From Japan to Poland, from the US to the UK and from Italy to India, numerous countries are in different sorts of lockdowns to combat the Coronavirus spread. Most companies including, Google, Facebook, Spotify, Salesforce, and Apple have announced switching to remote work indefinitely to ensure the safety and well-being of their employees.
As a result, with one-third of the world population under lockdown, the world is witnessing the largest work-from-home experiment ever. Remote operations are the only way businesses can function (and stay afloat!) amid the COVID-19 crisis. But it goes without saying that for many, this shift is new, and not something they’ve prepared for.
To top that, there are so many misconceptions floating around that make the transition very difficult. Here are some common myths about remote work that if debunked, will make every remote worker’s life easier. Because working from home is a lot more than sitting in your PJs and “being your own boss.”
Myths About Remote Work
Myth #1: You’re less productive while working remotely
One of the most common myths about remote work is that if you’re at home, you tend to slack off more and your productivity dwindles. On the contrary, you rather end up spending more hours working than usual. Not just that, you are more efficient with your tasks.
According to the Remote Collaborative Worker Survey by CoSo, more than 75% of the employees are more productive while working remotely with 30% accomplishing more in less time and 24% accomplishing more in the same amount of time. Without the frustration of commuting to and from work, and with lesser tea and chit-chat breaks, remote workers report lesser idle/unproductive time as compare to in-office workers.
“Off-site employees are motivated to work harder and more efficiently to protect both the personal and professional benefits of working remotely,” explains Michael Fitzpatrick, CEO of ConnectSolutions.
As a remote employee, you can leverage several online tools available in the market to keep your productivity in check. For example, you could use a tool like Clockify to time and monitor your tasks and keep yourself in check. We compiled a list of other helpful platforms for remote workers that you can go through.
Myth#2: Communication, especially meetings, take a backseat
Communicating effectively with your team members while working remotely can be challenging, especially if you’re brainstorming ideas for a new project. While platforms like Zoom offer a great alternative to in-person meetings, it’s not uncommon for most people to face technical difficulties – audio/video issues, lack of internet speed – while on call. So, how do you ensure that communication doesn’t take a backseat while we all adjust to the new way of working?
The key lies in the execution. If you arrive 5 minutes early, you have enough time to sort out any possible issues before the meeting starts. And conduct it as if it’s an in-person meeting. Extend the courtesy of sending a calendar invite in advance and check people’s schedule before blocking a meeting. Just because people are working remotely, they cannot be expected to be available 24X7.
Communication can rather become more productive and crisp during remote work if tools like Slack, Trello and Asana are used beyond task management and for communication too. They reduce the number of Zoom meetings you have, to finish a task. Also, writing feedback, changes, suggestions, next steps makes tasks more efficient and easier to follow. As written communication takes the front seat when working remotely, more than half of the remote workers feel that they are just as connected or even more connected with their colleagues, as compared to in-office communication.
Myth#3: Working remotely can damage your career growth
Another from the list of common myths about remote work is that it is detrimental to your career because you are not used to working on-site and therefore become unfit for an office environment. First of all, at present, when the entire world is working remotely, this wouldn’t really be a red flag on your resume. Even those who choose to work remotely otherwise, do not have trouble working with physically-present teams or have poor networking skills. It’s actually the opposite.
If we really think about it, working remotely would make you a rather eloquent communicator. You’d know the art of communicating effectively enough to make a person sitting miles away understand you. You would know how to network and build relationships with people whom you would have not even met in-person. So, networking would rather be your forte.
Apart from that, you drive your growth. So, your efforts are what ensure that your progress. And not whether you are an in-office employee or a remote one. A great way of ensuring that you witness an upward curve in your career while working remotely is by doing the best you can. This means bringing your 100 per cent to the table on most days and delegating your work effectively when you’re unable to do so. No one can take that from you. Managing work amidst a pandemic is not easy. But, if your efforts are in the right direction, your growth cannot be damaged.
Myth#4: You have no work-life balance
Well, this one of the most believed myths about remote work. Employees consider unplugging after work as the greatest struggle of working remotely. This is because they feel that when they work remotely, they have to be available 24X7. While it is the organisation’s duty to establish in and out timings even when working remotely, you have a key role to play in it too.
You are the one who has to set boundaries. Be strict with your work timings. Don’t allow personal distractions to get in the way of your work schedule. For that, designate a proper workspace, get ready to work in a comfortable-but-not-casual outfit and get to work. You must take coffee, lunch breaks but follow a schedule. Do not be okay with taking a break just because your friend called to catch-up. Express that you are working and will call them back post work.
At the same time, extend this boundary to your professional space. Consider dropping a line to your team when you’re logging off, and avoid taking up all-nighters for work. It would help to set tasks for the day and aiming to finish them within your working hours.
We understand that it is easier said than done. The lockdown has left us with a lot of personal things to worry about. Everything from ensuring the well-being of our loved ones, to managing household chores, like shopping for groceries, cooking and cleaning up after ourselves way can get overwhelming when coupled with the pressure from work. However, aiming for a schedule, and taking tiny steps every day can eventually help you get there. For instance, start with setting an alarm for rising early and devote a week to just getting that right. Then move on to achieve the next part of your plan.
Myth#5: It’s impossible to be a remote manager
People in managerial roles dread working remotely because they feel that they cannot monitor their team’s performance while working from home. Again, this is one of those myths about remote work that exists only because of the lack of proper process and tools.
Even though managing a team when working remotely may sound like a nightmare, it’s not entirely impossible. While it is overwhelming to monitor so many things, what remote managers often tend to do is micro-manage and that’s where they go wrong.
The key lies in setting regular check-ins with your team, establishing expectations and assigning individual as well as team goals. As a manager, you don’t need to ensure that every remote member of your team is working every second, but that every member is finishing their assigned task within the allotted time frame. Reward people for adhering to deadlines and finishing tasks on time to keep their spirits up.
At the same time, be empathetic towards those who cannot. Dealing with the present situation is not easy and as a manager, you must try to understand their reason why they could not finish a task on time. Schedule direct check-ins with them to get a better perspective of their condition and let them know that they have your support. Talk about what’s going on in their personal lives. Are they doing okay? How’s their mental health looking like? For a lot of people living alone, away from their families, “work calls” are the only human interaction they have all day, so make your team members feel like their well-being is important to you, that you care about them outside of work.
The more familiar you get with remote work, the easier and less challenging it would become for you. The key lies in understanding its challenges and benefits and finding ways to work around them.