The past year and a half was an eye opener for many of us. Not only did we need to rethink our business strategies and objectives, but how to execute them. Companies that had teams in-office saw a change in their ‘office culture” as they shifted to a remote work setup. For some, this resulted in gaining an appreciation for how we can approach work in the “new normal.” However, we also saw the rise of remote work myths in the process.
As we return to normalcy globally, we have a chance to reflect on how businesses kept going during the pandemic. In that time, more people saw how remote work became a viable possibility. They saw the adoption of a hybrid work schedule might be the best way to go.
We acknowledge that companies like Diversify operate optimally when its teams are back on-site with the resources they need. However, we also do not dismiss the benefits of remote work. Even at full capacity, it’s important to discuss some common misconceptions of remote work and the lessons we learned by applying it.
Myth: Anyone can adopt a remote setup
One of the first concerns in the shift in remote work was what it would mean for productivity. When we think of remote work, we think of people in casual wear, sometimes on a porch or beach, taking in meetings or answering emails. Though a generalization, the flexibility of remote work is something that people gravitate to. This is particularly true with highly technical roles that require minimal supervision. As one of the major remote work myths, companies need to understand how productivity affects their teams.
From our experience, we learned that some roles are just as productive as their office counterparts. Though without managers checking on them over the shoulder, they remain as focused and committed in completing their tasks. In a survey conducted by Mercer, a workplace benefits consulting firm, 67% of companies said productivity remained the same before and during the pandemic. While the pandemic brought some unforeseen changes and shifts in approach, many of these companies continued their remote work setup that they were already familiar with.
Despite these advantages, businesses should be careful when deciding to lean into a remote work model more. While effective for several roles, there are some functions that ultimately work better in an office or hands-on environment. Based on our experience during the pandemic, we’ve seen which roles fit best remotely and which are more suited to be in-house. For instance, while being able to operate remotely, departments such as HR, IT and training thrive in an in-person environment. Ultimately, it depends on the roles being assigned to each team and what level of support they can get.
Remote Work Myth: Office culture develops only when in-person
Team building is an integral part of creating office culture. In the past, we’ve talked about how our in-office huddles were important to Diversify’s fabric and identity. They not only encouraged bonding and interaction among employees. They were a chance to show our appreciation for the work they do. It wasn’t uncommon to hear that some of the things people missed about being in the office were those get-togethers and small daily interactions. In Diversify’s case, it was challenging for our newly onboarded employees who had not yet experienced what being in our facilities meant.
We also discussed before our move to do more virtual events. It certainly is not the same as in-person gatherings, but the intent remained the same. With the help of a dedicated team that oversaw these events, we created a consistent schedule for teams to catch up and have a bit of fun along the way.
Building and maintaining connections in the workplace is integral. There are also several ways to achieve it. Whether it’s virtual gatherings, in-office events or just quick catch ups, fostering these connections will strengthen office culture.
Myth: Teams are always ready on-call
Some believe that an “advantage” to remote working is being always on-call. Especially during the pandemic – with several people staying home – it was much easier to get in touch with them.
However, teams working remotely need to also be treated the same as in-office teams. Remote employees also have limits that should be recognized to ensure continued satisfaction. Sure, they may have more flexibility, but they also have boundaries to what is being asked of them. Failing to do this can lead to burnout and mental stress that can affect their professional and personal lives.
It’s tempting to always have teams on call with the technology and communication tools at our disposal. But their well-being should always come first. For their part, leaders and managers should facilitate proper, regular breaks just like they would in an office setting. Doing so helps avoid teams from overworking and overall unhappiness in what they do.
Challenging these remote work myths
Something that we learned during the pandemic was to understand why these were considered remote work myths in the first place. In doing so, we saw what roles are more productive remotely through continued support and access to resources. We strive to communicate our goals, objectives and expectations to our teams clearly. By clearly communicating objectives and goals we set, our remote teams showed initiative and established a system that worked for them. By doing this, teams know what is expected in their outcomes. They feel more responsible and empowered to give their best performance.
Earlier we said that Diversify’s approach has always been working out of well-fitted facilities. At the same time, we recognize the ability to work remotely is part of the “new normal” we talk about. It’s true that there are several mixed feelings as to whether companies should opt for this change. What’s clear is that remote work has made it possible for more people to maintain their work-life balance while also getting their objectives done. The implementation of a hybrid work week is one that is currently challenging these remote work myths. As great a concept it is, remember it also comes with its own set of unique responsibilities. Regardless, whether at home, in the office or a mix of both, what matters is employees are consistently supported and engaged to ensure that they are most productive regardless of their current work environment.