19 Big Myths About Remote Work
I feel like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day. You know that feeling when you keep having the same conversation again and again? You try to be patient. But you feel the repetition starting and you tense up. For me, that conversation goes something like this…
Me: Everyone on our team at Aha! works remotely.
Friend: Oh, so everyone works from home?
Friend: You must be really small.
Me: It depends on what you mean by small — we have almost 70 people now.
Friend: Really?! How do you know people are actually working?
Me: Because we hire people who are intrinsically motivated and we are very clear about our goals and initiatives — we use our own software to manage the company.
Simply put, remote work is the opportunity to do your best work from anywhere. Great achievements are measured by outcomes — not places.
Pretty straightforward, right? Yet the myths persist. Funny, since remote work is not exactly uncommon — 3.7 million U.S. employees now work from home at least half the time, according to one study.
I am not the only one who hears these myths again and again. Our team at Aha! does too. So, I asked everyone what they have heard and put together a comprehensive list of the ones we hear most often (and hope to never hear again).
Here are the most pervasive remote work myths — grouped by topic — along with the reality:
“It is impossible to have team spirit on a remote team.” Reality: Not according to one Gallup poll, which indicated that remote workers actually feel more connected to their companies than on-site workers. Further proof: When our team gets together for our bi-annual onsites, it feels more like a family reunion than a dreaded work obligation.
“You must get lonely working from home.” Reality: We spend most of the day talking with our team. Remote workers rely on constant communication, so we probably talk more each day than a typical office worker.
“You cannot build relationships with remote co-workers.” Reality: We actually make a greater effort to connect, since there is no chance of running into our teammates in the hallway. So, our interactions tend to be filled with more purpose and meaning.
“Remote work is distracting.” Reality: There are fewer distractions working from home than there are in an office. Researchers found that productivity increased by one-third when workers were allowed to work remotely.
“People use remote work as an excuse to goof off.” Reality: You cannot “goof off” when you have meaningful work to do. Aha! hires intrinsically motivated people who are driven to deliver their best. (No one is streaming Netflix all day.)
“Remote workers are not committed.” Reality: Remote work is not a means to earn a paycheck while you pursue your real passions (e.g., travel and side hustles). We are just as committed as any other worker. In fact, one survey found that 82 percent of people believe flexible work options would make them more loyal to their employer.
“Working remote means you spend the day in your pajamas.” Reality: Not when we are jumping on video meetings all day. We know we represent the company. So we dress professionally — just like we would if we were walking into an office.
“Remote workers are free to come and go as they please. They can take a long lunch, spend the afternoon golfing… whatever they want!” Reality: Just like an office worker, we are dedicated to our team during regular working hours. Obviously, we take lunch — but we honor the effort of our teammates by giving our full attention to work the rest of our time.
“Remote work leads to flooded email inboxes.” Reality: We rarely use email to get in touch with our teammates. Instead, we use other more instant communication tools, such as group messaging and video chats.
“It is too difficult to manage complex projects with a remote team.” Reality: Not when you have the right framework in place. At Aha!, we follow The Responsive Method (TRM) and use our own product roadmapping software to set goals, build plans, and manage work.
“Agile teams cannot be remote. They need to be co-located in order to get the work done fast.” Reality: Not quite. Our fully distributed team ships new product features every single week.
“Remote teams are not innovative. It is impossible to ideate creatively without being in the same room.” Reality: Again, the right technology makes this possible. One workplace survey showed that the most innovative workers actually spend more time collaborating virtually.
“It is hard to collaborate.” Reality: Collaboration software makes it easier than ever to find expertise within our organization, build strong connections, and have meaningful and productive interactions. Our team at Aha! uses our own product to set strategy and track work.
“Remote workers cannot be managers.” Reality: Why does it matter where you are? Great leaders can be great from anywhere. As one Harvard Business Review article points out, virtual leaders “can be much more concentrated in their attention to each person and tend to be more conscious of the way they express their authority.” I agree.
“You cannot conduct effective training remotely.” Reality: Nope. We have an intensive onboarding program that gives every new Aha! employee a deep dive into our product and culture. With the right program in place, any company can get new hires up to speed remotely just as easily as in an office environment.
“Remote companies have no culture.” Reality: Our culture is not defined by in-office “perks” such as ping-pong tables and beer taps. Instead, our culture is rooted in our company’s values and goals.
“Remote workers cannot disconnect work life and home life.” Reality: Yes, it is easy to put in a lot of hours when you work from home. But remote work also makes it easy to tune into your personal life more. With no commute, we have more time for our friends, families, and other passions.
“Only jobs with clearly measured performance metrics can be remote.” Reality: We do not need pay-for-performance plans to know our teammates are working hard. Our remote team works hard for the sake of being the best — the outcome of that hard work has value in and of itself.
“Every company eventually needs an office.” Reality: The unbelievably rapid growth at Aha! is proof that a company can be anywhere and achieve its best.
No matter what you have heard about remote work, here is the truth — it does not matter where you work as long as you are bringing your best to each day.
I will always be an advocate for remote work. And I am happy to have a conversation about it — to share how this style of working has contributed to our team’s rapid success.
I just have one request before we begin talking: No more myths, please.
What myths have you heard about remote work?