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The dark side of remote work

Perception and control - main problems with remote work?

It’s not all “cupcakes and rainbows” here

Running and being a part of an all-remote team has its drawbacks, too. Especially when it comes down to how we’re perceived by the “real world”.

We might seem “unprofessional” to the outside world

The other side of the “social coin” is that we might not seem very “professional” to the people around us. Especially to our real-world friends. After all, they “go to work” every day and we “stay at home”, so what is it that we’re actually doing again?

On top of that, because of the flexibility of our work both in time and space, I get to drive the kids to school and usually pick them up as well. I’m there for their recitals and for the parents’ meetings. Seems I’m a stay-at-home dad. Which I am, but with work that nobody in my community really sees.

I remember my first home office when I launched Nozbe. It was an IKEA desk/cabinet in a corner of the living room of my first one-bedroom apartment. One day my mum called me and asked what was that I was actually doing, because when her friends’ sons where becoming “senior managers” or “directors” in “important companies”, I was this guy sitting at home all day.

I said: “Mum, I’m a CEO of a global company” for her to feel better about me, but I don’t think she was convinced.

My wife is a lawyer and she works in a big local office. I also remember meeting a colleague of hers on our kids’ party one day and she asked me bluntly: “Michael, do you actually work?” I had to really swallow my ego on that one.

Yep, there’s a whole chapter on that, too. The drawbacks of working from home, the perception of the outside world thinking you’re just this lazy stay-at-home person… and how to deal with that and make sure you stay sane.

Major problem: there’s no control!

Now that we’ve turned to the disadvantages of working in a #NoOffice environment let’s tackle the main problem had-on. How to control people when they work from their homes?

There’s the old saying that “trust is good but control is better”. but I’d argue that the #NoOffice version of it is “control is good but trust is better”

Trust is the key to any relationship. Especially to professional relationships in a #NoOffice team. We don’t install keyloggers on people’s computers, webcams in their homes or do any of that creepy stuff. We trust that people who work with us do their work in the 40-hour week that we have agreed upon. And it’s up to them to track it and deliver the results.

When I explain this, people think I’m a sucker. Yet they believe they control their team when they have them in the same physical space. How can they be sure that John isn’t spending too much time going out for a smoke with Steve and Jane? How can they know for a fact that when Judy is in front of her computer, she’s really working hard instead of browsing Facebook? They can’t and they don’t. They think the “management by walking around” is enough of a motivation for people to work effectively.

At the end of the day do you want to work with people that you trust or do you want to work with people that you have to control?

How do you trust your lawyers and accountants?

When people ask me about trusting remote workers, I ask them about their finances and legal situation. I ask how important these both issues are for them. Well, they almost always respond that both are big deal for them. If so, then how come these both issues are usually outsourced to accountants and lawyers who are not in the same office, maybe even the same city?

Yes, that’s right. You’re probably working with remote workers right now without thinking too much about it. You’re working with your lawyers and accountants and sharing very crucial information with them. You trust them… but you don’t trust your own employees?

Next Chapter: Why this book?

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