Debunking five myths about working from anywhere

As the concept of ‘WFA’ continues to grow in popularity, we debunk the misconceptions about those who choose to adopt it

For many, the idea of WFA, or working from anywhere, sounds great. The freedom to be here, there, or anywhere while you go about your working day suits many professionals who first had a taste of being outside of the office this year. In fact, a recent survey by online collaboration tool Slack found that only 11% wanted to return full time to the office in 2021, while 72% were looking for a hybrid remote-office model.

However, you may still have your doubts. Isn’t it too good to be true? Can workers really adapt? And how do I make it work for me and my team? Here, we debunk some of the most common misconceptions and show how WFA can benefit individuals, teams and businesses.

Myth #1: WFA workers miss the structure of a 9-to-5 day

Surely WFA workers will go off the rails without a 9-to-5 structure holding them in place? Not so much – and, in fact, quite the contrary. A flexible schedule can be just the thing to give your WFA team a productivity boost. A study by the Harvard Business Review showed that companies saw productivity increase by 13.5% when they turned away from the traditional office routine and towards something more flexible.

Myth #2: More team meetings are essential

When you don’t see your team in person every day, there’s a temptation to put in more meetings to make up for lost face-time. However, unless they are absolutely necessary they can hinder progress. Research by Wundamail showed 42% of remote employees said too many virtual meetings were distracting and they felt most productive when working for long periods of uninterrupted time.

Instead, bi-weekly performance meetings or social team building events (now conducted remotely via apps such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams) increased an employee’s sense of belonging to the company and a deeper connection with colleagues.

Myth #3: There’s one type of ‘working parent’

Think about it: facing lockdown with a needy toddler at home is very different to doing it with a more self-reliant 17-year-old. And whether you’re a mother or a father can have an impact, too. A recent Slack report stated that women were ‘disproportionately challenged’ when it came to juggling childcare and work.

That said, outside of testing lockdown conditions, remote working is shown to ‘flatten the playing field’ and offers more flexibility for parents, especially solo parents, enabling them to deal with any last-minute emergencies or domestic responsibilities without the guilt of leaving the office.

Myth #4: WFA is bad for underrepresented groups

At the start of lockdown, some experts cautioned that underrepresented groups, including women, ethnic minorities, and those with disabilities, may go unseen as a result of remote working. However, stats show that these employees rated remote working highly – perhaps because having the choice to work from anywhere can create a more welcoming working environment for those who might struggle in an office-based environment.

For employees with disabilities in particular, accessibility can often be an obstacle to work. So, by offering the flexibility of remote working, this can reduce sick leave and means companies have access to a much wider pool of talent.

Myth #5: managers and executives find it easier to adapt to WFA

Just because someone is in charge doesn’t mean they know what they’re doing – especially in a situation such as today’s, where the working landscape is in flux. One report actually found that people managers, especially middle managers, faced some of the most acute challenges in adapting to remote work.

“In the remote work world, the role of the manager has shifted from gatekeeper to coach and social connector,” says Slack Vice President Brian Elliott. “Social ties are more difficult to build and maintain in a digital-first workplace. Organisations need to devote time and resources to providing people managers with new tools to enable them to coach and connect with their teams.”

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