9 Excuses Bosses Use to Keep People From Working Remotely

bosses' excuses

I still cannot understand why companies do not want people working remotely. It has served us incredibly well at Aha! — but I also believe it is important to consider differing points of view. So I recently asked folks on LinkedIn for the reasons employers had rejected remote work. One particular response floored me. “This job is too important to be remote.” Wow. This perfectly encapsulates every misguided notion that exists about the nature of distributed teams.

It is a fallacy that people must work in the same place to make a meaningful contribution to the business.

Too many company leaders still hold negative and outdated stances on remote teams. They worry that little work will actually get done and doubt that teammates located across the country (or even the world) will be able to collaborate effectively. 

After reading through the excuses that people shared with me, I think I understand these fears a bit better. But I know firsthand that being distributed can be an incredibly empowering way to work, benefiting the business and teammates alike. Aha! is one of the fastest-growing companies in the U.S. The fact that we are an entirely distributed team is a big part of that growth. 

It turns out that when you let people work from where they are happiest, they are more productive. 

Countless studies point to the benefits of remote work for employee engagement and productivity. Yet the misconceptions persist. Here are nine common excuses to prevent employees from working remotely — and my perspective on why these beliefs are misguided:

“This kind of work cannot be done remotely.”
I know that this is a common excuse. But technology makes it possible to do most professional work remotely. Even doctors do virtual consults. 

“If we let people work from home, we will lose our culture.”
Our entirely distributed team at Aha! proves this wrong. Our culture is strong. But do not take my word for it. Surveys show that remote workers tend to have higher engagement overall.

“You will get lonely and not enjoy working here anymore.”
Nope. In fact, one study showed that remote workers were twice as likely to love their jobs as in-office folks.

“It will be too hard to onboard new hires.” 
Really? Not if you have a carefully planned onboarding program and people who love to help new folks get going. New hires say they learned more in the five-week Aha! onboarding than in years of working at other companies.

“People will never get their work done.”
Some people think working remotely leads to more interruptions. But have you ever spent time in a cube farm where the distractions are relentless? Most people find remote work disturbance-free. Our team is way more productive than any I have ever worked with before. And again, most remote work studies bear this out.

“It will be easier to communicate face-to-face.”
This one is a puzzler to me. Because our team at Aha! sees each other’s faces multiple times a day. All meetings are held over video, even impromptu troubleshooting or feedback calls.

“We are not set up for that.”
Remote teams do not use any mysterious methods to communicate or get work done. All it takes is the tools your company likely already uses, a secure internet connection, and a laptop.

“It will compromise security.”
How? You already have people doing work from laptops and mobile phones. It is also likely that highly motivated team members are already working outside of the office and from home after hours.

“If I let you do it, then everyone will follow.”
Okay, it is hard to argue with this one. Because it is true — once one person is allowed to work remotely and enjoys the benefits of doing so, everyone else will want to too. When that happens, what excuse will be used to keep them from being more productive and happier than they are today?

No location is perfect. But allowing people to work from where they are most efficient and happy is as close as you will get. 

For employees, it is important to advocate for being distributed if you think it is possible. Have a discussion with your manager. See if you can work together on a trial period. If your employer is still brushing you off with excuse after excuse, it might be time to look for a remote-friendly company — like Aha!

What other excuses for not allowing people to work remotely have you heard?

Remote workers really are happier and more productive. Find out for yourself — Aha! is hiring.

About Brian and Aha!

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 roadmap software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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  1. Mary Sexton

    Brian, I am so glad you brought this subject to light and people are actually talking about it.

    I worked for a company for 15 years and wanted to move to OK to be near my son and granddaughter after he retired from the Airforce. I submitted a request to work remotely and was told that my job could only be done in the office. That was totally absurd since I was able to do everything I did in the office from home.

    It was a hard decision, but I decided to retire and move on 7/5/2019.

  2. Raymon van der Velde

    Hi Brian,
    How would you cater for people like myself. I’m not against remote working at all and enjoy once maybe twice working remote. But I’m an extrovert and I get a lot of energy from interacting with people. Physical presence and dynamic is a large part of that. I love working in an office / place where I can see other people, stand in front of a whiteboard with them, walk with someone to discuss a tough topic, etc.

    Do you think promoting a distributed company will foster a certain type of person to feel more comfortable than others? And if so what the impact would be?

    Thanks for the blogposts and thought leadership!

  3. Barbara Saunders

    A few years ago, I worked in the real estate department of a large corporation. The company leaders decided they didn’t want to maintain the office footprint anymore; they intended to rent some of the office space out to other companies and encourage employees to gradually move their work home. I attended the change management meetings.

    When asked about barriers to working from home, employees were forthcoming. Some were not aware of collaboration technologies the company had already installed. Others said they were aware of the technologies but did not feel they’d been adequately trained. One group had a very specific issue: Their work required access to physical documentation that had not been digitized, and they legitimately could not do their jobs without those documents.

    But there was another, large group reported their only barrier to working from home was the resistance of their managers. The managers openly defied the wishes of the company executives, dragged their feet with all kinds of excuses that their reports “had to” work in the office.


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