Why entrepreneurs need to bust these 7 myths and embrace remote working to boost productivity
Companies are shifting towards a 24x7 global workspace. More often than not, team members in places ranging from Honolulu to Hanoi collaborate to some of the best tech products being used by millions across the globe.
From startups (the examples include Buffer, Zapier, and Help Scout to name a few) to corporate giants such as Google, IBM and Sun Microsystems, companies are increasingly becoming receptive to the idea of remote teams to supplement their teams. And while the benefits for employees are obvious, including saving on commute time and working in a comfortable space, employers also see advantages like lower office overheads and not having to worry about team members coming late to work due to traffic.
A study by Gallup indicates that employees who work remotely three to four days a week feel the most engaged in their jobs.
Moreover, when Buffer surveyed 2,500 respondents, they found that 99 percent would like to work remotely for some time, for the rest of their career.
Remote work is not a trend anymore. It is here to stay.
If you are still hesitant to embrace the distributed remote working culture, let us debunk the seven biggest myths surrounding remote teams. These examples and solutions to commonly faced problems that you feel could hinder the growth of your company will help you and your company switch to remote working.
Myth #1: Remote workers don’t actually work
A common myth perpetuated about remote working is that employees take advantage of not showing up to office by slacking off. While a small fraction of remote workers may lack discipline, the majority of remote teams work as much as in-office teams.
One way of making sure that employees are all connected at certain hours of the day is by setting specific hours during which remote workers need to be available for calls and discussions with the entire team.
Help Scout, a customer service software, has 75 members in their remote team from 12 countries and 50 cities. Here’s how they have conference calls.
Source – Leah Knobler – Help Scout’s talent and culture lead.
With remotely operating teams, managers tend to focus on an employee’s output over the number of hours logged in. Someone who completes a week’s worth of work in four days while working remotely is more efficient – not less – than someone sitting in an office who takes a week. Using a project management tool, the manager can know status of the work being done constantly by team members.
Myth #2: It is hard to communicate with remote workers
Given the lack of in-person interaction and different time zones, it is easy to assume that communication with remote workers and keeping them updated about what’s happening is tough. However, a survey by TINYpulse indicates that 52 percent of remote workers make it a point to communicate with their manager at least once a day. And when you factor in texts and emails, this number goes up even more.
Here is the list of tools that will efficiently power your company’s day-to-day operations.
- Video chat: Zoom
- Tracking the team’s work, managing projects, and the sales pipeline: SmartTask
- Shared emails and spreadsheets: Gmail and Google Sheets
- HR dashboard and portal: Zenefits
- Security and password management: Okta
- Instant messaging and communication: Slack
- Real-time collaboration: Dropbox
- Planning meetings and tracking the off-time: Calendly and Timetastic
Myth #3: Remote workers are not productive
When employees are not compelled to report to the office, many people think that their productivity drops. However, a survey by Workforce Futures shows that an astonishing 83 percent of employees do not feel the need for an office space to be productive, while another study by FlexJobs reveals that 59 percent of workers prefer working out of home or in another space such as a coffee shop.
The removal of commute time is a major factor here, as employees spend at least 30 minutes in commute each way between home and their workplace. In addition, they can now manage their other responsibilities such as childcare, household duties, and social outings more efficiently, which means that they are more focused during work hours and can accomplish more in shorter periods of time.
Myth #4: There are too many distractions in remote working
Many companies argue that there are too many distractions at home, including family members and household chores. An office space, however, has its own share of distractions, including talkative co-workers, invitations to step out for breaks, and loud phone conversations all around. The time it takes an employee to get back to a task after a distraction cuts into a significant chunk of the workday.
Ctrip, a Chinese travel website, gave their call centre staff the provision to voluntarily work from home for nine months. The results were astonishing:
The additional benefits of this experiment, as reported in the Harvard Business Review, were:
- They saved nearly $1,900 per employee for nine months.
- One-third of their productivity increased.
- People working from home completed 13.5 percent more calls than staff working from the office, resulting in Ctrip getting almost one extra day a week out of them.
Moreover, remote workers can organise their workplace the way it suits them, to increase their productivity.
Ultimately, the onus lies on every employee to be disciplined and focused at work, no matter where they are located.
Myth #5: Security gets compromised with remote working
Managers often fear that their data could be at risk if employees are working from a remote, unsecured location. However, an efficient IT team can handle that by setting up virtual private networks (VPN) and two-factor authentication. This way, unauthorised users can’t access information on the system. Moreover, those who are out to steal company data will do so regardless of location – to blame remote working for this is to blame the bullet for the kill.
Myth #6: Online meetings with remote workers are ineffective
Many companies believe that the lack of in-person interaction makes virtual meetings ineffective. However, online meetings are even more effective than offline meetings.
Firstly, remote workers are more sensitive to varying time zones and the deadlines involved in a project, and are thus likelier to concentrate more during meetings. Secondly, managers know that everyone is on a tight schedule, and thus tend to keep the meetings brief and to the point.
Buffer, a social media scheduling tool, has a team of 80+ people in every continent and across different time zones.
Joel Gascoigne, the Founder and CEO of Buffer, says that for face-to-face time together to bond, the Buffer team has regular team-wide retreats every year. Additionally, they have mini-retreats all year long for individual teams and areas of the company.
Meetings – whether online or offline – don’t always have to be about work. Your remote team can also grab coffees at their respective locations and chat over a video call with colleagues and managers about casual topics like pets or hobbies. Such meetings help to bring team members closer together, which in turn boosts their collaborative efficiency.
Myth #7: Company culture falls apart when teams are remote
People define culture together; it is not set in stone. Companies with remote teams know that. Foster a spirit of belonging among remote employees. Simple gestures, such as a manager checking in on an employee’s health or a casual chat about last week’s football match, can go a long way in building stronger workplace bonds.
Moreover, company culture depends less on ping-pong games and more on quality interactions. Research from Remote.co indicates that companies with remote workforces make it a point to host joint voice conferences, video calls, and chat-based discussions every day, based on a time that suits everyone’s schedules.
Nick Francis, the Co-founder and CEO of Help Scout, says of the 92 people they hired, only five resigned. He attributes this to employee engagement at the company.
Feedback, recognition, and managers genuinely caring about the well being of the team are of utmost importance in retaining the best people.
The bottom line
Remote working is here to stay, and companies that embrace remote working as a viable option will see a 10 percent increase in employee retention by 2020. As a founder, focus on improving productivity. With the right tools, team, and attitude, your company is set for success at a global level.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)
(Teja Lele Desai)