There is no denying that remote teams are a growing trend throughout the working world. Global Workplace Analytics reports that the practice of working from home for the traditional (i.e., not self-employed) staff member has more than doubled since 2005. This is a result of supply and demand: the same data reports that more than 80 percent of working Americans want to telecommute, at least sometimes.
Despite their growing popularity, remote teams still suffer from some major misconceptions among non-telecommuters and even many executives and managers who haven’t embraced the remote work trend. Save a handful of in-office customer representatives, the bulk of my staff work remotely from locations across the globe. Here are some of the common myths about remote work and how we’ve found them to be untrue.
1. They’re Disconnected
Perhaps one of the most common myths about remote teams is that they are disconnected—from each other, from their managers, and from the company itself.
I will allow that this can sometimes be true—but it can just as easily be true for traditional in-office teams. Disconnection is a result of poor communication and a lack of positive company culture. If your team has strong platforms for discussion (both personal and professional) and a company culture that is explicit about engagement, employees will feel connected to each other and invested in the company’s mission. One could even argue that remote teams have better communication and company culture because they have to be more intentional and proactive about creating these habits.
2. They Work Less
It’s hard for many of us to disconnect the idea of productivity from our vision of the traditional office. We are uncomfortable with the idea of the home as a working space—the home is meant for relaxation, recreation and family time. Remote teams turn this idea on its head.
The reality of the situation is that remote teams not only match in-office teams in productivity, but they often exceed expectations. FlexJobs reports that less than 10 percent of workers say they’re actually more productive in an office. Not only are remote teams saved from a commute, which often cuts deeply into a traditional employee’s working hours, but access to the comforts of home and additional control over the working environment allow remote employees to create a hyper-productive space for themselves. Comfort is no longer the enemy of professionalism.
Perhaps it might be true to say remote teams work less—but only because they don’t have to work as much to achieve the same results.
3. There’s More Turnover
Another common illusion is that remote workers have less commitment to their jobs and therefore remote teams are constantly losing and hiring new people. In reality, the opportunity to work remotely is a major benefit that most employees are unlikely to sacrifice. One study from 2015 showed that a company halved their attrition rate by offering work-from-home options.
Employee retention is directly correlated to employee satisfaction. Remote teams report higher job satisfaction and less stress at work, which means they are deeply invested in their jobs and less likely to quit.
4. They’re Harder to Manage
Entrepreneur identified leading remote teams as the “key management skill for the 21st century.” Not only does this demonstrate the increasing popularity of remote teams, but it also demonstrates that the skills necessary for managing remote teams are different from traditional management skills. If a manager tries to apply traditional skills to a remote team, their job is going to be harder. This has led to a misconception that remote teams themselves are harder to manage, which simply isn’t true.
Change is hard. Teams and offices are changing and management skills are changing with them. Don’t mistake a manager’s unpreparedness as a remote team being difficult to manage.
5. They’re Just Like In-Office Teams
While this misconception is more positive than the others I’ve listed here, it’s a misconception all the same. While remote teams are not harder to manage, or less productive, they are still different from in-office teams and therefore have different needs. Assuming a new team format will match your existing management systems and assessment methods is a bad idea.
Remote teams will need a variety of features that traditional teams don’t. This might include a virtual platform where they can stay connected to each other or a project management system that allows them to monitor progress on individual projects, or both.
See for Yourself
Remote teams have been the subject of much debate but there is no denying the increasing demand for location-flexible work. This trend has to be acknowledged by businesses. It’s important that companies get real, tangible data about how remote teams operate before they embark on the remote journey in order to guarantee continued success. Many hiccups can be avoided by conscientious hiring and training practices.
That’s not to say there won’t be growing pains. At times, it might feel like some of these misconceptions are true, but remember that everything new takes practice. The trend of remote work is not going away, so hold space for mistakes and continued improvement as your business opens itself up to remote employees.