Remote work myths

3 Myths About Remote Work

May 13, 2020

Just three months ago, most companies and professionals thought that working remotely was not possible. They were convinced that there was something special about being in the same physical location.

It turns out, for the most part, that they were wrong. The experiences of most of the world over the last two to three months have shown what the research has shown for quite a while: remote workers are often both more productive and more satisfied than those making the trek to the office.

How, then, did so many live with this misconception for so long? It is difficult for us to accept something new as superior to something we know well. This is a version of anchoring bias, a common decision-making bias, that leads us to prefer the solution we hear first. Once we hear or experience a way of doing work, we tend to prefer it in the face of newer alternatives.

While the pandemic has brought an end to the misconception that work can’t happen from home, remote work, itself, comes with a series of inaccurate assumptions of its own.  Now, before you get comfortable with a way of working remotely, is the time to question these three myths about how you work remotely:

Myth 1: We need more meetings and communication.

It’s common to assume that you need to compensate for the lack of unplanned and organic interactions that take place in the office by adding more meetings to your calendar. And you may need to add some meetings to your calendar. For example, you may need to formalize interactions with scheduled meetings that used to happen casually and ad hoc.

If you were spending exactly the right amount of time in meetings before the pandemic sent you home, then you may need to have more meetings now than before. However, most professionals were already spending too much time in meetings and getting too little out of them.

To put it simply and bluntly (sorry), you have been wasting time in meetings. Now is the time to cut back on them for two reasons:

  1. People and companies are open to change right now in a way they normally aren’t
  2. It’s easier to skip meeting when working from home than when you’re sitting right next to the other people going to the meeting.

Here’s some guidance on which meetings to keep and which to retire.

Myth 2: We can prevent isolation by interacting more.

Myth 1 is caused, in part, by myth 2, which is the mistaken belief that if we just interact with people more, we won’t feel as isolated. While interaction is important, it, alone, will not prevent isolation. Isolation, particularly in the professional context, refers more broadly to the lack of access to resources and information that you need.

It’s not just about hearing other people’s voices or seeing other people’s faces. This is why 61% of senior managers said that meetings didn’t bring their teams closer together.

Isolation is a multi-dimensional experience that needs to be addressed holistically and thoughtfully. Before throwing more meetings on the calendar to ward off isolation, explore the five dimensions of social isolation.

Virtual Productivity Toolkit

Myth 3: 9-5 are still the best hours of the day for people to work.

This belief has been hinged inseparably to the belief that people need to come to offices to work. After all, if you’re going to all come to the same place to work, then you need to do so at the same time.

However, with the shattering of the notion that offices are where work needs to happen, this myth should no longer hold sway either. Yet, it continues to for many even though some are experiencing the freedom of leaving it behind. For example, one management consultant who I coach has found that he enjoys starting work a little earlier than normal, taking a break during the middle of the day, and then extending work later into the evening. He has expressed concern that when he returns to office, he won’t be able to continue this.

But why shouldn’t he be able to continue this? Of course, he’ll still need to attend meetings, which will require him to be available when others are. But why can’t he flex his schedule around his meetings and other interactions and push his meetings, when possible, to times of day when he is most productive.

This isn’t to say that every employee should be able to arbitrarily pick their own schedule and stick to it dogmatically. Clearly, that wouldn’t work. But we could let people flex their schedules to optimize their productivity and life, while fulfilling on their obligations to their coworkers and clients.

We have a historic opportunity to question and change ways of working that we have assumed to be correct and productive, but in many cases, simply aren’t. Before you settle into unproductive ruts while working from home, take the time to align yourself with what works.

Read the Virtual Productivity Toolkit to gain a more comprehensive understanding of research-based strategies for working from home proven to increase your productivity.