7 excuses you’ll hear about remote working

When talking about remote working, you’ll certainly hear some excuses. The reasons for these are lack of trust, resistance, or sometimes misinformation. People and companies have seen one way of working: coming every day to an office. So it’s normal that they will push back if you start telling them they can do it differently now.

The following is the top 7 excuses you can hear about remote working. Also, I’ll share how we solve this at Automattic where we are more than 1000 people from +70 countries so far:

#1 – How do I know people are working if I can’t see them?

You’ll hear this from managers. And the short answer is: you’ll not.

Being all in the same place, gives the wrong idea that people are actually working. But, that’s not the case. I can be in the office from 9am to 6pm, but only work 2 hours. I can spend the rest of the day surfing the web, and that’s the case for lot of companies. Actually, 4800 employees at JC Penny were using 30% of the Internet bandwidth watching YouTube videos.

Managers should trust their team members. If a manager can’t trust someone to work from home, then it usually means it was a bad hire. If they all need to be around, and you need to keep watching them, you’re actually babysitting them, not managing them.

#2 – It’s not secure!

We spent a lot on security and the office is the only secure place to work from

– Security Department

Security is a big concern to lot of companies. And they are right!

However, with today’s technology, people are shopping, doing their banking activities, and even trading stocks online. Doing these activities online is secure. But it all comes down to awareness and the security processes each company need to make in place in order to protect employees from scam, phishing and other online security holes.

At Automattic, we have a security check list you run through when you first join the company. In addition to this, each team have their own security list depending on the tools and services they use. We ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to security practices.

You run through this list once you join and periodically (3 to 6 months) depending on the teams. Some of the things we check:

  1. Ensure computer have a password and it’s required when waking up the computer. Also make sure screen saver kicks in at 15minutes of inactivity or less
  2. Ensure all data is encrypted locally and device can be wiped remotely (easily achievable with Mac’s built in features, not sure about Windows)
  3. Using random generated passwords with tools like 1Password and LastPass. We also make sure that passwords aren’t duplicated or used in multiple services
  4. Using 2 Factor Authentication (2FA) whenever it’s possible
  5. Encrypt your phone (easily available in Android and iOS)

#3 – It’s hard to schedule calls and meetings!

This excuse will rise when you have people across different timezones.

Taking a call a little late or earlier in order to adjust to the team’s planning is not the end of the world. And people working remotely are willing to pay this small price as long as it’s not a daily thing.

Managers think they will get a hard NO when they tell their team members that they need to take a call out of the scheduled “work time”. But that’s not the case. People are adults and understand these situations.

For meetings, there are tools you can use to track timezones and better schedule meetings. One of them is Timezone.io and you can see a demo of the buffer team on their open page.

#4 – But, I’ll lose control over the team

For some managers, being the boss is something engraved in their identity. They measure their success by the number of people under their direct supervision and the control they have on them. And removing this sense of control will not happen overnight.

You need to walk them over the process slowly. Start by asking and showing them that working one day per week from home isn’t the end of the world. Once accepted, tell them the extra things you achieved by working from home and removing distractions. Explain how you can achieve more awesome things if you can work two days per week. And keep going.

Even with all the arguments we can present, the fear to lose control is a hard bump to overcome. If you still face the push back from your manager, even after presenting all the good things, then maybe it’s time to look elsewhere.

#5 – We can’t change everything overnight! We have lot of processes in place

Yes you can’t. And you shouldn’t.

Going remote isn’t an all or nothing approach. Each company can start slowly with individuals, then small teams, then departments, and maybe if it works, the whole company.

For example, the support team of every company on earth can work remotely. If that’s the only team that can work remotely in your company, then let it be. It’s better than none. But make sure to move slowly to give yourself time to adapt along the way. Some processes will surely need to change when you start having people working from home:

  • More documentation as people can’t walk around asking their colleagues
  • More communication as information get lost when the team is spread across more than one location (valid for both offices & homes, and multiple offices locations)
  • Etc

#6 – What about company culture?

What about after works, lunching together, etc… That creates company culture!

Culture isn’t lunches and after works where we say jokes about coworkers and use them for the rest of the year. Culture is the spoken and unspoken values and actions of an organization. Here are some few examples:

  • How we talk to customers, are they always right?
  • What quality is acceptable, good enough or perfect?
  • How we talk to each other, with diplomatic tones or shouting matches?
  • Workload, do we cheer on all-nighters or take Fridays off?

Every company land in between those lines. But every company should know where it falls as this will define the values of the company and shape its culture.

Culture is important. The stronger the culture, the less explicit training and supervision is needed. Ideally, each one need to move freely and know what they are going to work on and what’s expected from them.

You don’t need everyone physically together to create a strong culture. The best cultures derive from actions people actually take, not statements written in a manifesto or printed after your company’s logo.

Having people work remotely forces you to forgo the illusion that building a company culture is just about in-person social activities. Now you can get on with the actual work of defining and practicing it instead.

#7 – This will not work for us or our industry

Even with all the arguments, you can still get a “Oh yeah, that sounds good. But it wouldn’t work for our industry, because we are different“. As we said earlier, it’s not an all or nothing approach. You can implement remote working partially, just a few teams to start with. And then see how it goes and if you can do it for other teams.

Here is a list of companies in different industries and at different scales doing remote work (including those doing it partially with just some teams):

  • Accounting (Deloitte, +10.000 employees)
  • Film production (Dream Works Animation, 1.000 – 10.000 employees)
  • Finance (HSBC UK, +10.000 employees)
  • Manufacturing (S.C. Johnson & Son, +10.000 employees)
  • Insurance (Atena, +10.000 employees)
  • Legal (Perkins Coie, 1.000 – 10.000 employees)
  • Software (Automattic, 1.000 – 10.000 employees)
  • Design (Proof Branding, less than 1000 employees)
  • Consulting (McKinsey & Co., +10.000 employees)

As you can see, those are different industries and different scales. But it’s always possible to do remote work!

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This post is highly inspired by Remote, office not required book.

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