In early 2020, millions of Canadians switched from office-based work to remote work as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. People initially assumed that they’d work from home for just a few weeks — or perhaps a couple of months at a stretch. By the end of 2020, however, a full 28.6% of Canadian workers were based at home.  With the explosion of remote work, it’s important to separate fact from fiction. Let’s break down five of the top remote work myths and explore the truth behind them.

a woman working on her computer
a woman working on her computer

myth 1: remote work is easy

Some may view  remote work as an easier alternative to a more traditional in-office work set up.It’s viewed as a cushy alternative to having a 'real' job which comes with standard 9-to-5 hours, an in-office workstation, and a commute. Remote employees, it’s assumed, complete fewer tasks than people who work in office or factory settings. Without on-site managers to egg them on, naysayers believe that workers develop lazy habits and become less productive.

fact: remote work is no easier than on-site work

Visions of slovenliness begone: remote workers are anything but lazy. Offsite managers use a range of tools to ensure that their team members stay focused and complete tasks in home office settings. Activity monitors, firm deadlines, Zoom meetings and KPIs help companies keep track of key performance metrics for employees who are working from home. Remote workers have to prove that they can work independently and produce results just like any other employee — and that’s no mean feat.

myth 2: remote work is lonely

There is a common misconception that remote work is far lonelier than office-based work. Without face-to-face camaraderie and the social boost of an office setting, folks assume that workers feel isolated. The pre-existing team dynamic, they believe, must go downhill after employees begin to work from home.

fact: remote work can be sociable

Loneliness is a risk when you work from home, but there are lots of remote ways to stay social. Some offices schedule virtual social  events on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Events can range from having lunch together as a team, playing a virtual or online game, having Friday drinks after work, or pretty much any other activity that’s not talking about work projects! Individual workers can also turn the Pomodoro Technique into a multiplayer game or create instant messaging channels or groups to talk to each other during the day. Still others pair workers with 'remote work buddies' to promote interaction and ensure that workers have a designated coworker to turn to when they need to chat.

myth 3: working from home leads to better work-life balance

Working from home must lead to better work-life balance — or a least that’s what some seem to think. After all, remote workers don’t need to commute, and they have complete freedom to create an ideal working environment just feet away from their fully stocked kitchens. When it’s time to call it a day, they simply close their laptops and walk away. Or do they?

fact: work-life balance takes conscious effort

Remote work takes serious discipline. Forget working in pyjamas — to work effectively at home, people usually have to recreate their office settings as much as possible. That means getting dressed for the day, having a plan and a to-do list of daily tasks, and creating a quiet and productive workspace. Despite increased flexibility, remote workers lack a distinct separation between their work and home lives, which can actually lead to working more rather than less. It takes conscious effort to sign off at the end of the day and turn off ‘work’ mode when you don’t have to stop to head home. 

myth 4: remote workers should be paid less

Unemployment has increased in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. In December 2020, the Canadian unemployment rate was 8.6% — a full 3% higher than the Canadian unemployment rate in December 2019. Some might suggest that remote workers are simply lucky to have a job during these challenging times.   When so many people are unemployed, it’s easy to see why some think that remote workers should be grateful to be employed, no matter what their pay cheque looks like.

fact: remote employees deserve fair market rates

In the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, there’s certainly something to be said for being  grateful for what we have. With that said, remote workers do the same heavy lifting as office-based workers, and they deserve to be paid fair market rates for their skills. They do the same work, and bring the same qualifications to the table and their pay cheque should reflect that. Employers pay employees to work from home because the work that they do is essential; remote workers deserve the same respect as office-based workers.

myth 5: it’s impossible to manage a remote work team

Many people think that because remote workers are not on site, that they are hard to supervise. Worse, they’re under the perception that remote teams are impossible to manage. They presume that workers who aren’t in direct face-to-face contact with their managers regularly take liberties with their time and don’t do the work they should. This is based on the false premise that effective teams need to be micromanaged and ruled by managers with an iron fist. Any good manager will tell you that that’s simply not the case.

fact: remote team management is possible

Remote workers and teams deserve credit for being intelligent and proactive enough to manage their own time and schedule to meet their deadlines with or without daily supervision. If you’ve hired smart and qualified people, you should trust that they know what needs to be done. People who work remotely are just as responsible and as productive as — if not more so than — their office-based colleagues because they have additional flexibility. Managers of remote teams will need to adapt and employ different techniques to manage their remote teams effectively, though. Apps like Skype, software like Time Doctor and project management tools like Asana, Roadmap and Basecamp help supervisors communicate goals, track progress and get results.

remote work myths: the wrap

Several recent global studies, including one conducted in 2020 by UK internet provider TalkTalk, have connected working at home with increased productivity. 58% of respondents said that they’d been able to concentrate more while working from home and had been able to work more efficiently as a result. The picture is similar in Canada. A June 2020 PWC analysis in Canada found that 75% of Canadian workers felt either equally productive or more productive when working from home. One thing is certain: remote work is here to stay.

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