In 2010, when we made the switch to remote work, I must admit I was a bit naive. I thought it would be a piece of cake. After all, remote work is simply “work minus the office,” right? Well… not really…
I learned the hard way that my image of remote work was mostly incorrect.
In this short essay, I’ll share the “Top 5 Misconceptions About Remote Work” which I fell for… and which I often hear when speaking to other founders and leaders.
Let’s eliminate some misconceptions, shall we?
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. As already said, remote work isn't just "work minus the office”. In many aspects, it’s a fundamental paradigm shift.
If you want to make this shift, you’ll have to let go of some old beliefs. And most importantly: you’ll have to understand and accept that it is in fact a paradigm shift!
As long as you view remote work as just a minor tweak, you’ll be unable to see what it really takes to make it work.
It’s dangerous to think that — because “most of our people work from our office” — you don’t really need to make the switch to remote.
The reality is that, as soon as a single person starts working from outside the office, you’ve effectively become a remote company. Congratulations!
That person needs access to information, needs to be included in discussions, needs to be included socially — all in a remote-friendly way. This means all of the processes, all of the tools, all of the communication and culture now have to work remotely.
I have yet to meet the team that is incapable of mastering remote work. But I do have met many teams that gave up too quickly; that underestimated that it takes time, practice, and a willingness to make changes.
Becoming successful in a remote setup doesn't happen overnight, by itself. It's a skill that can be learned.
This one goes back to a fundamental misunderstanding: to master remote work, you don’t need fancy tools and apps. The critical switch you need to make is about something else: it’s about culture and collaboration.
While many teams think they struggle with remote work, they actually struggle with building a strong and healthy culture. The switch to remote work only amplified the weak spots that were already there.
The problem with this perspective is this: by completely rejecting remote work, you are also robbing yourself of the advantages that it brings. These are available to - and valuable for — any organization, no matter if their teams sit in an office or not.
What happens when one of your key people changes their mind and wants to work remotely? What happens if you get the perfect applicant, but they don't want to relocate? Will you pass on these opportunities?
More and more employees will want to work remotely in the future. Closing yourself off to these opportunities is a luxury that not many companies can afford.
Remote work can be an incredibly effective way to build strong, successful organizations. Examples like Automattic (the company behind Wordpress), Zapier, or GitHub are more than proof: they all dominate their respective markets; they all attract the very best talent.
But to follow these examples, we need to see clearly what remote work is and what it isn’t. We need to understand what works and what doesn’t. And, as a consequence, where we have to adapt and what we need to change.
If we do, we’ll be on our way to build a future-proof organization.