In this segment of “Office Optional with Larry English,” Larry shares three myths about remote work that might be keeping your company from thriving.
The rise of remote and hybrid work offers an opportunity for leaders to overhaul how their organizations operate, improving life for employees and realigning with the fast-paced realities of today’s market.
Companies that embrace the new world of work are reaping the benefits. For instance, they’re able to attract a significantly larger talent pool. A recent report found that employers that fail to offer remote work will be passed over by 58 percent of candidates.
“Why are some organizations wildly successful? It’s not by doing the same things they’ve been doing for the last few decades,” says Amy Lescke-Kahle, vice president of performance acceleration at The Marcus Buckingham Company, an ADP Company. “It’s because they’ve acknowledged and adjusted to the changes to work, the world and the market.”
Shed These 3 Limiting Beliefs To Finally Embrace Remote Work
Some leaders are having trouble letting go of the old order. This is understandable, as change can be scary. Or maybe they’ve found success doing things a certain way and don’t see a reason for experimenting—a cognitive bias called functional fixedness, where you reject improved practices or frameworks in favor of the status quo.
To move forward, these leaders need to reexamine their beliefs around work and how they measure employees. Some of the most pervasive myths or limiting beliefs that need busting include:
Myth 1: Employees Need Babysitting
“We don’t have a world of mediocre, yet our whole approach to employees is based on the idea that people are broken, they’re OK at best and need to be fixed,” Leschke-Kahle says. “There’s so much innate, amazing talent inside of organizations that sits latent.”
The best thing you can do in a remote setting is to simply trust your people. Yet many leaders are going in the opposite direction, using tracking software to keep an eye on employee activities. The 2021 ADP Research Institute People at Work report found that 62 percent of workers say they’re being more closely monitored than ever before.
“The No. 1 responsibility of a leader is to recognize the talent they have and amplify it,” Leschke-Kahle says. “Yet so many leaders spend their time on meaningless productivity measures—productivity should be mapped onto results, not hours worked.”
Myth 2: In-Person Collaboration Is Always The Most Effective
Studies have shown that the traditional approach to collaboration—with people gathered in the same room—isn’t always the most effective method for generating good ideas. A few people end up dominating the conversation, leaving introverts and junior team members behind. In fact, a concept called Bartleby’s Law says that meetings waste 80 percent of the time for 80 percent of attendees.
Asynchronous communication and collaboration, necessary elements of remote work success, help solve this problem. When collaboration doesn’t always happen in person (or over videoconference), you remove the on-the-fly pressure and end up getting more input from more people.
The in-person environment can also give rise to a less-than collaborative spirit. A recent ADP Research Institute study comparing 9,000 remote, on-site and hybrid workers in the U.S. found that on-site workers rated their teams as less collaborative and supportive and more gossipy and cliquish than their remote counterparts.
“Those factors can get in the way of true collaboration,” says Leschke-Kahle. “When we force people to be collaborative in a certain way, we may not be getting their best work—we need to make room for people to contribute in other ways.”
Myth 3: Remote Work Just Adds Another Layer of Organizational Complexity
Reimagining work offers an opportunity to rethink all our systems—many of which are more complex than necessary, wasting time and causing major employee heartburn, Leschke-Kahle points out. Instead of making things more complicated, leaders should use the shift to remote work to streamline and simplify.
“We’ve so over-engineered the world of work with policies and processes that are not necessary in a grown-up version of work,” Leschke-Kahle says. “Simplification must be a big piece of what we do next.”
Take performance management. “We’ve designed these complex, arduous, emotional processes around performance management,” she explains. “Many of these policies were born out of fear and lack of trust. We’ve taken the outlier—the poor performer—and assumed it’s true for everyone. While we certainly need to be preventive, we don’t need to subject everyone to the rigor of an outlier process.”
The bottom line: Simplify what you can to free employees up to focus on what really matters. This will not only improve your employees’ work lives but will also allow your organization to keep pace with today’s fast-paced market.
Welcome To The Great Work Experiment
Change can be scary, but as Leschke-Kahle points out, work is an easy, relatively low-risk place to test new practices. “This is really the great work experiment, and we should be digging into what works and what doesn’t. If you’re slow and hesitant to change, both your employees and your business are going to end up suffering, because the market will pass you by.”