There is a concept in the rapidly growing field of human evolutionary psychology that, in common parlance, is called hardwiring. The term refers to the near-intuitive behaviours and patterns that have been learnt over millennia. These learned traits, so useful for surviving in the early days of the evolution of humankind, also endure in the digital-first age, shaping our reaction and response.
The most common is the determination to abide by existing biases – or, in simpler terms, sticking by what one knows – even when our perception is based on insufficient data or refuted by proven facts or logic.
This refusal to let go of biases in the age of rapid digital transformation also creates certain myths around the efficacy and relevance of remote working in the modern era. This should not even be a point of contention; over the past year, as an unprecedented pandemic wrought havoc across the world, it was the digital-led shift to remote working that enabled businesses of all sizes to adapt to the new normal. The impact of this digital migration on key performance indicators such as productivity and operational costs has been well-documented.
And yet, as the pandemic finally begins to subside and with mass inoculation drives currently underway, an old argument has resurfaced: remote working isn’t nearly as good as the conventional, office-based approach. In this article, we will dispel some of the myths associated with remote working – with facts and stats, and compelling arguments.
Myth 1: “Remote work leads to poor communication with internal and external stakeholders”
One of the most common myths about remote working is its impact on communication between different stakeholders, both within an organisation and with outside parties (customers, vendors, business partners, investors, etc.). The basic issue with this perception is that it depends on incomparable data points to make the comparison. The conclusion assesses the digital medium on its ability to replicate, in exactness, the engagement of face-to-face interaction.
Cloud-based video communications and collaboration platforms, in fact, enable a seamless exchange of ideas. They can often be more efficient than the in-person sharing of information as the interacting parties can connect over the digital medium from anywhere in the world, thereby minimizing the possibility of missing a meeting due to geographical constraints. They also do away with the need to travel or wait for a meeting room to become available, thus ensuring that any communication can be conducted as soon as all relevant parties are available.
Therefore, the belief that remote work framework automatically results in poor communication between or across teams is not true. As a recent MIT survey underscores, the success of remote work relies on seamless communication which, in turn, depends on the quality of leadership.
Myth 2: “Remote work limits training opportunities”
Remote working does not limit the ability to train employees. Compared to traditional training methods that employ a classroom-based approach, online training platforms provide a range of training tools and resources in one place. This makes the web-based model more accessible since any number of participants can avail of online learning and development courses/programmes. Besides, online training can be more engaging since it allows for the inclusion of gamified activities to supplement the learning process. It also enables users to take control of and pace their learning trajectories, without the unnecessary pressure of completing them within a given timeline, for better outcomes.
Myth 3: “Remote work systems are too complicated or expensive”
Nothing could be further from the truth. The latest remote work systems are cloud-based. Unlike legacy transformation models that require an organization to invest heavily in on-premise infrastructure, cloud-based systems are not only easy to implement but also cost way less than traditional systems that rely on hardware. They can be accessed from any device, from anywhere, and are easy to scale up and down, giving organizations the flexibility to seamlessly manage the cost of their operations in sync with the business demand.
Myth 4: “Remote work leads to a restricted exchange of documents, thoughts, and dialogue”
When it comes to digital collaboration, communication pathways are embedded in the workflow. All it takes is a change of tab, application, or device to switch from the software you are using to carry out your tasks to the one you would use to contact a team member or attend a meeting. Communication and collaboration can thus be achieved, seamlessly and securely, at the point of need without disrupting the workflow – unlike in a physical setup.
Myth 5: “Remote working is less productive and leads to lower motivation”
The lockdown-induced isolation aggravated concerns about mental and emotional well-being during the initial period of the pandemic. However, working from home can have the opposite effect. A recent survey by a Delhi-based think-tank found that remote working has had a positive impact on people’s mental health while improving their productivity. A recent survey by GoTo and LogMeIn corroborates the same, with nearly two-thirds of the respondents agreeing that working from home has improved their productivity. Professionals working remotely can strike a better work-life balance and improve interaction with their family members in the time that they would otherwise end up spending on commuting to and from their offices.