By Laurel Farrer
Professionals around the world are wanting, seeking—even demanding remote work more than ever, but not enough virtual roles are available to meet demand—which leads to the thought: Why aren’t more companies going remote?
In my decade of advising businesses on how to transition their operations and culture to be remote-friendly, I’ve consistently heard six excuses from managers about why virtual collaboration won’t work for them—myself included! In 2006, I was an operations manager and kept the distribution of my team a secret in fear of being perceived externally as an unreliable company. Now, I regret not capitalizing on the benefits of remote work earlier on in my business—and so do the companies that have shared the same excuses.
As business leaders, we are afraid to incur the costs and risk of change management—especially with a concept as foreign as unsupervised work environments, and examples of highly publicized telecommuting policy reversals at companies like IBM and Yahoo. However, as big as those stories were, there are positive stories and prominent brands (do the names Microsoft, Amazon, Dell, or Hilton, ring a bell?) highlighting the successes of their distributed teams.
What this tells us is this: There are both right and wrong ways to implement remote work. If you’re holding back because you’re only looking at the wrong examples, you are going to miss out on many rewards. It’s time to publicize the right way of going remote and bust the myths that are preventing you from capitalizing on the benefits of a virtual workforce.
Myth #1: “My team only wants to work remotely so they can work from the beach.”
There’s no denying that remote work is in high demand for the work-life balance it promotes. However, managers are sorely mistaken if they believe the benefits of virtual jobs fall in favor of the workforce.
By converting to a remote-friendly model, businesses enjoy an average of $11,000 USD per year and per employee, with lower operational costs, reduced attrition rates and increased productivity. In reality, it looks like the workers get the short end of the stick!
Myth #2: “If I let one employee work remotely, I’ll have to let everyone work remotely.”
Becoming remote-friendly doesn’t have to be an “all or nothing” transition. Thousands of companies around the world are easing into virtual operations by converting a percentage of their workforce at a time. In fact, the majority of top employers of remote work are all hybrid teams of both onsite and off-site workers.
By working with a virtual operations consultant, you can evaluate which roles in your organization are most remote-compatible. Finding the delicate balance of equality in a hybrid team can be challenging, so be sure to keep the transition process as collaborative and transparent as possible to allow everyone’s voice to be heard.
Myth #3: “My business will lose credibility or prestige without an office space for client meetings.”
As an operations manager, this was my hesitation, and then I realized that if the legitimacy of my business relies on office furniture, I needed to revisit my value proposition. Virtual businesses don’t let brick-and-mortar first impressions do any selling for them. Instead, they rely on good old fashioned customer service and product quality—which, as it turns out, is what actually makes a business credible. In fact, we even see small nomadic workforces breaking out of the “small business, small growth” bracket by working with global brands—like the team at Melewi that has a client list that includes McDonald’s, Samsung and Visa. In short: Just put your money where your mouth is and you’ll do just fine.
Myth #4: “Promotions are instinctively based on visibility, so if my team members work offsite they will be sacrificing career growth.”
Regardless of working onsite or working offsite, isn’t this a management practice that should be eliminated from the workplace anyway? In remote work, performance isn’t measured by activity or accessibility, it’s measured by results. So when a promotion is due, evaluation is a matter of analyzing the data-informed performance of each team member, instead of remembering who brought the boss the best coffee yesterday.
A happy bonus: this reporting model not only drives more credible promotions but supports workforce diversity and equality because results-driven data organically eliminate discrimination from career development paths.
Myth #5: “I need my team close by in case I urgently need to speak with them.”
Contrary to common assumptions, remote work can be highly collaborative. Just because a worker is “remote” doesn’t mean they’re working in complete isolation. In fact, most virtual operational models facilitate even more engagement than onsite teams because of the increased communication and trust that is required for effective reporting.
With a proper remote work policy in place that articulates expectations for off-site workers, managers may be surprised to discover that their team is even more accessible than they were when they worked in the same office!
Myth #6: “If workers work remotely, they’ll be distracted by laundry and kids and traveling and never get any work done.”
Home and mobile offices are full of a lot of potential distractions—but then again, so are co-located offices. Just try to find an open-space office that doesn’t have at least a few workers (if not most of them) trying to block out the many distractions of a shared environment with expensive noise-canceling headphones.
In fact, telecommuters may have less distraction than their co-located counterparts, because more (and more) studies are finding that the productivity rates of remote workers far surpass their in-office counterparts. So taking a few minutes to switch a load of laundry may not be the end of the world, after all.
Okay, managers: Are you convinced yet? Are you ready to greet the next employee that approaches you to make a remote request with an open mind and an option to go remote on a trial or temporary basis to see how it goes? Great—and welcome to the future that is rapidly unfolding, and to all of the benefits of getting in early.