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Remote Workers: Myths and Facts

August 25, 2015 | By | Reply More

remote workers

Originally seen in ICMI.com

Images abound of remote workers spending all day on beaches or in their pajamas. Most of these are inaccurate images of how telecommuters really work.

 

Myth: Teleworkers work in pajamas

Fact:  Just like their onsite counterparts, remote workers have a destination. That destination may be only twenty feet from their bedroom, but their goal is the same: to get to work and to complete tasks they are paid to do. To perform those tasks well takes a particular mindset, one that says, “I am ready to work and to do my work well.”

 

It is rather difficult to switch to that mindset when they are still engaged in a routine that just hours earlier prepared them for bed.  But that’s what happens when remote workers stay in their pajamas. People that work from home must create clean break from one routine (bedtime) to the next (work time).

 

Myth: Daycare is unnecessary for a teleworker

Fact:  Many parents inexperienced in telecommuting see the option to telework as a relief from the financial burdens of daycare. It is often these same parents who insist that parenting is one of the hardest jobs on earth (and it is!), then suddenly believe they can parent and efficiently perform a job for a company all at the same time. Not so.

 

Just as an employer would not allow staff to regularly bring children to work, so should it be with telecommuting. Especially with young children or highly dependent elderly.

 

Myth: Most telecommuters goof around all day

Fact: Most remote workers work long hours, sometimes burning the midnight oil. In fact, it has been shown that good workers who are allowed to telecommute actually become more productive than when onsite. It’s a matter of work ethics.

 

A person who slacks off at home probably slacked off in the office. Office distractions such as meetings, coffee breaks, and chatty colleagues, while a hindrance to good workers, are very good for hiding slackers.

 

Myth: Remote work is only suitable for IT workers

Fact:  The real question today is not what type of profession is suitable for telecommuting, but if an individual company can offer telecommuting based on their technological capabilities. While call center work is increasingly becoming home based, not all call centers have the same technological capabilities.

 

Thanks in large part to technology teleworking is possible for professionals in a wide range of fields. The University of Florida’s telecommuting policy says it best: “As a rule of thumb, if someone can close their office door for eight hours, without the need for face-to-face contact, then consider the job for telecommuting.”

 

Myth: Successful teleworkers are usually introverts

Fact: There’s no question that telecommuting can be isolating, which is why it’s commonly thought of as a good option for introverts, and also believed that only introverts can be productive teleworkers. However, while introverts might enjoy environments with less distractions, those reasons alone do not necessarily make them the best candidates for teleworking.

 

Rather, there are certain work ethics, which both introverts or extroverts can have, that help determine if a person will succeed as a telecommuter.

 

Work practices such as the ability to work independently, reliability, organization, being a team player, and embracing technology are better success indicators. Employees who do not need to be micromanaged, who are able to set short- and long-term goals and follow them, and who are strong communicators can thrive in a remote environment regardless of personality type. In fact, extroverts who possess these work skills may perform better in an environment where they aren’t tempted to constantly socialize.

 

Myth: Teleworking kills collaboration and communication

Fact: Communication doesn’t happen only around water coolers or in hallways; nor does collaboration only occur in rooms full of people around a tables. Today’s technology enables people to communicate with each other across the globe. Texting and instant messaging allow remote workers to spontaneously share ideas almost as quickly as they think them. Video software enable people from around the world to meet at one time to share their ideas, data, and progress reports.

 

Physical presence is not a requirement for spontaneous and creative communication. Furthermore, telecommuting permits greater forethought in other types of communications, which may prevent conflicts so typical in many workplaces.

 

Myth: Teleworking creates security risks for companies

Fact:  Security breaches are avoidable. There are three different groups that cause them: organized criminals, activists, and people affiliated with the company.  Unfortunately, the biggest group of these breaches are from people affiliated with the company. This is another reason why trust is a critical factor when choosing an employee to work from home.

 

It is not teleworking per se that is the cause of security breaches. A good employee does not turn hacker because of telecommuting. If breaches occur in telecommuting situations it is likely that the company did not provide the necessary firewalls, and other safeguards to prevent them from happening. If a company provides the same protection to teleworkers as they do onsite workers then there is no reason to assume that teleworking will create data security risks.

 

Myth: It’s an employee’s job to make telecommuting succeed

Fact:  Telework programs rarely fail because good employees inexplicably turn bad. Firstly, managers must be open to telecommuting. If they are resistant to a company’s decision to launch a telecommuting program, yet are in charge of managing telecommuters, this is a recipe for failure.

 

Secondly, telecommuting is a team effort. According to WorldAtWork’sRose Stanley, “You cannot just train a teleworker on how to be a good teleworker. You have to also train the manager and teach them how to manage by results and you have to train the coworkers how to communicate and work with teleworkers when they’re not in the office. If you leave them out you’re destined for problems.”

 

Myth: Teleworkers don’t care much about company relationships

Fact: Too often managers assume that the option to telecommute is so rewarding to remote workers that they don’t need to worry about other needs their team might have. However, remote employees have the same needs as onsite staff: the need for community, recognition, and support. A manager trained in telecommuting management will take steps to ensure remote workers don’t fall through the cracks.

 

Your turn: What image did you have of remote workers that the facts of this article helped dispel?

 

Are you interested in remote working but don’t know where to find hiring companies? Learn how to find telecommuting jobs with Telework Recruiting!

 

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Category: Human Resources, Productivity, Virtual Workforce Management, Work Ethics

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About the Author ()

Pamela La Gioia has been researching and writing about teleworking issues since the early 1990's. She is CEO/Founder of Telework Recruiting, the leading provider of technical and professional telecommuting career opportunities.

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