Blog Post

5 Common Remote Work Misconceptions

Remote working may be on the rise, but there are still some assumptions made about a distributed workplace that prevent some employers from adopting the model, even when it has the potential to save a business a fair amount of money.

Here’s a list of five big reasons companies won’t pull the trigger on remote working, and some explanation about why those fears are mostly unfounded.

1. Productivity Will Drop

According to a recent study, remote workers work harder than their office-based counterparts. Whether it’s because they feel a sense of gratitude at being able to enjoy a flexible arrangement, or because they have fewer unnecessary meetings and distractions to deal with, or just because working from home is more fun, distributed teams tend to put in more hours, and do more with the time they spend on work-related activities.

2. Communication Will Suffer

Many people assume that remote team members will communicate less with one another. It may be true that, overall, time spent communicating will go down, but that doesn’t mean communication will suffer. In fact, my experience has been that communication is often better in a remote work environment, because unnecessary interaction is generally removed from the equation. And because communicating can be achieved only through tools, I often find that remote workers have a better understanding of those tools and how to use them, and which are most appropriate for each type of communication, unlike their office-based counterparts. It’s crucial to support remote workers with the proper communication strategy, but once that’s in place, you’ll find it’s nowhere near the problem you were expecting.

3. Costs Will Increase

Because there can be a significant initial spend when it comes to setting up a remote work trial, some companies assume those costs will continue throughout the life of the program. However, that isn’t the case. Remote working should actually reduce overheads significantly over time. Lowered facilities costs, combined with reductions to other things like transportation allowances, make the cost benefits of remote working one of its most attractive features.

4. Company Culture Will Evaporate

I’ve heard that some fear losing their company’s culture or “personality,” or at least the quirks that make the workplace feel human, when they switch to a remote setup. In my experience, that’s far from the case; I’ve gotten along better with remote workers, and felt that I’ve grown to know them better as people than I ever did with office-mates. So long as communication remains open and frequent, your distributed team members will be able to gain a sense of camaraderie that should shine through in interactions with clients and other third-parties.

5. Security Will Be Weakened

One of the major concerns surrounding remote working is that it endangers company security; data will leave the network from time to time, and employees are largely unsupervised. Sensitive information does seem more vulnerable in such settings, but there’s yet to be very much accumulated evidence proving that companies do indeed actually take on increased liability in this regard by moving to a remote work setup. Motivated individuals will leak or steal info regardless of whether you have remote working measures in place or not. The smart course of action is to prepare for the unique vulnerabilities brought about by remote working.

There are many good reasons to question whether or not a remote working arrangement will work at your company, but the reasons above are not among them. They’re just misconceptions that hang around because they seem to make sense intuitively. If you’re considering a remote work program, do yourself a favor and focus on real challenges, instead of challenges of perception.

4 Responses to “5 Common Remote Work Misconceptions”

  1. I agree with all the points you mentioned here, especially with the second point. Communication problems may arise if technology gets in the way but as you’ve said, when proper communication strategies are implemented, communications barrier is not an issue.

  2. In terms of communications, remote work cuts wasteful communication. Sure, it’s nice to catch up with a coworker who walks by your desk. But sometimes we find we can’t gracefully get out of those conversations. Remote work may or may not mean more phone calls (depends on job). People also waste time getting sucked in conversations that aren’t related to work. But that can happen in the office, too.

  3. These points are so very true. I have managed a remote-working team of software developers for the past 4 years (and I am remote, too) and it has worked out very well. We had 6 major software releases in 2010, met all of our deadlines and are like a family. Communication is key and must be actively managed. We also found that getting together 3-4 times a year is key, as it helps us deal with larger issues.

    Those meetings are highly efficient because we know that we have limited time together, so we don’t waste meeting time. Also, we get a chance to hang out in the evening and enjoy each other’s company, something that is not easy to do when everyone lives in the same place.