5 Common Remote Work Myths: Busted

If you’re wondering what the pandemic has shown the workforce when it comes to remote work, here’s what you need to know.

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Male employee speaking on video call with diverse colleagues on online briefing with laptop at home
Over 36 million Americans will be working remotely by 2025

Before 2020, just 6% of the workforce worked from home full time. This elite group, to outsiders, seemed like mythical unicorns of the working world — able to escape the shackles of the cubicle, the horrors of rush hour traffic, and the aggravation of workplace politics. Employers, on the other hand, had valid concerns about remote workers. Would they actually work at home? Would personal distractions prevent them from being productive? Will my business suffer?

Today, nearly 2 years into a global pandemic, remote work is more common than it has ever been. According to a recent survey by freelance platform Upwork, 25% of Americans will work from home in 2021, with over 36 million following suit by 2025. This forced experiment, spurred by a public health crisis, has drastically altered the way we work and how we think about work — perhaps for the better. For many United States workers, remote work allows them more flexibility in their daily schedules, less time wasted for commuting, and the ability to work from anywhere. Employers benefit too; the digital arrangement seems like a win-win with increased productivity, less overhead, and happier workers.

If anything, the pandemic has shown us that employees are flexible, they can thrive in unorthodox environments, and work continues in the office or out. Though socialization and collaboration can suffer, it appears that, with the proper parameters, remote work works a whole lot better than many of us assumed at the start of the shutdowns. Here are 5 of the most common remote work myths busted.

5 busted remote work myths

1. Remote work causes productivity to suffer

Productivity is a top concern for business owners that employ remote workers, and rightfully so. Scrolling through Facebook at home during work hours is more manageable without a boss hovering over you, after all. However, the data show us that remote workers actually work MORE hours than office workers. Employees who work from home have fewer social distractions from coworkers and take fewer breaks, leading to improved productivity in the workplace.

94% of employers surveyed by Mercer said that productivity was the same as or higher than before the pandemic — even with their employees working remotely. Additionally, when employees work from home, they are less likely to get colds (which leads to less sick days) and spread germs to their coworkers.

94% of employers surveyed by Mercer said that productivity was the same as or higher than before the pandemic — even with their employees working remotely.

2. Company communication is out the window

Companies that offer remote work often fear that company communication will be impossible to maintain with workers in vastly different geographical locations. Though digital communication is no substitute for face-to-face interaction, there are numerous ways to keep people close even when they’re far apart. Effective communication can occur via email, video chats, internal intranets, and instant messaging. Digital communication may even be superior to in-person meetings in some instances, where a chat log or video recording can be referenced to assist with a project or task.

3. Remote workers have no accountability

Unfortunately, micro-management is still a significant problem for corporations across the nation; however, the uptick in remote work and its subsequent success has reduced this fear-driven managerial trend. Although remote workers don’t have a boss breathing down their necks, job success can still be measured with tangible goals and results.

Measuring outcomes by project or task is a far better way to hold employees accountable than by their physical presence alone.

Measuring outcomes by project or task is a far better way to hold employees accountable than by their physical presence alone. Businesses should consider using a project management system that lists and tracks everyone’s to-dos for complete transparency to keep remote teams accountable. This way, if a team member drops the ball, it is apparent right away.

4. Work-from-home employees spend all day in their pajamas

All day pajama wearing was probably tempting at the beginning of the pandemic, especially for employees that had never worked at home before. However, after a few weeks of yoga pants and house slippers, most laptop-wielding workers had enough and put their jeans back in the rotation. While it’s true that — for most companies — a dress code doesn’t apply when working from home, most seasoned remote workers know that getting dressed for the day will make them feel better and be more productive overall.

5. Team building is impossible remotely

Business leaders must provide a communication platform, encourage collaboration, and infuse company culture into their employees’ days.

While it’s true that Zoom parties are a lot less fun than in-person company galas, team building is possible with a remote team. However, it requires dedication from internal stakeholders. Business leaders must provide a communication platform, encourage collaboration, and infuse company culture into their employees’ days. Online events, departmental challenges, virtual coworking, and recognition systems are some of the best ways to encourage team building for remote teams.

Remote work has more than doubled since 2019 and is gaining steam as the “wave of the future.” While its staying power remains to be seen, many of the myths surrounding remote workers have been debunked over the last year, and more employers support a fully remote or hybrid model for their workers.

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