Your Company Will Not Let You Work Remotely — But Why?

pug dog looking out window

People want remote work. I hear this from job seekers, comments on social media, and leaders at technology companies. Everyone wants it and research proves the benefits. But many companies just will not let it happen. What is driving this disconnect?

Companies give all sorts of reasons for their myopia when it comes to remote work, but frankly, those reasons are usually bunk. The real reason is fear.

If I sound a bit biased on the subject, it is because I am. Aha! was founded on the premise and the promise of remote work.

Our team at Aha! is 100 percent distributed, with nearly 60 teammates in 50 cities worldwide. And when we have a position to fill, we can hire the best person for the job — no matter where they live.

But we are unusual. There are not many software companies our size with a totally distributed team. The concept of an entirely remote workforce is not familiar, so it makes some folks uncomfortable, maybe even a little threatened.

But doing great work is not dependent on a fixed location. And fear does not drive growth or innovation. It only slows us down and limits our potential.  

Fear of the unknown is behind a lot of companies’ “no remote work” policies. But that fear is unfounded. So let’s debunk some of the common arguments against remote work:

The argument: “People will not work hard.”
Not even close — 91 percent of remote employees said they accomplished far more at home than if they had been in the office. People who work remotely actually put in more hours, an average of four more hours per week than people working in an office. Add in fewer distractions and the ability to work when you are most productive, and you have a recipe for success.

The argument: “We will not be able to collaborate.”
Our team is proof that this is a fallacy. Collaboration software makes it easier than ever to find expertise within your organization, build strong connections, and have meaningful and productive interactions. At Aha!, we use our own product to set strategy and track work. We hold meetings over video and we instant message each other questions — or maybe a good meme we came across. And we do not need an office to build a product that people love.

The argument: “New hires will not learn fast enough.”   
I heard this one recently when I spoke with a CEO at a software company who was thinking about hiring remote employees. He was worried that new hires would not learn quickly enough without a nearby manager. I told him about our intensive onboarding program that gives every new Aha! employee a deep dive into our product and culture. With the right program in place, any company can get new hires up to speed remotely just as easily as in an office environment.

The argument: “There will be no innovation.”
Bringing people together in an office for meetings and ideation sessions does not guarantee innovation. And in fact, it often wastes time and money. One workplace survey showed that the most innovative workers actually spend more time collaborating virtually. High-performing innovators thrive on clear goals, access to resources, and autonomy. And if you are tackling a complex problem, a remote work environment gives team members more time and space to think. It avoids the problem of the loudest voice dominating the conversation.

The argument: “People will not be loyal to the company.”
I have never understood this argument. The fear is that isolated employees slowly grow disillusioned with the company. The opposite is true. In one survey, 82 percent of respondents said flexible work options would make them more loyal to their employer. In that same survey, 39 percent said they have turned down a promotion or job or even quit a job because of a lack of flexible work options. Sounds like the office workers are the disenchanted ones.

Remote work is the future. Fighting it will not move companies or the people who work for them forward.

Yes, I have seen the benefits of a distributed workforce firsthand. I sympathize if you work at a company that does not appreciate what working remotely could bring. You deserve the opportunity to learn how much more productive you could be without a commute and how much more connected you would be with your family and community.

The companies that do embrace remote work will continue to reap the benefits — happy employees, happy customers, and a wide talent pool of diverse people to keep the team growing.

What arguments does your company make for not allowing remote work?

About Brian and Aha!

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product roadmap software — and the author of Lovability. His two previous startups were acquired by well-known public companies. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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Comments

  1. Daniel Neumann

    Great article Brian.

    I’ve been remote for 9 years now and totally share your thoughts…

    One thing I’d like to add to the argument: “New hires will not learn fast enough.” is that being remote and distributed forces better practices on documenting processes that otherwise you’d simply ask the nearby colleague, so you’ll find a lot more “How-To’s”, processes and other similar documentation in whatever internal collaboration tool each of these companies use (the ones embracing remoteness and distributed workforce).

    Reply

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