One of the biggest shifts in this current century is that technology now allows many people to work from outside the office. This is currently supplementing onsite work in many cases, but it’s not entirely unreasonable to wonder if the workspace of the future will be entirely digital.
With every cultural shift comes a slew of myths, and remote work is not immune from this phenomenon. There is plenty of misinformation out there about remote work, so we’re going to take some time to debunk three of the biggest myths about working from home.
Myth 3: Remote workers can’t be trained
We’re surprised by how often we here this one. A lot of companies assume that employees cannot be trained or educated remotely. There are several variations of this myth. Some people worry that online training is less effective than onsite training, while others bemoan the fact that they wouldn’t be able to bring everyone together into one room for a training activity. Many people with decades of experience worry that fresh hires won’t learn as fast as they once did.
We should point out that a lot of the companies perpetuating this myth are also using online learning courses for things like harassment training and data security training. The reasons they’re doing so: it’s effective, and it produces results that can be monitored.
On top of that, many accredited colleges (including Harvard) are offering online courses now. In fact, MIT did a study on the effectiveness of online courses a few years back. At the time, it was assumed that online courses might present a higher barrier to entry, and that people who began online learning without a lot of previous education would be left behind. What the study showed, however, completely contradicted these assumptions. MIT physics professor David Pritchard, who led the study, wrote, “the amount learned is somewhat greater than in the traditional lecture-based course.” On top of that, they found that the least prepared learners caught up to their more educated peers at a remarkable pace. “This actually is a case where a rising tide lifts all boats,” Pritchard remarked. If learning were impossible remotely, why would so many of the top colleges in the United States embrace it?
The bottom line is that remote learning is not only possible, it’s also been shown to be extremely effective.
Myth 2: Remote workers suffer from loneliness
This is a harder myth to tackle, because unlike the previous myth, this one is not based on assumptions. In fact, as Small Business Trends notes, a report by AngelList and Buffer showed that 20% of remote workers reported that they feel lonely; this was the biggest remote-work hurdle uncovered by the report.
However, that same report found that 97% of respondents would recommend remote work, and 98% wanted to keep working remotely indefinitely. So, despite the fact that a percentage of folks feel isolated and lonely while working from home, most of those same people are reporting higher levels of work satisfaction.
Additionally, working from home doesn’t have to be done in isolation. Many remote workers hit up a local café or coffee shop, and some even meet up with friends who work remotely in entirely different fields. People are building their own work communities rather than relying on their employer to do so, and for most workers, this is a positive shift.
We should stress that loneliness and isolation should be taken seriously. We don’t want to ignore the negative impact this can have on a person’s health. That said, there are resources out there for dealing with these things, and when implemented properly, remote work doesn’t have to be a source of loneliness.
Myth 1: Remote workers are less productive than on-site staff
There’s a silly assumption that remote workers sit on their couches in their pajamas all day, eating potato chips and binging television shows on Netflix. While it’s amusing to imagine such extravagant and irresponsible behavior, this doesn’t align with reality at all. In fact, in study after study, remote work has been shown to increase productivity.
We recently published a list of reasons why companies should let employees work remotely, and in that article, we referenced a Stanford university study that showed remote work to be incredibly effective. This study found that working from home increases productivity, workplace satisfaction, and employee retention.
A study by Airtasker showed similar results, as did a FlexJobs “Super Survey.” Clearly, the myth that remote work leads to decreases in productivity has very little ground to stand on.
We should also add that if a person can work at a high level of quality while also watching Netflix, why would that be a bad thing? Everyone’s routine is unique: some people work better while surrounded by entertainment, while others need complete silence. You can probably already see the problem that arises by making these two people share a workspace. By allowing them to work remotely, you’re giving both of them the chance to set up a workspace in which they can thrive.
We’ve said this before, but the future of the workplace is remote. While this might not work for everyone, there are many tangible benefits to letting employees work from home. Any future-minded company should be exploring remote options right now.