6 Misconceptions About Remote Work
Recently, Twitter made a landmark announcement that excited remote work advocates worldwide. All its employees can now work from home forever. The announcement came just a few days after Google had allowed all its employees to work from home for the rest of 2020.
In one stroke, COVID-19 has brought remote work into the mainstream, something that enthusiastic teams were trying for years. As organizations worldwide realize that remote work actually cuts costs and boosts productivity, it is bound to become the new normal.
There has never been a better time to dispel popular misconceptions about remote work. Let’s get right to it:
1. Remote workers are digital nomads
Most articles about remote work are accompanied by the pictures of coconut sipping digital nomads on the beach. They don’t reflect the reality of remote work.
86% of remote workers work from home. The rest mostly work from cafes and coworking spaces. Digital nomads represent a tiny fraction. While the lifestyle of a digital nomad seems exciting, it’s not sustainable long term for most people. Most remote employees need a fixed workspace with their monitors, ideal lighting, internet connection, and ambiance. That’s why some organizations are offering remote employees generous incentives to set up their workspace. They understand the importance of a stable workstation.
While traveling, it’s not easy for everyone to recreate that environment where they can do deep work. Some digital nomads also stop traveling when they realize that it’s completely different from vacationing. Vacation is more than just a change of scenery, it’s a change of mindset. Not everyone enjoys traveling while still thinking about work.
2. Remote work is lonely
It’s true that one of the biggest challenges of remote work is loneliness. But that is misinterpreted to mean that remote work itself is lonely.
A lot of reasons behind the loneliness of remote workers will disappear as more people go remote. For example, certain remote workers feel isolated when the majority of their teammates are working from an office. There is the feeling of missing out on office banter and water cooler conversations that are important for team bonding. However, as more people go remote, such feelings will disappear. In 100% distributed teams, there is no fear of missing out.
Technology is also playing an important role in bringing distributed teams together. Popular collaboration tools like Taskworld and Slack are designed for real-time communication. Teams are increasingly using them not just for work-related conversations but also for building relationships. For example, our team uses a Taskworld channel called “Random” strictly reserved for people taking the piss out of each other. I wish I could show you the screenshots, but it will get me in trouble 🙂
There are more than 19K coworking spaces worldwide. That number will rise exponentially in the years to come, so would more communities to connect remote workers. Remote work gives you the freedom to spend time with the people you want.
Buffer in its State of the remote work report of 2020, makes an interesting observation – Remote workers feeling lonely is an accurate reflection of a larger-scale societal struggle with loneliness. In the U.S., loneliness has been labeled an epidemic.
3. Remote workers can’t be managers
This is another myth that’s quickly being dispelled by two factors – 1) the success of leaders in distributed teams and 2) growing consensus on the negative effects of micromanagement
A good manager needs to be approachable, not hover around their team at all times. The latter creates undue stress. Often when the team is in the manager’s line of sight, they create a compulsive desire for the manager to do some “management.” This usually means impromptu meetings, status checks, and reports that end up becoming unwarranted intrusions.
I am not saying that by not being physically present, remote managers have an advantage. There are many remote managers who try to overcompensate by having frequent calls and meetings. What I mean is that a good manager would be a good manager whether they are on-site or remote. One should not overlook someone for a leadership role simply because they are not on-site. If remote workers couldn’t be managers, no distributed team would have been a success.
4. Remote workers are mostly millennials in the IT industry
Millennials in the tech industry have undoubtedly been the most vocal advocates of remote work. They have played an influential role in propagating culture and creating technologies that are conducive to remote work. However, it’s a myth that most remote workers are millennials in the IT industry.
In the last few years, many traditional industries such as legal, insurance, real estate, and scientific research have been aggressively hiring remote workers. This trend was already visible before the COVID-19 outbreak. The pandemic has forced even the skeptics to go remote. A large number of them are realizing the benefits of remote work and would adopt it as a permanent policy. Therefore, the share of remote workers from the non-IT industry will only increase in the near future.
5. Remote work is a fad
This was one of the first myths around remote work. Some people still continue to believe that remote work is a fad or at best an ancillary to the on-site office culture. That’s not true.
According to Buffer’s survey, only 1% of people who have worked remotely would never like to do so in the future. 91% of employers who gave tried remote work, plan to continue it in the future. Rarely do both the companies and employees agree so strongly on a cultural change.
What’s even more interesting is that 95% of remote workers encourage other people to work remotely. Not only do remote workers plan to continue working remotely, but they also will spread the gospel among their peers. Remote work isn’t a fad. it’s the future of work.
6. Remote work decreases data privacy
Concerns about data privacy in remote work are understandable. Until a few years ago, there weren’t enough tools that took data privacy seriously. By being outside of the office, remote workers had additional risks of data theft and privacy. We still get news about an occasional user data breach in popular remote tools, for example, Zoom.
However, the situation has improved in recent years. It’s safe to say that remote work now carries no additional data privacy risks. Recent legislation such as GDPR have forced most of the tech companies to adopt enhanced security measures to protect user data. In addition to that popular SaaS tools now provide additional security options such as 2FA and cross-regional backup.
Most breaches that happen are caused by people, not affected by the location. It doesn’t matter whether your team is onsite or remote. If you are planning to get your remote team a virtual office, check out Taskworld. In the light of COVID-19 crisis, we have extended our free trial to help you work remotely.