Working in a dispersed team has its share of challenges, but some of the fears that people have about remote work simply aren’t born out by the experience of real-world teams. Here are a few if the more common misconceptions I’ve encountered.
- Working outside the office is distracting. This is one of the most persistent myths I’ve run into. Sure, working from home can be distracting. But out of the remote workers I’ve talked to, the majority find their home office a better environment for focused work than a traditional office.Which shouldn’t really come as a surprise. After all, if you work with people you like, it means that your workplace is going to be filled with people you have a lot in common with, having conversations about things that are interesting to you! While I’m not proud of it, I’ve had hallway conversations that lasted for hours at some jobs.Not to mention that when people can see you, they are more likely to interrupt you to ask you a question or get a status update. Proximity invites disruption.
- It takes a special kind of employee to telework. Without a doubt, some people prefer remote work, and some prefer to be collocated with their coworkers. But no matter how you feel about it, it doesn’t take special teleworking DNA to be productive in a dispersed team. What it does take is education and preparation – and that’s what Wide Teams is all about.
- Close collaboration is impossible in a distributed team. Can you really work side-by-side with a coworker on a project the way you would if you were both sitting at the same desk? Yes, and I’ve spoken to the teams who do it every day of the work-week. It’s true that some distributed groups opt to practice more “loosely coupled” collaboration. But I’ve worked on and interviewed software development teams who practice frequent pair-programming using videoconferencing and screen-sharing. It takes a little getting used to, but with a little practice it becomes second nature.
- A dispersed team will never be as productive as a collocated team. I’ve spoken with members of a lot of distributed teams, and with rare exceptions most of them feel that they as productive if not more productive than their localized counterparts. Some of the unique productivity boosts that dispersed teams enjoy include:
- Being able to work from anywhere and having more flexible hours means workers feel free to work at times when they might otherwise not, such as tapping away at the laptop in bed, or while sitting in the waiting room at the auto shop. In fact, one of the commonly identified pitfalls of workshifting is that people work too much because they don’t have the transition from work to home to mark the boundaries of the work day.
- Some people are simply more effective when they can work from their favorite environment, be it a home office or a coffee shop.
- Telework is just about cutting costs. While some managers opt for a distributed team in order to cut costs, others realize that for knowledge work, recruiting talent without geographical boundaries is the only way to get the very best people. If the person who is the very best in her field lives by choice on a sustainable ranch in Montana, do you opt for second best? Or do you take the talent where you can find it?
6 thoughts on “5 myths of remote work”
Great post. I especially love Myth #5. I do believe virtual workers are a great financial benefit, but if I had the choice of hiring anyone, I would want it to be the best person for the job regardless of location. In today’s world, location shouldn’t mean much when it comes to a job that can be done remotely.
Thanks Tina! I’m seeing greater and greater acceptance of the idea that it’s more important to get the right person for the job then to get someone who happens to be nearby.
I recently was laid off from a job where I teleworked full-time for four years. It was awesome. Now I have found a new job where I have to go in every day. I can tell you that I have a difficult time concentrating and getting work done while sitting in a room with 12 other people. I have been sick in four years, but expect that I’m going to get sick this winter, as having to sit around other people who come in sick to work.
My vehicle used to sit in my garage for days, but now that I have to commute in, I’m just another car in the morning and afternoon rush. I’ve already sustained damage to my vehicle. I have to spend an additional two hours a day getting ready, and coming home, from work. None of this is necessary for me to complete the actual work.
When are companies going to get it?? They are stuck in the old mindset of they need to see you sitting at a desk to be satisfied that you are working. How about focusing on giving employees tasks that are measured by when they are completed?
I hope to get my life back soon and telework again.
Well said, Sam. I think a lot of people are in your position. Fortunately, I awareness is slowly spreading about how viable telework is. That’s why this site exists, to educate and help people embrace dispersed teams.
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