Remote Work Misconceptions: 11 Wrong Ideas About Telecommuting

remote work misconceptions

The day-to-day office work grind is often formulaic. You have the same schedule, expectations, and routine each and every day. While that is ideal for some, others pine for more flexibility and opportunities to work at their own pace. Enter remote work.

Remote and telecommute-friendly jobs are quickly becoming a global phenomenon. Not only can individuals complete their daily tasks from a setting of their choice, but they are not tied to the monotony of routine.

However, remote work is not just unicorns and rainbows. It is a job that requires discipline, attention to detail, and time management. Unfortunately, many of the facets of telecommuting can get lost under the veil of social media posts or simple disinformation. If you are considering a leap to the virtual work world, make sure you review these common remote work misconceptions and the realities behind each.

1. Remote Work Reduces Career Growth

One of the most common remote work misconceptions is that it is a hindrance to career growth or promotions. While this may be true in a managerial sense, virtual workers are still afforded plenty of opportunities to grow within a company. The job title may not always change, but with expanded knowledge, a worker can take on more responsibilities and add value through other means.

For example, a content writer may produce only articles, blogs, or ebooks. Yet with the right mix of experience and credentials, they may have more chances to impress their superiors. By earning certifications in inbound marketing, content strategy, or social media marketing, this individual could increase their earning potential while also boosting their resumé.

A remote worker may not have the face-to-face interaction that allows them to bond with management, but the mantra still remains: results are results. Demonstrating your abilities and putting them into practice will lead to upward mobility.

2. Telecommuting Decreases Productivity

Another common remote work misconception is that remote work somehow reduces productivity. However, studies have shown that remote work actually increases productivity. The reasons behind this uptick in productivity stem from a lack of distraction and the ability to focus on tasks without needing to refocus.

Offices are often distracting places for people to work. When fellow cubicle dwellers come over four times a day just to chat, you’re forced to partake in water cooler talk, or you have to go to meetings that don’t pertain to you, your productivity suffers. Without these interruptions, remote work allows you to stay on task.

3. Remote Workers Earn Less Money

Because remote workers can work from home, a common misconception is that they give up extra income to do so. Fortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Companies that employ remote workers often see their overhead lowered in a number of ways:

  • Decreased rent cost (from moving to an office for fewer workers).
  • Minimized utility and energy costs.
  • Reduced office supply and equipment costs.
  • Increased hours and productivity from salaried workers due to a lack of commute, a more comfortable workplace setting, and less clock-watching.

When companies can reduce fixed costs, they are more likely to offer a better compensation package. According to one report, 24% of remote workers earn at least $100,000 per year. Only 7% of office-based workforce members make this salary or higher. Such a disparity in income not only disproves the claim that remote workers earn less, it also makes the possibility of remote work that much more alluring.

4. Telecommuting is Confined to Only a Few Job Types

While industries such as writing, information technology and web development might have more opportunities for working remotely, companies are quickly realizing the benefits of a remote or diversified workforce. Sales, health care, management, consulting, marketing, and education are all part of the top 20 remote industries. Job opportunities are rife within these sectors, and with continued job growth, the chance to work in a remote capacity is also expected to increase.

5. Remote Workers Are All Digital Nomads

The appeal of the digital nomad lifestyle fuels the desire for people to work from home. While this is a certainty, it is one of the most significant remote work misconceptions. In fact, only 25% of remote workers identify as digital nomads and just 5% visit more than five countries in a year. The important distinction here is that workers often pursue telecommute-friendly options for flexibility and work-life balance rather than travel. In many instances, remote employees are still expected to be in their home office during the same hours as their employers. This renders working from overseas almost impossible unless the worker does not mind odd hours or a graveyard shift.

6. Millennials Dominate the Remote Work Landscape

While a vast majority of millennials state that they would prefer to work remotely, one of the widely believed remote work misconceptions is their generation dominates the virtual work landscape. This simply is not true. One statistical analysis from Global Workplace Analytics actually shows that the typical remote worker is college educated with a median age of 45. For experienced professionals searching for a way to get away from the office grind or 9-to-5, this statistic speaks loudly for their remote hiring potential.

7. Remote Workers Are Always On-Call

Working from home gives individuals the opportunity to set their schedule to some degree. They may have to align their work activities with those of the company, or they may be given an opportunity for greater autonomy. Either way, a remote work misconception is that remote workers are on-call or available to work 24/7.

Some employers may push the envelope to see when and how much their remote employees will work, but contractual agreements and a common understanding can negate this idea. Sure, remote workers have the option to hop on their computers until the wee hours of the morning, but it is typically a matter of preference, not a requirement.

8. Only Small Businesses and Startups Hire Remote Workers

Another remote work misconception is that only small businesses and startups hire remote workers. While these types of companies may have a higher rate of remote work opportunities, large corporations are not averse to telecommute-friendly jobs. Ideally, these companies can benefit from a mix of in-office and at-home employees.The reasons for this are numerous. Remote workers have been proven more productive and lower company overhead, while on-the-job employees are advantageous for a variety of other reasons such as face-to-face interaction, addressing problems, and collaboration. Companies that offer remote work opportunities enjoy lower operating costs, less turnover, and more.

9. Telecommuters Watch Netflix and Work in Their Pajamas

The possibility of turning on Netflix and sitting on the couch in your pajamas with a laptop is real. But this is yet another one of many remote work misconceptions. Certain days may afford remote workers with the opportunity to finish up some emails or small details in this fashion. In reality, this limits the productivity of the worker and can lead to stress, missed deadlines, or poor work habits.

Grabbing a cup of coffee and getting the workday started before you hop in the shower is surely an advantage of remote work. However, most telecommuters find a boost in productivity and an increase in inspiration by structuring their workday just as they would if they worked in an office. Without a daily regimen, remote workers can find themselves constantly behind on their workload or struggling to keep their heads above water. Pajamas and movies are fine on occasion, but few make it a habit.

10. Remote Work Breeds Loneliness

Being a digital nomad in some far-off destination, or an at-home worker spending all day in an office of one, is a recipe for disaster for the introverted. Loneliness can creep in without warning, and often, you are left with FaceTime or Skype as your only meaningful communication with the outside world in both a personal and professional setting. That said, the idea that all remote work leaves you feeling isolated is a myth.

Thanks to cloud-based communication platforms such as Slack, Trello, or Asana, remote workers often report being more engaged and connected to their coworkers than those who work from an office. The reasoning behind this is not entirely clear, but it may be the result of changing means of daily interactions in an increasingly digital world. When most people’s daily communication consists of direct messages and texts, applying the same idea to work isn’t a far stretch. 

11. Remote Companies Lack Company Culture

An enjoyable or relaxed company culture makes workers happier and more productive. In the office, this might include days where you can bring your pet to work, a loose dress code, or free beer Fridays. Because most of these ideas require a setting to work, many people believe fostering a beneficial remote company culture is impossible.

Fortunately, this is another one of the many remote work misconceptions. Company culture on a remote level is markedly different from office settings, but that doesn’t mean it’s nonexistent. Remote companies operate with a higher level of autonomy, allowing trust to increase vertically and job roles to expand horizontally. To some degree, this trustworthiness can improve the working relationship between individuals and increase perceived value within individuals.

On-the-job perks that dictate company culture at an office are not entirely absent from the digital work forum either. Costume contests, secret Santa, and raffles are easily applicable to a remote workforce. Like an office setting, the ability to create an exciting, engaging work culture lies with management.

Some individuals require supervision or a manager to give them the next task. If that is you, remote work might not be the solution. But if you are a self-starter,  ambitious, and able to comfortably walk the line between work and personal life, telecommuting is a viable option that gives you the best of both worlds.

What myths would you add to this list of remote work misconceptionsConnect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to tell us. We’d love to hear from you!

iStock Photo Credit: TARIK KIZILKAYA

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