Up until 2020, I heard many people claim that remote work doesn’t… well… work. Even now, with many people working from home due to the pandemic, I still encounter those who think this shift is only temporary; that it isn’t sustainable.
Silicon Valley doesn’t seem to feel this way. Tech giants like Twitter are already embracing the switch to remote, and told employees that they never need to be in the office again.
So why aren’t others following their example?
Their belief holds them back
Business owners and managers can believe so strongly in remote work’s failings that they don’t invest the time, energy, and training required to develop a functional remote work program.
Even when they’re forced to do it, as is the case now, they’re so concerned about the cost of the up-front investment—and the imagined lack of a return—that they deliberately limit remote work to certain individuals, or impose unwieldy restrictions.
The remote work program isn’t set up to succeed, and so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It fails, and the company has its excuse to never try it again.
Giving into fears
Managers are afraid of remote work. To be more specific, they’re afraid of what their teams would do (or not do) under a remote work arrangement.
If you’re going to successfully apply remote work in your organization, you have to acknowledge these fears and take the objections head-on.
Fear #1: What if they drop off?
There’s this deep-set fear that employees are more likely to leave if they’re working remotely—as if their distance from their manager is directly related to how loyal they are.
That simply won’t happen. If they’re successful, you’re successful.
The fact of the matter is that remote workers are happier. They are more productive and are more likely to stay with the company.
When you let your employees work remotely, you’re giving them what they want/need to live a balanced life, and they’ll do their best to make you happy so they can keep this lifestyle.
Fear #2: Not focusing on their work
The hardest fears to overcome are those that are based on a seed of truth.
It is true that unmotivated remote workers or those who’ve been temporarily forced into the role due to COVID have trouble coping and staying focused. However, this isn’t true for remote workers who choose to be remote.
Many freelancers and voluntary remote workers have never set foot in the office or meet their clients in person, and yet regularly deliver high-quality work and log their time. When remote is part of their chosen career, these workers arrange quiet workspaces to increase their focus and enable their success.
Fear #3: I won’t know what they’re doing
If you have this fear, then the problem is with you, not your people. As a manager, you should be able to manage without micromanaging. If you don’t trust the people you hire to work without you, then why did you hire them in the first place?
If you are still too nervous about work not being done, then there are tools and tactics for monitoring people’s output. Ideally, you should be using these to help them improve—not just for the sake of hovering, which continues to foster distrust.
Fear #4: They’re not going to be as productive
This is related to the previous fear, but with an emphasis on effectiveness. How do you know that your team are doing their jobs properly? How do you know that your sales reps are saying the right things, or performing tasks with the right amount of mindfulness?
Again, technology offers the solution. Call monitoring technology, productivity and collaboration software tools can help you track and maintain various tasks, quality of performance, and assure that you’re meeting your goals.
But make sure you use these tools to train employees, not shame them. Invest in training and growing your remote team as you would an in-house team. Set realistic expectations and measurable goals.
Don’t be a slave to your fears and misgivings. Address each concern rationally, and you’ll see that the benefits of remote work far outweigh the risks.
If remote work fails, it’s because we fail to invest in it properly. Not because of the people we hire or the remote arrangement itself.
Remote work offers teams the flexibility, freedom, and independence to work from anywhere and at alternative schedules. It gives your team agency to create the life they want working the way they want.