What Remote Workers Are Not
They aren’t lazy, and they deserve your respect.
I get Google alerts about remote work sent to my research email account on a daily basis. I was looking through the article titles and one of them caught my eye, so I clicked through.
The page turned out to be a video rant from a UK broadcaster who decried the existence of remote work during the pandemic, as though it was an option to still have people come to work while a deadly virus with no mitigation was circulating. I listened to the video for a while, and concluded that the speaker very likely had never worked remotely for a company.
His words got me thinking though; there seems to be a myth that if you’re choosing jobs that permit remote work, you’re doing it for nefarious reasons. You must be one of those people who double-dip (2 employers at once), or have some kind of side hustle, or never put in a full 40 hours of work.
While there will always be people who try something like the aforementioned activities, it almost never lasts, and I’ll explain why in a minute. I’d rather give you real-world examples of people on remote teams who were working for my client companies. For me they were memorable, because they handled remote work appropriately. Of course, I’ve changed their names and exact circumstances to preserve their privacy.
Meet Farzad: he moved with his wife and 2 children from his home country to a new country after finishing his PhD in Computer Science. His third child was born while I was working with his employer. Although he was a bit bleary-eyed at some of the meetings from new-baby lack-of-sleep, he never missed a deadline at work, nor complained about having to juggle home and family responsibilities. Occasionally we’d hear his kids in the background, but Farzad never lost his focus.
Say Hi to Gina: a single lady with an aging mother. I worked with her employer during the early days of the pandemic. During that time, she had to move her mother from her home into assisted living, and cope with the loneliness and sense of guilt for doing so. (If you’ve never been through that process, it’ll be hard to understand the guilt.) Gina was less engaged during that period, but she was on time for every meeting and her productivity never wavered.
And finally, there’s Arnold. In a 1-year period, he went through a divorce, sold and moved out of the family home, bought a duplex, and moved in. But you’d never know it, because he met his work schedule and kept the quality of his work up to expectations.
I’m sure that for every good example I provide, you could come up with a bad one. But you’re missing the point. And you’re missing the reason why a manager with good remote leadership skills would know these details. They asked. They observed. They talked, and they gained the trust of their team members.
That trust and communication is also why lazy team members won’t last long on such teams: it’s because the manager pays attention. Also, the manager will know because the work agreed upon in advance isn’t getting done. Remote teams are successful when the right structures are in place, including balanced expectations for work.
Life has always interfered with work; there are always kids to pick up after school, medical appointments to attend, and accidents that get us stuck in traffic. But the pandemic put those issues front and center because we were peering into people’s homes. We discovered who has a cat, a hyperactive dog, a toddler, and a teen with image issues. We discovered these details not just about team members but also about managers.
Those who want to work remotely choose to do so not as some kind of dodge, but as a way of delivering for their employer while maintaining the kind of quality of life they reestablished during the pandemic.
Smart companies recognize the value of motivated remote workers, and aren’t shutting out the remote work opportunity simply because the pandemic has waned from our attention.
For all the other companies, it’s going to take a shift in the mindset of management to grasp that opportunity. Those companies could start working with those dedicated remote workers, instead of treating them like they’re doing something wrong or want something unreasonable.
That mind-shift is not only possible, now is the time to do it. You as a manager will benefit, and so will your company. And so will your employees. It really is a win-win-win.
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Want to know more about how to effectively manage remote teams? I’ve got specific ways to help you, so let’s strategize together. Visit www.TalkToToolie.com to book time with me, and let’s discuss your next moves.