Busting the Home-Working Myths
Until recently, for most, working from home was shrouded in mystery: somewhere between fantasy and logistical impossibility.
Some of the reasons employers argued it wouldn’t work included: “Employees won’t work as well,” “They can’t possibly communicate with each other,” And “Our productivity will decrease.”
Meanwhile, employees’ thoughts were more like: “I’d never be able to motivate myself,” I’d be bored and lonely,” and “I like coming into the office for the atmosphere.” And let’s not forget the flip-side — ‘Hooray, the start of Netflix-fuelled paradise, eating nachos, and getting paid for it!’
But, whatever our predispositions here we are, suddenly thrust into this previously-mythical reality we once found hard to imagine.
At Namecheap, we’ve had large remote teams since we started almost 20 years ago. This gives our leadership team some unique insight into how to make remote working a success, and the ability to bust some of the myths surrounding it.
We spoke to:
- Hillan Klein — Chief Operating Officer
- Anna Quirk — Director of Global Talent
- Kim Eldred — Learning Engagement Lead
Here’s what Namecheap has to say about remote working.
Myth 1: Remote Working Doesn’t Attract the Best Candidates
It’s often thought that remote work will put off the best candidates because it isn’t what most people are used to. But as a company that has championed the remote working structure for nearly 20 years, there must be some fairly solid reasoning around choosing this direction. ‘It’s allowed us to find talented people with the right experience without being constrained to the talent available in one location’ Quirk says.
It’s as simple as that! By widening the pool of talent, there is more to choose from, and plenty of talented people find home working to offer some really meaningful benefits.
Myth 2: Productivity Will Reduce
Managers and leaders are most concerned with productivity taking a nosedive when people transition to home working. Along with the idea that they sometimes fear that one of the biggest parts of their role — in-person motivation — will become obsolete.
Klein acknowledges that it is certainly something that can be an issue, but one that can definitely be overcome: “We have learned over the years that productivity doesn’t come as naturally in a remote environment for those who are used to working in an office, but it can be nurtured if managed with intent. This means you need to be very thoughtful, and clear.
“Agreeing on key milestones, or when work is due, is crucial to ensure deadlines are met, and work keeps moving. There may be times during the day that make it impractical for somebody to be online and available, especially during times of uncertainty (while people are at home with their families). Be open, and create an environment where people can work on their own schedule to get priority work done as needed.”
Myth 3: I Won’t Be Able to Set Clear Goals
To ensure productivity, leaders must be able to continue setting goals that continue to be delivered upon without any loss of productivity.
Klein suggests that you: “Focus on results, not screen time. Being flexible and observing whether somebody gets results through their collaboration and consistent values/behaviors is critically important. Work needs to get done and you need to see the results — but that doesn’t mean that somebody has to be at their desk from 9 to 5. Let them take accountability for hitting deadlines, and you’ll see whether they are delivering, or if their productivity drops while they are working remotely.
“If you need to be able to sustain productivity while working from home, you will need to intentionally deliver on these key principles, and will be going a long way to building your team’s trust, and trusting them in return.”
Myth 4: Employees Won’t Be Accountable for Their Actions
Klein continues: “Just because people are not visibly in front of you, doesn’t mean you should not hold them accountable for their actions, or (often a larger concern in remote relationships), inaction. Set clear deliverables where the role supports it and set up new ways (if existing ways no longer work) to report on the progress of your teams. Using simple productivity tools, such as Atlassian, Jira, or Trello, can help to organize work and ensure there’s real-time transparency to productivity within the teams.”
And remember: “You can’t do everything at once, so ensure everyone is aligned on what your company, team, and individual priorities are. This will help you to remove ambiguity, uncertainty, and time wastage. Of course, it is important to show empathy toward your team during times of uncertainty and stress — openly acknowledge which work can be deprioritized to reduce unnecessary pressure on your people.”
Myth 5: Technology Will Pose an Issue
Home-working presents certain challenges that don’t exist in a normal office environment. Access to work systems, and organizing the technology behind that being possible, is a big consideration.
Klein begins: “We’ve faced all sorts of challenges while working remotely over the years, including technical and operational outages, but we have been able to come together, think creatively, and find solutions that are just as effective as if we were together in person. Once again, you can become a coordinated, creative problem-solving team if you are intentional about how you interact, and you lean into the unfamiliar virtual space as if it were your own office.”
Myth 6: Communication Will Be Worse
Along with productivity, this is probably the biggest question mark around home working. But it is perhaps one where Namecheap runs smoothest, perhaps due to the systems being built with home-working in mind from the start.
Quirk explains that one critical success factor is using instant messaging properly: “These platforms are essential to spontaneity in remote work. Also, everyone agreeing that “this is the platform where all our spontaneous conversations will take place” is essential to having it actually work that way.
“The upside is that when you’re feeling creative or energized, you can contribute to many threads in a short space of time. The downside is that you have to carefully manage instant chat as a major distraction risk. As your group builds a culture around instant messaging, you will see the organic evolution of formal channels vs. informal ones, temporary channels, project channels, work management, innovation/idea sharing, etc. These are all quite normal now. Even in co-located offices, we tend to use digital platforms to manage communications.
“Since so many of us are already used to building and maintaining relationships using digital media, people are really good at creating and sharing in these formats, which makes it a bit easier to “open ourselves up” at work by sharing a little photo or a link to some other dimension of our lives.”
Furthermore, with changing trends, firms shifting to remote work culture are more likely to use a dedicated cloud phone system for their remote employees. It not only enables them to discuss things frequently but also eliminates the communication gap that everyone was expecting in remote culture.
Myth 7: I Won’t Be Able to Overcome Problems as Easily
Every business has and must overcome problems. It is an essential part of survival, and remote businesses are no different. Eldred recalls an example of overcoming problem-solving recently: “Several members of a remote team at Namecheap were planning to get together for a workshop. Because of the current health crisis, Namecheap decided to focus on safeguarding the health of its people and stopped all business travel.
“While disappointed, the team members shifted to an online workshop that included sessions using the whiteboard and collaboration tools, and Video Conferencing. They balanced their time collaborating online with “walk-and-talks” to encourage creativity with some inspiration from outside of their normal working environment, and separated working time with time to think independently. Afterwards, they shared their individual thoughts with the group.
“Sure, it wasn’t the same as being in the same room, but not because it lacked innovation or creativity. And to make up for not being there in person, we shared some personal conversations that really made us feel more connected. We talked about what was happening outside our windows, what the family was doing that weekend, and the strange things our pets were doing while we worked. Things like this can make a team feel more connected, no matter where they are located.”
Myth 8: Instant Messengers Aren’t Good Enough
Perhaps it’s too strong to say this is a complete myth — nobody would say instant messages can replace face-to-face communication, but why can’t that face be on a screen, and the medium be your preferred video conferencing tool?
Klein advises on an approach to achieve good communication: “Decide how, when, and where you communicate with each other, and as teams. Look into tools that are commonly used to do this. It is also important to educate yourself, and your team, on over-communication.
“Over-communication, in this context, means being very intentional about clarifying people’s understanding of a discussion, key takeaways, actions, and responsibilities. Simply put, review what was just discussed, and the next steps (including who does what), at the end of every discussion, interaction or meeting.
“Connect verbally — or better yet, turn on your camera to communicate. Use instant messaging between calls to allow you to focus on your work, but get simple questions answered in real-time.”
Myth 9: I Will Never See My Team
It’s easy to imagine with home-working that you’ll never meet in person, and lose the rapport that this brings. Namecheap teams have always met on a semi-regular basis where possible, and Klein expands on this:
“It goes without saying that being in the same room for creative problem solving is the best-case scenario, and even with our remote workers, we aim to bring people together frequently enough that we can solve larger problems in person. That said, it’s not always possible, and the current situation makes it impossible.”
He adds: “At Namecheap, we recognize that it is undoubtedly beneficial to meet each other in person, and we have seen first-hand that remote workers are more effective as a team once they’ve met in person. It’s important to get to meet, greet, and grow together whenever possible, and to use technology as a means to close the gap when you can’t.”
Myth 10: I Can’t Be a Good Leader Remotely
As someone who has been a remote leader for a long period, Klein has the following tips that can help you lead your remote team, and believes a transparent environment is a good place to start:
“Creating an environment that fosters transparency is difficult to do in the short-term, but there are a few things that you can do to help get there.”
- Lead by example: Be transparent with your team through open conversations about the health of your business, the challenges you are facing, both as a leader and as a team, and engage them in finding solutions.
- Follow through on your commitments: Even the small things, like showing up on time to meetings (not even one minute late) shows your dedication, and means you can ask the same of your team.
- Do as I do: Show people you are paying attention to the detail, and that you are living by the rules you set for everyone.
- Communicate your expectations clearly: Get confirmation from your team on their ability to deliver on your expectations.
- Create an environment where people feel safe: Employees should feel able to open up when they need help.
- Reward the right behaviors: Show praise and appreciation, and don’t offer it for people who are not living up to the team’s expectations. The only exception is if people are proactively communicating about not being able to meet expectations, and working to reset them appropriately.”
Myth 11: Home Working Is a Temporary Solution
The past almost 20 years are a testament to the fact that, for Namecheap, remote working is here to stay. Strong teams and infrastructure have been built up, with talent from across the world being allowed to shine as a single unit, undimmed by the physical distance.
As Quirk says: “A trend toward remote working does not mean there is not tremendous value in working face to face. In fact, there is tremendous value in both. Just like with everything, the answer is not one or the other, it’s finding the right blend of the two. But when we look at issues to do with climate change, the shared value around work/life flexibility, the high demand for talent, the values of upcoming generations, technological innovations, and the impact of this global pandemic — I just don’t think there’s any way we can avoid a facelift when it comes to what work looks like. I think we are likely facing a future of work that is vastly different from what we know, and not just moving our workstations from one place to another.”
Myth 12: I Can’t Do It!
Yes, you can! It’s over to you to bust this myth for yourself. We hope our advice can help you increase your home working productivity, and guide you through what may be a challenging time for your business.
We’re supporting our customers with advice and offers inspired by the #CreateFromHome movement. It could be a great time to start a new project yourself, so why not see what you can #CreateFromHome?