways that is when employees can bond the best.

It’s staggering that there are still executives who view remote workers as delinquent slackards who spend their workdays watching YouTube or playing Fortnite while getting paid.

Obviously, this is nonsense. As with any other job situation, not working will quickly lead to getting fired.

Again, refer to the studies I mentioned above in Myth 2. Remote workers are generally more productive than office employees.

Further, contrary to the above quote, on-site employees certainly view their remote counterpart as “team players.” If a weakest link is pinpointed, remote workers know that they can be replaced just as easily as office employees. There’s as much incentive for remote workers to pull their own weight as there is with office employees.

In the 2020s, Companies Who Don’t Offer Remote Work Options will Lose

According to Buffer’s State of Remote Work Report, 99 percent of their survey respondents want to work remotely at least some of the time for the rest of their careers.

If you want to keep your best employees, boost productivity, and gain the ability to hire world-class talent from around the globe, don’t listen to the remote-work naysayers. In the 2020s, remote-friendly companies will be the most competitive.

Aaron Wagner
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