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Eight Misconceptions About Working From Home [Illustrated Slide Show]

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The uproar of the infamous Yahoo memo from CEO Marissa Mayer regarding its remote workers got us thinking about misconceptions about working from home. MarketingProfs boasts a remote workforce, so we know what the misconceptions are... as well as the realities.

Here are a few misconceptions we spotted in the memo (as well as others we have heard as remote workers) and our responses to them.

1. "To be the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side by side."


Truth: Thanks to the wonder of Skype, Google+, Basecamp, Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, and even Instagram (we could rattle off more names), virtual workers can communicate and collaborate easily.
"I think tools to connect a virtual workforce are important, too. Things like our monthly team meetings via Adobe, as well as Basecamp, Dropbox, Skype, video Skype, and this FB group. These are tools than can connect virtual workforces and also root out the slackers, no-shows and 'invisible' workers... those unproductive folks it seems Mayer was trying to eliminate." (Ann Handley, MarketingProfs chief content officer)

In reply to Mayer's argument about workers needing to be seated side by side...
"With that logic, you'd think having a global workforce would bode impending doom. I'm an introvert—true—but I interact with my coworkers more frequently and have stronger relationships with them when I see them in person than I ever had at a job where I was required to go into an office." (Jo Roberts, product marketing manager, MarketingProfs)

At MarketingProfs, we use all those platforms listed above (and others!) to keep each other abreast of different developments in our projects, brainstorm, chat, get feedback, etc.



2. "Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings."


Truth: Great brainstorming can happen in hallways and cafeteria discussions, sure. (In all honesty, though, when we worked in a brick-and-mortar company, we heard folks either complain about work or ruminate on their personal lives. Not much brainstorming happened during lunch.)

What's great from being a virtual worker is that you get to think. You have the time to sit at  your chair (whether it's at home or in the coffee shop or in the local library or book shop) and just think without interruption.  Is your idea any good? You have time to develop it.

And you can still brainstorm easily. Almost shockingly easy. We (Corey O'Loughlin and Veronica Maria Jarski) work closely together on SnarketingProfs ideas, and during the week, we Skype and email each other with messages that start out, "You know what I was thinking?" or "I had this idea... "

Brainstorming can happen anywhere.

3. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.


Truth: That might have been true in the time before smartphones, but, well, we're in the digital age. What businessperson doesn't have a smartphone? You can reply to emails quickly, download documents to edit or approve, upload files for others to edit or approve, send status reports, etc. all from your mobile.
"Yes, there are distractions at home (as there are in an office environment) so you do need to be able to juggle the literal home/life balance and set good boundaries. Communication skills are key! You have to be visible and connected to work virtually." (Courtney Bosch, program manager, MarketingProfs)

"First, I'm an adult, and a successful one at that; I don’t need someone looking over my shoulder to be so. Second, I've found that when I work from home I put in more hours, am less distracted, enjoy my job, and do better work  than when I'm expected to sit in a fishbowl office or cubical farm. Plus, I do my best work at night when—even if I did go into an office every day—no one would be there to supervise me. Would you rather pay me for my best work? Or would you really rather pay me to sit at my desk when you want me to be there so you can keep an eye on me?" (Jo Roberts, product marketing manager, MarketingProfs)

Like the other misconceptions on this list, this one doesn't make any sense to us.

4. "We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together."


Truth: Folks do like community. We like to be around one another and talk to each other. Virtual companies can do this through industry events or special company events. But you don't need to be in the cube next to everyone in order to feel connected. Physical closeness does not translate to emotional closeness. (Ever been on a crowded bus or elevator? How emotionally close do you feel to those folks?)
"An emotional connection is far greater than the physical closeness. I feel more connected to my MarketingProfs colleagues, spread throughout the United States, than I felt to my colleagues in some brick-and-mortar office buildings where I worked. I talk to them regularly via social networks, email, and Skype. " (Veronica Maria Jarski, writer, editor, and illustrator, MarketingProfs)

5. Extroverts can’t work from home.


Truth: Being around other people energizes extroverts, so extroverts must suffer in the work from home environment, right? Wrong. A former manager of Corey O’Loughlin, arguably MarketingProfs most extroverted staff member, told her she would fail at MarketingProfs because she needed to be around people to succeed. Two years later, she’s certainly proven him wrong.

Another real-life tale from a telecommuting extrovert...
"Knowing when to pick up the phone or hide behind your email is a key trait that falls under communication. I am extremely extroverted, but being in sales and sales management, I never felt alone for a minute. I was either on the phone with a client/prospect/employee or a boss. I often wanted to be 'left alone' even when I was alone! If I needed social, I made sure to plan the next visit and get that time I needed." (Dana Ironside, sales consultant at MarketingProfs)

Extroverts get plenty of human interaction while working from home. Their Skype windows may be more full than your average introvert, so they definitely get their fair share of human contact.

6: You're accountable for fewer hours of the day.


Truth: Excuse us for a moment as we.... can't... stop... laughing... at this misconception. Anyone who works from home hears often, but this misconception could not possibly be furthest from the truth.
"My work day (and probably yours) actually extends beyond the normal work hours for two reasons: a) because there's no hard stop, like most people have with an in-office/commuting job; and b) because a virtual team often includes people from various time zones. So, at 5 PM when the East Coast whistle might blow? It doesn't. Because for you West Coast folks, it's still in the midst of your highly productive mid-afternoon... " (Ann Handley, MarketingProfs chief content officer)

"When you telecommute, work is always beckoning you from your home office or from your smartphone. So, after working your 'normal hours,' you end piling up extra time with all those little check-ins you make while you're waiting for a kid's practice to finish, a commercial is interrupting your show, you're avoiding folding laundry, etc." (Veronica Maria Jarski, writer, editor, and illustrator, MarketingProfs)

7. Remote workers aren't really working.


Truth: This misconception takes various forms. People who aren't telecommuting seem to have different ideas about what those work-from-home types are doing---but they agree that it sure isn't work.
"Misconception: I sit at Starbucks and surf the Internet all day." (Daniele Hagen, marketing manager, MarketingProfs)

"If I had a nickel for every time someone invited me to do something during the day because I 'work from home'... then I wouldn't need to work. Period. I'd be rich!" (Nicole Rodriguez, marketing manager at MarketingProfs)

"My mother is constantly trying to arrange shopping trips, lunches, etc. during the day. It took her about a year and a half to understand that I'm actually busy."  (Corey O'Loughlin, marketing manager at MarketingProfs)

8. “People who work from home wear their pajamas all day."


Wait. This one was filed wrong. It should be under “Work-From-Home Fact.” Our apologies.

Or maybe not...
"I might be in the minority, but I don’t work in my pajamas, though I could. I still wake up very early, shower, change, put on make-up, style my hair (well, flat-iron it, does that count?), and pour myself a ginormous mug of Earl Gray tea before firing up the computer. Just having that shift from jammies into not-jammies kicks my brain into, 'Hey, it's time to work! It's time to get creative' gear." (Veronica Maria Jarski, writer, editor, and illustrator, MarketingProfs)


Now, it's your turn... Have you heard these misconceptions or others? Share them in the comments section!


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Verónica Maria Jarski loves wielding pens, markers, and colored pencils as the editor of the Daily Fix blog, senior content writer, and illustrator of MarketingProfs slide shows (and more!). MarketingProfs marketing manager Corey O'Loughlin is known to get overly excited about content creation, new methodologies, and results.

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  • by Trevor Rasmussen Mon Mar 4, 2013 via blog

    This seems a little biased to me...like a company trying to defend why they are the way they are. It was as one sided as Yahoo's pres was. The truth is that its a different strokes for different folks kind of thing. I worked from home for a year and worked remotely from another office for like 9 years. In all I've only worked in the actual office with my co-workers for about 2 years of my 13 or so years in the workforce. there are some great pros and some glaring cons...and its all in how the company manages it and how the employee handles it. Its very easy to feel disconnected working from home if there aren't great measures to keep those employees connected. I lost a lot of my ability to be assertive in coming up with new marketing solutions and I felt like everything I did was reactive. I wasn't in the loop on everything that was happening at all times. For some companies (probably like MarketingProfs) they have a lot of things in place to keep everyone on the same page so its not a problem. For other companies this may not be the case though.

    Regarding the last one. I tried staying in my pajamas...I was too comfortable. I found I was more productive when I set up a routine, got dressed, did what I would have done when I went into the office. I had more energy, felt more productive and like I was part of the rest of the workforce! So there are some advantages to working in the office, some of the things mentioned are just plain true, that doesn't mean little things can't be done to account for them but they still aren't quite the same. That doesn't mean remote offices can't work just because the Yahoo CEO is pulling rank at their company!

  • by Veronica Maria Jarski Mon Mar 4, 2013 via blog

    Trevor,

    Yes, it sure is a biased article! The point of the piece is to counter Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer's arguments (and other common arguments) against telecommuting.

    We're not saying that every company needs to have a remote workforce or even a remote worker here and there... Nor are we saying that telecommuting is always easy.

    What we are doing is countering the arguments against telecommuting. Smartphones, online collaboration tools, social networks, etc., exist, so a remote worker can be a productive and connected employee.

    The most important factor in having a successful remote workforce really is to have built-in support for those folks who want to work remotely and the right sort of company culture. As you said, telecommuting isn't for everywhere nor is everyone's experience in working from home a great one.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  • by Tom Redfern Mon Mar 4, 2013 via blog

    I've just begun working from home as a freelance brand & communications consultant after losing my office-based job of nine years.

    At the moment, I'm loving it! I do feel I get the best out of the day by walking with my children to school, which is about a two mile round trip. I'm at my computer by 9am, whereas my commute to the office used to mean that I wouldn't get to work until around 930am.

    I love the freedom, the ability to play music, to take a break when I like, and of course, the extra contact with my family that my current situation affords.

    I would say that for me, the worst thing about commuting to an office was the wasted time of travelling. For me it was around 3 hours per day. I've now put that time into working from home, which means I can effectively be involved in the process of work for longer each day if required (and this means I can take an occasional Friday off if I like, as I've worked a full week in 4 days!).

  • by Pardeep Mon Mar 4, 2013 via blog

    The slideshow has some good ideas, but it would really help if the facts were backed up by facts. Please show some stats/survey/etc to back up the facts. Although I agree that telecommuters typically work longer and harder than in the office workers (based on my experience as working from home and managing others working from many remote cities), sometimes, face to face communication and the hallway interaction is useful. That is, telecommuters should go the office once every couple of weeks for face to face meetings.

  • by Remy Tennant Mon Mar 4, 2013 via blog

    Awesome article, thanks for standing up for all us highly productive remote workers! I am a marketing manager and have to produce a lot of content - white papers, blogs, videos - all stuff that is best created in an environment where one can focus without interruption. I am remote about half the time and I couldn't imagine it any other way. I know I get more done than people who are in the office every day!

  • by Beth Knabel Mon Mar 4, 2013 via blog

    Not everyone is well-suited to telecommute. To do well, you must know yourself. I have had "worked from home" on and off for 20 years. For me, the same productivity tools that apply at work, apply at home.

    1.Wake up the same time everyday. Shower, dress (to be seen in public), go to the "home" office, close the door if necessary.

    2. Review the tasks for the day. Set appointments for yourself--these could be task deadlines, virtual meetings, research, management reports, or times to check in with our co-workers, customers, or employees. Use MSOutlook or another calendar program to manage your time.

    3. Set time during the day to be out of the office. Lunch dates, school conferences, doctor appointment, etc. This gives you the sense of community and change of pace you'd experience in a multi-person office.

    4. If you'd be embarrassed getting caught checking FB or Tweeting, or cruising the Internet at the office, don't do it in your home office during work hours either.

    Years ago when home offices were deemed a stigma for the underemployed, I used to say, "I'll be in my home studio between x and y times." That way, people didn't call, email or fax me at all hours thinking I was available to answer their questions or work on their project.

    Although I may be the most creative or productive on a project in the middle of the night (my choice and always a trade-off for a balanced family life), I never email or text at odd hours. If I do, that implies permission or sets expectations for my co-workers to do the same.

    Work is not the space you're in--it is your output.

  • by Tobias Schremmer Mon Mar 4, 2013 via blog

    As a MarketingProfs employee since 2008, and this being my first remote-based work arrangement after 18 years working in offices... I echo the points made in the article.

    The thing I would add is that we don't really know all the reasons why Yahoo's CEO made this decision. They likely do have a serious problem with remote employees who are taking advantage of the arrangement, perhaps for many years within a culture and structure where such things slide. So while I at first bristled at the issues raised, I'm starting to think she made a good call - for her company in this time & place. [Doesn't change the great points made here to address common misperceptions.]

  • by Courtney Bosch Mon Mar 4, 2013 via blog

    Great dialogue on this topic! This is one of those topics that brings out strong opinions on either side. I think the bottom line is that working remotely is not for everyone, just as working in an office may not be for everyone. MarketingProfs happens to be a virtual organization, so we don't have the option of going into an office daily. As a result, yes this post is somewhat biased as we are providing insight into the misconceptions that we've personally encountered with our unique work environment, and our response to those misconceptions. I personally do miss the face to face interaction and agree that nothing can replace that. However, in my opinion we've come such a long way with technology that we're able to feel connected & perform our jobs efficiently even when we're not physically in one another's presence. :)

  • by Veronica Maria Jarski Mon Mar 4, 2013 via blog

    Tom,

    Sounds like telecommuting is definitely working for you! That's wonderful.

    And, yes, I know all about those traffic jams. The ones I used to get stuck in were straight out of the "Office Space" movie.

  • by Veronica Maria Jarski Mon Mar 4, 2013 via blog

    Pardeep,

    A quick good read about telecommuting facts can be found here: http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/news/research/striking-the-balance.html

    We're not arguing that face-to-face communication or hallway interactions aren't useful, but that there can be workarounds regarding them. If you work for a virtual company (MarketingProfs is one), you aren't seeing folks in the hallway... but you can find a way to fill that need for contact via video Skype and Google+, etc. or through business travel, etc.

    A company must decide for itself whether it embraces telecommuting... So, we're not telling Yahoo that they should let everyone telecommute or that they should tell no one to commute. We're just stating our experience, as a virtual company, regarding some common misconceptions about people who work from home.

  • by Veronica Maria Jarski Mon Mar 4, 2013 via blog

    Remy,

    Thanks for the kind words!

    Take care, and keep on keepin' on being productive... from home even! :)

  • by Veronica Maria Jarski Mon Mar 4, 2013 via blog

    You make a very good point. We don't know why Mayer made the decision she made. And telecommuting isn't for everyone. I've run into many people who, upon hearing that I work from home, say, "Oh, man. I wish I could! I'd watch movies all day!" And I always think, "You'd be fired in a heartbeat. You're definitely not telecommuting material."

    Thanks again for food for thought, Tobias!

  • by Veronica Maria Jarski Mon Mar 4, 2013 via blog

    Good points, Courtney.

    And the good thing is, when we do see each other at live events (the MarketingProfs B2B Forum comes to mind), we already feel connected. That's because of good communication.

    Whether you work in a company office or a home one, you need to communicate well to do well.

  • by Veronica Maria Jarski Mon Mar 4, 2013 via blog

    Beth,

    I like your list of tips for working from home. Thanks for adding to the conversation!

  • by Karen Fitze Mon Mar 4, 2013 via blog

    My laptop clock reads 6:08. I've been working since 8 this morning (I usually begin at 7:30). I'll knock off for dinner and come back up to my office for a couple additional hours of maintenance. I heard someone say "I love working for myself. I can work any 12 hours of the day I choose". That pretty much sums it up.

  • by John R Mon Mar 4, 2013 via blog

    My comments:

    1. You left out the T word: Trust. The employer and the employee must each trust each other. If the employee is not trusted to manage their time and delivery schedules, the system breaks down. If the one suspects the other is not providing value for money , trust breaks down very quickly. Both must take 51% of the responsibility to ensure the other is satisfied with the expectations, the resources required and the delivery schedule.

    2. Previous comments have discussed the need to establish a morning routine to get your into "office" mode (shower, get dressed, close the door, etc). The reverse is equally important: at the end of the day, open the door, walk through it and close it again. With zero commute time, it is so easy to work rather than spend quality time with your family. "They are just watching TV. I'll slip into the office and send off a couple of emails." Then 2 hours later.....

    3. Telecommuting does not negate the need or the cost of day care. You cannot raise a family with all its distractions and productively telecommute especially if the parameters of your employment demand you work and be available for "normal" daytime hours. You need that separate time and space to be a productive worker and raise a family. Multitasking during the day will not work.

  • by Jill P. Viers Tue Apr 2, 2013 via blog

    I think your point on slide 6 is at the heart of the whole remote worker debate. If you hire telecommuters who aren't organized, committed to deadlines, or able to handle things on their own, putting them in an office isn't going to help. The same is true with people who don't do a good job in the office. If you hire the right people for your culture and needs, they can be successful anywhere. I was successful in an office environment but I've never been happier or more productive now that I work from home.

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