It's no secret that the future of work is becoming more and more remote. But remote work isn't a new concept. Companies have offered remote options for their employees ever since Jack Nilles coined the term "telecommuting" in 1972 while working remotely for NASA.
So why are some leaders today so hesitant to embrace remote work for their employees? There are a lot of myths out there about working remotely. Many of them are rooted in common misconceptions, including not understanding the benefits of remote work, finding the right balance between remote and in-person culture at work, and not having enough resources or support to do remote "right."
The truth is, with commutes getting longer and an incredibly competitive job market, employees have more options than ever on where and how they work. To that end, companies unwilling to flex their approach to include and support remote employees will miss out on critical talent, not to mention the opportunity to create the workforce of the future, not the past.
These are the three myths I hear most associated with remote work, and statistics companies and leaders should consider as they weigh the upside of remote and flexible work options.
1. Myth: Remote workers are unproductive.
This might be the biggest misconception of them all. Employers tend to think that remote workers spend their days catching up on Netflix's latest murder mystery. Truth is, 65 percent of employees are actually more productive working remotely. FlexJob's annual survey explains why: When you work remotely outside of an office, there are fewer distractions, less time spent commuting, a quieter noise level, you can wear what you're comfortable in, and there are fewer meetings that break up your day.
Ultimately, there's more time to focus on the work at hand without feeling the pull of day-to-day office stressors. And if you make sure to hire the right people into your remote community, they'll be part of that 65 percent stat instead of spilling spoilers from next season's Making a Murderer.
2. Myth: Remote workers are unhappy and unengaged.
Another stereotype about remote work is that employees who work from home don't know when to unplug because they work in the same place that they live. But actually, a study by AmeriSleep found that not only are remote employees 57 percent happier in their careers, but more than 80 percent of respondents say that they're less stressed. And that is ultimately why 75 percent plan on working remotely the rest of their careers.
Employee burnout is real, and it's one of the leading causes of low retention. Offering flexibility or remote options to employees can help make them happier because it actually allows for fewer stressors when it comes to commuting and balancing work and life. And giving your employees more freedom and autonomy in their every day drives their passion, productivity, and purpose in the work they do.
3. Myth: Remote work doesn't foster career growth.
Growing and developing a career as a remote worker is absolutely possible. But it's on companies and leaders to ensure that the same development and promotion opportunities that are in place for in-office employees are also available for remote workers. And candidly, this is one area where a lot of "remote-friendly" companies still have room to improve.
In 2014, a Stanford University study found that remote workers had a 13 percent performance increase over onsite employees. But remote workers were still about 50 percent less likely to get a performance-based promotion than their in-office colleagues.
Why? Clearly it's not a question of employee performance. Rather, it's because companies need to ensure they're providing the same promotional opportunities, development training, and learning resources to remote workers. Online learning opportunities, manager webinars, and hiring remote senior leaders are all simple ways to ensure that you're prioritizing career growth for all employees, not just the ones you see in the office every day.
Remote work helps companies and employees everywhere win. Companies get access to incredible talent, versus being relegated to specific geographies, and employees get to spend more time focused on work that matters and building their work around their lives, versus sitting in traffic.
With the proliferation of technology to make us all more connected, it's now more critical than ever that leaders and organizations leverage that technology to create a workforce where employees anywhere feel included and integral to the company's mission. Every company should be focused on impact versus hours logged in an office setting, and remote as a strategy is one important ingredient for building a high-performing, diverse, and productive company that functions anytime, anywhere.