Remote workers are a misunderstood bunch. Today, we take a look at the top three misconceptions that people have concerning working from home and then we uncover the truth.

 

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Original transcript

Welcome to the Collaboration Superpowers podcast. My name is Lisette and I’m interviewing people and companies doing great things remotely. Welcome to another episode, everyone. I’m glad you’re here. I was inspired to record this episode after writing a guest blog article for red booth called three common misconceptions about people who work remotely. And I will admit. At first I wasn’t all that enthusiastic about the topic. But as I got into it, I realized that actually, there are some very common misconceptions about people who work remotely. In many of the interviews, you’ll notice that when I ask people why remote working isn’t allowed at their companies, the answer is shockingly swift and direct. I mean really, I was surprised. The answer is always management. And of course I’ll quickly put the disclaimer out there that not everything can be blamed on management. That is clear. But really, if you go back and listen to the interviews, management seems to be the area of contention. Now to be fair, when companies make the shift from co-located to remote, it is not easy. There are lots of unintended consequences. When you go from co-located to remote, the culture changes and in ways you can’t expect. So fair enough. It is not easy to go remote.

And one thing that was pointed out by, I think, Judy Reece in the beginning, but I heard it more from other interviews, was that managers who offer flexible work options are actually taking a risk because people generally don’t get fired for going with the status quo. So if things are working and things are as they are, then there’s no real reason to have managers allow for remote and flexible options.

So let’s discuss what some of the most common misconceptions are. Now I think the first misconception really is remote workers are lazy. They want to work remote because they want to go at home and Slack off. But I must say in my interviews, the opposite [inaudible – 02:09] true. In general, remote workers seemed to have a hard time turning off, especially when they like what they do. [inaudible – 02:20] in my interview with Starter Squad has something really funny to say. She said she thought that remote workers were actually just workaholics. So most people that I spoke to wanted to work remotely because they felt they were more productive or they wanted to avoid the commute and of course because they want the freedom, the freedom to create your own schedule, the freedom to work in your own place. The freedom is very alluring. But the very common thing that I noticed was that most people are looking for ways to get more work done and not for ways on how to lie around on the couch more. I mean I’m sure that exists. It just wasn’t common amongst the people that I spoke with.

Now there can be misunderstandings around expectations, of course. And the tips there are, one, moving to a results-focused work environment so not based on time but rather results, and then also try getting the team together and coming up with a set of ground rules. I’ve spoken about this before. I call it the team agreement. And it just sets the expectations for how you’re going to be working together. How are you going to communicate? In what ways are you going to let each other know what each other are doing? And where is all the information that you need to share? A team agreement can go a long way for setting the clear guidelines and aligning the team.

Okay, so the second misconception is that remote workers are less productive. A lot of managers say that in order for a team to be productive, they have to work in the same place. I think that’s the prevalent belief. But after listening to my interview with Teo Härén, a creativity expert from Sweden, I interview him in episode 29. After his interview, I am convinced that we will actually get more productivity out of our workers by letting them work where they are most productive. One of the huge benefits that I personally value that working from anywhere gives us is the opportunity, the luxury even, to design and choose the workspaces where we are most productive. I know I prefer to work alone in my home office. It’s where I have everything I need. I’ve got my standing desk and my multiple monitors and the neighbor cat who comes to visit. And I can go running in the middle of the day. I mean I can go on and on. I love working in my home office. And for example, when my husband tried working from his home office, he went stir-crazy. He just couldn’t handle it. He really likes being around people. He likes having the office environment. It just works for him. So when we allow people to work from where they are most productive, I think everybody wins.

The third misconception that I run across a lot is that remote workers aren’t loyal. So when we talk about loyalty amongst remote workers, I think it’s important to discuss two different categories, one, the telecommuters, and two, the freelancers. So I define a telecommuter as someone who works remotely, usually from home, on a fixed team for one company. It could be either part-time or full-time. And if a company is results-based, then I see no reason to even question a telecommuter’s loyalty, assuming that you’re seeing the results, of course.

So freelancers are usually self-employed with more than one client, and there’s a certain truth to freelancers having to split their loyalty because they are working on projects from more than one client.

The other side to this is that freelancers can also choose for the most part the projects that they get to work on. So we are usually very enthusiastic about the work that we’re taking on. What I noticed is that loyalty in freelancers really comes from doing interesting work that means something and solving challenging problems. That’s what people really [like – 06:11].

Okay, so I hope that I have changed the minds of a few managers in the process of this short podcast about remote workers being lazy and unproductive and not loyal. I have a number of examples on the Collaboration Superpowers website on stories of people and companies who are doing great things remotely and to blow out of the water all of these misconceptions that I’ve listed. You just have to find the right people. And I know it’s way easier said than done, I know. But I do want to emphasize how important that is. In all the books that I’ve read about this subject, for example, from good to great and team of teams, they all talk about the importance of getting the right people on your team. Technology has come a long way in the last five years, so don’t let your assumptions about remote working get in the way of exploring flexible work options for your company. I promise you, you will find something out there that works for you. There are so many options. My advice, of course, is to start small and iterate. So don’t do something drastic. Try maybe an afternoon a week or one day a week or just everybody calling in from their office on an online meeting just to check out how it would work. So very small experiments, low risk, and then iterate.

And of course the Work Together Anywhere workshop is a great place to start. We now have eight facilitators in eight different countries, speaking five different languages, offering the Work Together Workshop all over the world. You can take it in person, you can take it online, and you can take it as a hybrid version. So definitely check out the website and see which event is nearest to you. And of course if you take the online version, you can meet people from all over the world and push the buttons on a bunch of fun tools.

Stay tuned next week for another great interview with a remote company doing great things. A huge thanks to the producer of this podcast, Nick, the podcast monster. He really keeps things on track. I highly recommend working with him. You can hire him to make you a star at podcastmonster.com. And another thanks to Alfred Bowland, the graphic designer for Collaboration Superpowers. He really makes things shine. You can hire him to make you look great at bolanden.nl. All right, everybody, let’s blow those remote working misconceptions out of the water. Until next week, be powerful.

 


Podcast production by Podcast Monster

Graphic design by Alfred Boland

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