The uproar of the infamous Yahoo memo from CEO Marissa Mayer regarding its remote workers got us thinking about misconceptions about working from home. MarketingProfs boasts a remote workforce, so we know what the misconceptions are… as well as the realities.
Here are a few misconceptions we spotted in the memo (as well as others we have heard as remote workers) and our responses to them.
1. “To be the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side by side.”
Truth: Thanks to the wonder of Skype, Google+, Basecamp, Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, and even Instagram (we could rattle off more names), virtual workers can communicate and collaborate easily.
“I think tools to connect a virtual workforce are important, too. Things like our monthly team meetings via Adobe, as well as Basecamp, Dropbox, Skype, video Skype, and this FB group. These are tools than can connect virtual workforces and also root out the slackers, no-shows and ‘invisible’ workers… those unproductive folks it seems Mayer was trying to eliminate.” (Ann Handley, MarketingProfs chief content officer)
In reply to Mayer’s argument about workers needing to be seated side by side…
“With that logic, you’d think having a global workforce would bode impending doom. I’m an introvert—true—but I interact with my coworkers more frequently and have stronger relationships with them when I see them in person than I ever had at a job where I was required to go into an office.” (Jo Roberts, product marketing manager, MarketingProfs)
At MarketingProfs, we use all those platforms listed above (and others!) to keep each other abreast of different developments in our projects, brainstorm, chat, get feedback, etc.
2. “Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings.”
Truth: Great brainstorming can happen in hallways and cafeteria discussions, sure. (In all honesty, though, when we worked in a brick-and-mortar company, we heard folks either complain about work or ruminate on their personal lives. Not much brainstorming happened during lunch.)
What’s great from being a virtual worker is that you get to think. You have the time to sit at your chair (whether it’s at home or in the coffee shop or in the local library or book shop) and just think without interruption. Is your idea any good? You have time to develop it.
And you can still brainstorm easily. Almost shockingly easy. We (Corey O’Loughlin and Veronica Maria Jarski) work closely together on SnarketingProfs ideas, and during the week, we Skype and email each other with messages that start out, “You know what I was thinking?” or “I had this idea… ”
Brainstorming can happen anywhere.
3. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.
Truth: That might have been true in the time before smartphones, but, well, we’re in the digital age. What businessperson doesn’t have a smartphone? You can reply to emails quickly, download documents to edit or approve, upload files for others to edit or approve, send status reports, etc. all from your mobile.
“Yes, there are distractions at home (as there are in an office environment) so you do need to be able to juggle the literal home/life balance and set good boundaries. Communication skills are key! You have to be visible and connected to work virtually.” (Courtney Bosch, program manager, MarketingProfs)
“First, I’m an adult, and a successful one at that; I don’t need someone looking over my shoulder to be so. Second, I’ve found that when I work from home I put in more hours, am less distracted, enjoy my job, and do better work than when I’m expected to sit in a fishbowl office or cubical farm. Plus, I do my best work at night when—even if I did go into an office every day—no one would be there to supervise me. Would you rather pay me for my best work? Or would you really rather pay me to sit at my desk when you want me to be there so you can keep an eye on me?” (Jo Roberts, product marketing manager, MarketingProfs)
Like the other misconceptions on this list, this one doesn’t make any sense to us.
4. “We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”
Truth: Folks do like community. We like to be around one another and talk to each other. Virtual companies can do this through industry events or special company events. But you don’t need to be in the cube next to everyone in order to feel connected. Physical closeness does not translate to emotional closeness. (Ever been on a crowded bus or elevator? How emotionally close do you feel to those folks?)
“An emotional connection is far greater than the physical closeness. I feel more connected to my MarketingProfs colleagues, spread throughout the United States, than I felt to my colleagues in some brick-and-mortar office buildings where I worked. I talk to them regularly via social networks, email, and Skype. ” (Veronica Maria Jarski, writer, editor, and illustrator, MarketingProfs)
5. Extroverts can’t work from home.
Truth: Being around other people energizes extroverts, so extroverts must suffer in the work from home environment, right? Wrong. A former manager of Corey O’Loughlin, arguably MarketingProfs most extroverted staff member, told her she would fail at MarketingProfs because she needed to be around people to succeed. Two years later, she’s certainly proven him wrong.
Another real-life tale from a telecommuting extrovert…
“Knowing when to pick up the phone or hide behind your email is a key trait that falls under communication. I am extremely extroverted, but being in sales and sales management, I never felt alone for a minute. I was either on the phone with a client/prospect/employee or a boss. I often wanted to be ‘left alone’ even when I was alone! If I needed social, I made sure to plan the next visit and get that time I needed.” (Dana Ironside, sales consultant at MarketingProfs)
Extroverts get plenty of human interaction while working from home. Their Skype windows may be more full than your average introvert, so they definitely get their fair share of human contact.
6: You’re accountable for fewer hours of the day.
Truth: Excuse us for a moment as we…. can’t… stop… laughing… at this misconception. Anyone who works from home hears often, but this misconception could not possibly be furthest from the truth.
“My work day (and probably yours) actually extends beyond the normal work hours for two reasons: a) because there’s no hard stop, like most people have with an in-office/commuting job; and b) because a virtual team often includes people from various time zones. So, at 5 PM when the East Coast whistle might blow? It doesn’t. Because for you West Coast folks, it’s still in the midst of your highly productive mid-afternoon… ” (Ann Handley, MarketingProfs chief content officer)
“When you telecommute, work is always beckoning you from your home office or from your smartphone. So, after working your ‘normal hours,’ you end piling up extra time with all those little check-ins you make while you’re waiting for a kid’s practice to finish, a commercial is interrupting your show, you’re avoiding folding laundry, etc.” (Veronica Maria Jarski, writer, editor, and illustrator, MarketingProfs)
7. Remote workers aren’t really working.
Truth: This misconception takes various forms. People who aren’t telecommuting seem to have different ideas about what those work-from-home types are doing—but they agree that it sure isn’t work.
“Misconception: I sit at Starbucks and surf the Internet all day.” (Daniele Hagen, marketing manager, MarketingProfs)
“If I had a nickel for every time someone invited me to do something during the day because I ‘work from home’… then I wouldn’t need to work. Period. I’d be rich!” (Nicole Rodriguez, marketing manager at MarketingProfs)
“My mother is constantly trying to arrange shopping trips, lunches, etc. during the day. It took her about a year and a half to understand that I’m actually busy.” (Corey O’Loughlin, marketing manager at MarketingProfs)
8. “People who work from home wear their pajamas all day.”
Wait. This one was filed wrong. It should be under “Work-From-Home Fact.” Our apologies.
Or maybe not…
“I might be in the minority, but I don’t work in my pajamas, though I could. I still wake up very early, shower, change, put on make-up, style my hair (well, flat-iron it, does that count?), and pour myself a ginormous mug of Earl Gray tea before firing up the computer. Just having that shift from jammies into not-jammies kicks my brain into, ‘Hey, it’s time to work! It’s time to get creative’ gear.” (Veronica Maria Jarski, writer, editor, and illustrator, MarketingProfs)
Now, it’s your turn… Have you heard these misconceptions or others? Share them in the comments section!