5 Popular Misconceptions About Remote Work
Misconceptions about remote work are rife. Certain misbeliefs like “remote work is easier” are not only erroneous, they distort the facts.
For instance, remote employees in the US are working an additional three hours a day on average during lockdown, according to a report by NordVPN. That’s an additional sixty hours a month.
For most remote employees, these extra hours go unnoticed, unrewarded. It is one of those “little” sacrifices remote workers (are expected to) make, sometimes on a daily basis, in order to “enjoy” working from home.
Recently, the Telegraph reported growing resentment from in-office workers towards their colleagues who work from home. In fact, some office workers were being offered perks and extra pay as placation.
Whereas remote work has its perks, managers must not assume that employees who work from home have it any easier, work less, or deserve less.
In this post, and in the light of remote work becoming the new normal, we shall highlight five (5) popular misconceptions about remote work, but first,
What is Remote Work? Reality and Realizations
Remote work includes any arrangement that allows people to work from any location outside a regular office environment. It is also referred to as telecommuting, teleworking, work from home, mobile work, the laptop lifestyle, etc. Flexibility and work-life balance are two of its key selling points.
A 2017 Ypulse survey found that 68% of 18-34-year-olds wanted to work remotely. By 2019, 79% of 18-36-year-olds wanted in, citing its flexibility as the most important consideration for career choice after salary.
However, with 61 percent of Millennials currently “forced” to work from home due to COVID-19, 36 percent say it has been a difficult shift, and 34 percent say they’re now less productive. Did they have misconceptions about remote work?
How Long People Have Been Working Remotely
To longtime freelancers and fulltime remote employees, there’s nothing new about the new normal. Before now, 70 percent of people globally worked remotely at least once a week (excluding freelancers), according to IWG.
Similarly, FlexJobs Remote Work Report shows that 42 percent of people who are 100 percent remote have been working remotely for 5 years or more, 28 percent for 3 to 5 years, and 19 percent for 1 to 2 years. To this category, the new normal is their normal “normal.”
When you’ve worked remotely this long, you’re better positioned to address some of the misconceptions about remote work that people often have such as the following:
5 Popular Misconceptions About Remote Work
Misconceptions About Remote Work #1: Remote work is the same as work from home
No, they’re not. And yes, they’re similar but they’re not the same. Work from home is actually a subset of remote work.
Remote work is work done from anywhere outside a regular office building. Think coworking spaces, the park, the bus, internet cafes, Starbucks, while traveling the world, etc.
Work from home, on the other hand, is work done specifically from home. And although WFH and remote work are done outside a regular office, the former is done from home (location specific), and the latter, from anywhere (location independent).
Misconceptions About Remote Work #2: Only freelancers work remotely
Companies like Aha, Automattic, CleverTech, GitLab, etc, have always existed and operated as distributed teams long before COVID-19. Their full-time employees work remotely from all across the world.
A recent NetSkope survey found that 58 percent of American knowledge workers are now working remotely. Of this number, some are freelancers, and others, full-time employees.
As far as working from home goes, you’re either a full-time remote worker who works from home or a regular employee temporarily working from home due to COVID-19.
Misconceptions About Remote Work #3: Remote work is new
Of course not.
Whereas remote work may be new to you, it’s not new to remote work veterans. For instance, Carol Tice is an accomplished freelance writer and has been working remotely for over fifteen years.
Below is a brief timeline showing remote work evolution from 1979 to date:
1979: Five IBM staff are allowed to experiment work from home
1983: 2, 000 IBM employees worked remotely
1983: Internet was born
Mid 1980s: JC Penny asks call-center employees to work from home
1987: 1.7 million Americans were telecommuting
1991: Wi-Fi is invented
1995: Congress approves permanent funding for flexiplace work-related gear in federal
1995: C-base Hackerspace is born
2000: The DOT appropriation Act is enacted to guide telecommuting policies
2004: All federal employees can telecommute
2005: San Francisco Coworking Space is born
2010: Over 59% of remote workers are company staff, not freelancers.
2010: Telework enhancement act is signed by Obama
2016: Slack records over 4 million active users
2018: The number of fully-remote US businesses increases from 26 in 2014 to 170 in 2018.
2020: COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders forces millions to work from home
Misconceptions About Remote Work #4: Remote workers are less productive
Again, this is not always the case, because productivity often derives from personal work ethics.
As a result, opinions are divided regarding remote employees’ productivity.
According to a Vitality Group research, 72 percent of Baby Boomers, 67 percent of Gen Xers, and 60 percent of millennials report being as or more productive working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Another study by enterprise software company Aternity found that despite spending an additional three hours a day in front of computers, employee productivity has actually decreased during this pandemic. It also found that remote work has declined in Europe as stay-at-home orders are relaxed.
Misconceptions About Remote Work #5: Remote workers are less accountable
Whereas this may be true for some, it’s false for all.
For instance, a 2012 study by E. Glenn Dutcher found that people performed “dull” tasks better in a controlled cubicle setting than they did in a less-structured remote environment. This can be attributed to the presence or lack of accountability systems.
The same study also found that people performed “creative” tasks better when working from home than in a more-structured cubicle or office setting. You should find what works for you.
Accountability and productivity are two major concerns for employers as they consider remote work as an option. There goes another misconception about remote work.
These misconceptions about remote work need to be addressed by employers and employees as they navigate the new normal of working from home.
Remember to address these misconceptions about remote work thus
- Remote work and work from home are similar but not the same
- People other than freelancers also work remotely
- Remote work is not new, been around for a while now
- Remote workers aren’t necessarily less productive
- Remote workers and office workers can be equally accountable or unaccountable.