The state of remote work is changing. According to a 2011 report from Microsoft titled “Work Without Walls“,
“The ongoing rise of telework reflects the new realities of today’s mobile information age, said Ron Markezich, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s U.S. Enterprise and Partner Group.
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“Telework is no longer a company perk for employees but a business imperative,” he said. “Ten years ago, it was seen more as an employee benefit. Today, businesses around the world are seeing telework as a necessity.””
There is a lot of mythology around remote work.
Common myths include:
1. Remote work is hassle free.
Reality: According to Work Without Walls, top complaints include not being able to speak face-to-face (the top issue at 42 percent); lack of a quick response (33 percent); thinking their co-workers lacked accountability (20 percent).
2. Get out of bed and work when and where you want.
Reality: True for some remote workers, but many are still bound by scheduling constraints based on their supervisor, colleagues, or customers. Even when traveling or working on vacation you still need to be available in many cases.
3. Less remote work and more play.
Reality: Remote workers are more sensitive to perceptions surrounding remote work and work longer and higher quality hours.
4. Good bye office.
Reality: Many remote workers will need to travel, or occasionally show up for face to face meetings at the employer or customer office.
5. Businesses wholeheartedly support remote work.
Reality: Not necessarily true. According to a US News article, “But there’s a dirty little secret that corporate America doesn’t want you to know. The reality is, most employers are not supportive of remote working. In an attempt to appear progressive, they pretend that flexible schedules are more of an option than they really are.”
Other reasons offered by US News:
- Control – When you work from home your boss can’t call you into his office on a whim.
- Appearance – A big building on Main Street and a sizable and visible staff will feed the ego of most head honchos.
- Communication – Yes, things get lost in translation when we communicate remotely, but you can also argue that some people communicate better electronically.
- Security Fears – Your company’s computer equipment on your network, yikes!
- It’s just a trend – The best business people evolve with the times, but some business owners believe remote work is a trend that will soon pass.
- Not everyone has the discipline to work from home.
- It’s isolating to employees.
6. All reward with no risk.
Reality: Information security is a valid employer concern. According to Work Without Walls, “The survey found many employees are using social networks to collaborate offsite, which means new security concerns as your business’ sensitive information could get exposed to prying eyes.”
7. Everyone wants to work exclusively from home.
Reality: Not so fast, everyone doesn’t want to work at home all the time. Many employees want and need face to face office interaction. According to Work Without Walls, “On average employees said nine days per month would be the right amount of time to telecommute; employers thought it would be about four. That’s a cultural legacy, Markezich said. “So much of business was built around the workplace,” “
The good news is that Remote work is evolving in positive ways.
It’s not all sour and dour for remote work. Positive trends are gaining ground for the remote worker. According to a Mashable Business article titled “How the Remote Workforce is Changing“, some noteworthy trends include;
- The remote workforce is growing, “The U.S. teleworking population in 2010 was estimated at 26.2 million — nearly 20% of the U.S. adult working population.”
- Remote work has become mainstream, ““More employers put telework policies in place after 9/11 and various natural disasters,” she says. “Today, employers see remote work capabilities as key to keeping their business operating when there are disruptions.”
- Working remotely has matured, “In fact, recent studies have suggested that today’s remote workers enjoy the same access to information as office-based colleagues, but do so without the hassle of interruptions people in traditional workplaces have to contend with.”
- Remote workers are developing new skills, “This is requiring a new set of skills around empowering employees to be more self-reliant and self-motivating, developing managers to manage remotely,” she says. The managers, in particular, must “develop the communication skills to keep remote workers connected to the team and ensure adequate knowledge exchange and alignment to team and organizational aims and objectives.”