The ability to work from home is an increasingly popular and coveted perk in modern workplaces, and it's not hard to see why. From an employee perspective, the benefits of avoiding a commute are obvious, but employers also see benefits: Overhead costs go down if you don't have to provide desk space and equipment for your staff, and you'll never have to worry about lateness due to traffic or transportation issues.
But if virtual employees aren't visible in the office, how can they remain accountable? Will their bosses treat them as "out of sight, out of mind?" Are they going to be reachable during normal business hours? Won't they get distracted by all of their personal responsibilities at home?
Whether you work from home yourself or just manage people who do, it's important to separate fact from fiction regarding remote-work habits and practices. Maren Donovan, founder and CEO of virtual assistant hiring service Zirtual, cleared up some common misconceptions employers and employees have about virtual workers. [No Face Time? No Problem: How to Keep Virtual Workers Engaged]
You can be just as productive working on the couch as at a desk or table. "While you should make yourself as comfortable as possible and move locations to stay inspired throughout the day, the couch should not serve as your primary place of work. Save your neck and back!"
Meetings aren't productive because they're not face-to-face. "In our experience, meetings in the virtual space are often more efficient and productive than in office. We are all extra sensitive to everyone's varying time zones and don't feel the need to waste time. We also greatly value the in-person meetings and tasks throughout the day, since they are not the norm."
"Work from home" strictly means working from home, as opposed to other nonoffice settings. "We work from hotels, parks, cafes, restaurants, airplanes, libraries, pools, beaches, rooftops, nail salons — the list goes on and on. A portable Internet device is by far a nomadic [virtual worker's] best friend, as the whole world becomes your office."
You can do your work anytime, night or day, without deadlines. "Because business thrives upon other people's deadlines and needs, we work when everyone else does — and then some!"
You work more than people who work in the office. "It's possible. It often becomes hard to draw the line when your home becomes a place for work and everything else, but it is very important to insist on a daily routine that involves eating, relating, taking a walk, etc."
There are too many distractions at home to work efficiently. "Similar to meditation, you become extremely good at cutting out all the noise and focusing on the task at hand. Like anything, it takes practice, but we all remain so grateful to be able to, e.g., write a report or take an important call from the park, that we work even harder than we would from inside a cubicle."
Anyone can work from home. "It is absolutely not for everyone, but we firmly stand behind the idea that work is something that you do, not a place that you go. It is vital that the company you work within encourages a strong sense of culture and community and implements a thought-out process to set employees up for success."
As a remote worker who manages an entirely virtual staff, Donovan understands where some of these myths originated. Home distractions and lulls in creativity are real challenges, and to combat them, she advised working in spurts, taking frequent walks and changing your environment often.
Donovan also noted that employers are realizing how valuable working from home can be for both the company and its employees, and predicted a continued increase in the number of companies who offer this perk.
"With companies such as AMEX, Apple, Google and Adobe all offering their employees [a remote-work] option, we suspect that many more will begin to consider the same opportunity to help their companies thrive," Donovan told Business News Daily. "You are offered the true opportunity to achieve a work-life balance, whatever that means for you. Being able to work from the comfort of one's own home and make a decent living at the same time is priceless."
Originally published on Business News Daily