Sunglasses on beach sand to represent working remotely

Four Myths About Working Remotely

A decade ago, nearly every article about remote work featured a cheesy image of a man using a laptop on a beach. Two years into the global shift to remote work, we all seem less naive about what working remotely actually means. 

Articles about remote work no longer feature men on laptops in white sandy beaches; we hear more about the challenges remote workers face and how working remotely affects our careers; in the media, remote workers look less like white dudes living the dream and more like multitasking moms and burned out senior employees and CEOs. 

But some myths about working remotely still persist. Here are the most common:

Working remotely means working less

“The biggest myth tends to be that remote workers don’t get any work done, or get less work done,” says software developer Andrew Farley. 

In his opinion, it’s office workers who get less done. “Most people in traditional work settings waste a lot of time with chit chat, transportation to and from work, and regular half-hour coffee and smoke breaks,” he explains. 

And meetings. And while remote workers don’t meet any less, Andrew Otto, a systems engineer, says working remotely enables him to get things done even when he can’t escape them. “If they don’t really pertain to you—as meetings often don’t—you can just stay in the meeting muted but work on other real things,” he says.

Remote workers might be more productive than in-office workers, but they don’t work shorter shifts. Recent data on telecommuting shows that they typically work 48.5 minutes longer, and many put in hours on weekends and holidays.

Conclusion: Working remotely does not mean working less, but more. “We (remote workers) do real work and can focus!” says Andrew Otto.

Working remotely means less visibility into work

Bruno Siqueira, a software engineer at Atlassian, thought he’d have less visibility into his teammates’ work once they shifted to remote, but he was wrong.

“What was demystified for me in the past year is that it’s hard to have transparency and accountability in remote work. We have a lot of clarity about what we are all doing. Not just on my team, but in the entire department.”

This, he says, is only possible because they have processes and tools in place to keep communication flowing, and a strong culture of teamwork.

Conclusion: Working remotely doesn’t mean working in the dark. By building transparency into workflows, communicating often, and integrating transparency a value, companies can ensure teams have the clarity they need to succeed. 

Working remotely requires no special skills

Companies forced into remote work gave employees laptops, keyboards, and ergonomic office chairs and hoped for the best. But, as Cali Williams Yost, a work flexibility expert, told the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), people need more than just gear to succeed at remote work. “Simply handing an employee a laptop and downloading Zoom or some other collaborative software is not enough.” 

According to Yost, above all, remote workers need to know how to create healthy remote work routines to prevent burnout. “Managing the boundaries between work and life is a skill set people need and most didn’t have before the pandemic and still don’t,” she said.

But setting boundaries isn’t the only ability workers need to excel at remote jobs. Because communication is crucial to remote work, good writing skills are essential. “If you are trying to decide between a few people to fill a position, always hire the better writer,” reads Basecamp’s guide on how to build a successful application.

In addition to writing chops, Zapier’s guide to hiring a remote team also lists a propensity towards action, the ability to prioritize, and trustworthiness as skills to look for in a potential remote hire. 

Conclusion: Not everyone is cut out for remote work. To be a successful remote employee, you need a special set of skills.

Working remotely means no friends at work

Work friendships make employees happier, more productive, and less likely to quit. But is it even possible to get to know your teammates when working remotely? 

Wade Foster, co-founder of Zapier, believes being social in a remote team isn’t impossible—it just takes extra work.  “All those things tend to naturally happen in person, while they don’t happen in a remote team unless you force it,” he wrote.

Becca Van Nederynen, head of People Ops at HelpScout, agrees. “Remote teams can be very close-knit, but the distance involved requires better planning and deliberate effort,” she wrote.

Wade thinks chatting in real time about things other than work can help remote employees stay connected. He’s a fan of Donut, an app that pairs team members for virtual coffee dates. “Pair buddy chats help keep some semblance of the office social life as part of work and encourage people who work in different departments to get to know each other better,” he wrote

Most remote teams—including our own—also meet in person at least once a year in a company retreat. Retreats give remote team members a chance to hang out as a group and learn more about one another other.

Conclusion: Working remotely doesn’t have to be lonely or isolating. Remote workers can still get to know and feel connected to their teammates.  

Remote work is unique

Remote work isn’t better or worse than working in an office, just different. It takes more than a laptop and a good internet connection to succeed at remote work. If you know how to set boundaries and communicate clearly, value teamwork and transparency, and can connect with teammates on a personal level even from far away, then you’ve got what it takes to stand out as a remote employee.

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