Busting 3 Myths About Remote Work | College of Executive Coaching
Coaching Article

Busting 3 Myths About Remote Work

March 27, 2020
An excerpt from an article by Stefanie Mockler, MA, Leadership Consultant and Coach

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Like so many of our clients and colleagues, the College of Executive Coaching team converted virtually overnight from a central office to being a remote team. By all accounts our transition has been a huge success. Like you, we have learned a lot quickly. One of the things we have learned is how well our already tight team can continue to be highly effective even when we are not in the same office. My colleague, Stephanie Mockler, Executive Coach wrote an excellent article busting the myths about remote work. An excerpt of her article is presented here for you.

Busting 3 Myths About Remote Work

As some have aptly noted, we are now in the world's biggest work-from-home experiment.

Remote work refers to working from all sorts of locations, and its use has been on the rise for a while (with Forbes reporting that it's no longer simply a privilege but rather standard operating mode for nearly 50% of the US population); however, in light of COVID-19, many have been asked to shift to remote work practically overnight, without much time to get a solid plan in place.

So, if this is you, your team, or your organization, let's take a moment to bust some myths and stereotypes regarding remote work.

Also, as a preface, if this is the first time you're managing a remote team, or working remotely yourself, it will be messy as you figure things out—I'd encourage you to approach this from a change management mindset, assuming that, before things "click" and become effective, they are likely to become more challenging, frustrating, and difficult.

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There is a lot of power in remembering that we are in this together. If you're struggling with the change, chances are someone else is too—so get together, listen and provide support, and collaboratively identify solutions.

This is also a great time to shift from asking why to asking what. A tool I learned in reading Tasha Eurich's work on self-awareness. "Why" questions can lead to a cycle of rumination and exacerbate frustrations, whereas "what" questions help us shift into mindset of problem-solving.

For example: ask not "why am I feeling so frustrated right now?" but rather, "what could I do differently to make this new reality more effective?"

Several of my clients have said that they recognize and accept that things usually get more challenging through a period of change and transition, and they are focused on proceed with a learning mindset, and importantly, some levity (the world feels heavy enough right now, right?).

So, your dog won't stop barking while you're on a conference call, your cat walks across your computer screen while in a video conference (yes, both things happened to me in the last few days), or your child won't stop talking your ear off while you're trying to chat with your team—call it out, laugh it off and move on.

I recently spoke with a senior leader who said: "My 2-year old daughter is with me this morning. I won't apologize for it, but I wanted you to know."

Beautiful, right?

We're all human, and in this experience, we're seeing more of each others' lives (and homes) than ever, and if we spin it right, it will be a powerful means of connection.

OK, now that you're armed with a few personal strategies to get through the this change, let's bust some myths that promote a bias against remote work and contribute to feelings of guilt for flex-workers.

Myth: People who work remotely get less done than those who work in a traditional office.

Reality: First, regardless of where someone is working, there are always going to be people who are more productive than others —working environment, felt motivation, job fit—however, if you take a talented, motivated, and productive employee who is a good fit for their current position, and put them in another place (home) to work, they're not going to simply become unproductive overnight.

So, let's nip that in the bud real quick... moving on. Evidence suggests that when employees are offered remote working options, their performance may be enhanced through increased job satisfaction.

Dan Pink—author of Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us—argues that performance is actually a combination of three intrinsic elements:

  1. Autonomy: freedom and control to direct our own lives
  2. Purpose: desire to do something meaningful
  3. Mastery: strive to continually improve in our work

I noticed when I reflect on Pink's comments that none of the above mention: "desire to work in an office space" as key to performance.

So, in all seriousness, as you shift to remote work, consider how you might tap into these three elements of motivation, regardless of location.

Myth: Traditional employees are more committed to their work than remote employees.

Reality: Evidence suggests that employees who have the benefit of working flexibly tend to be more committed, likely due to flexibility's positive impact on their well-being, feelings of control and autonomy, and reduction of work-life conflict.

The positive relationship between employee commitment and remote work is particularly evident for informal working options as they tend to emerge on an ad hoc basis through times of need (e.g., COVID-19) or through negotiation with one's supervisor or boss, and are likely accompanied by feelings of supervisor or boss support.

Myth: It is easier to communicate and collaborate when everyone is in one space.

Reality: Okay, so is it easier to communicate and collaborate when your colleagues are literally down the hall? Sure.

But, saying "well, it's easier" as a rationale against shifting to work remote is quite an excuse. The more apt thing to say is that remote work can be more challenging, at first, because it requires a lot of change in how we work, collaborate, and communicate.

Simply throwing around the "well, it's easier" excuse is, while not necessarily myth, a phrase to bust.

I'm wondering how you have experienced working from home. What has worked surprisingly well? What has happened that is funny, that has brought you some smiles? In what way will you continue to work differently even when the pandemic passes?

Please let us know your thoughts!

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