Busting The Six Myths Of Flexible And Remote Work Keeping Us Stuck

Recently, Jessica Davies, the Managing Editor of the Future of Work for Digiday, asked me to debunk the top myths about flexible and remote work that were keeping people stuck as Davies explains, “…in the stampede to figure out the right hybrid models, misunderstandings that can lead to further headaches.” The article “Myth buster: Hybrid working models’ biggest misconceptions” is currently trending as the “most read” article on the Digiday site. Here are the six myths I shared with Davies and my explanation for why busting them matters: Myth #1: Flexible and remote working is new. Reality: It’s not new. Why it matters: “It’s far less overwhelming for leaders to navigate these choppy waters if they remember that everything was already headed in this direction. So the focus can then be on how do they move forward instead of just resorting to the muscle memory of how we did things before.” Myth #2: Work is where you go, when you go.Reality: It was, now it’s not. Why it matters: “Don’t try and shoehorn the where, start with the what, and then allow for the flexibility to be built around that.”Myth #3: Most remote workers are, and will be, women.Reality: They may be now, but they weren’t pre-pandemic and they likely won’t be in the future.  Why it matters: “I fear that this misperception is only going to reinforce with senior leaders, what they already believed, which was that this is about moms and women, and women can’t work the way everybody else does…It could reinforce the flexible-work penalty that women were already having to experience prior to COVID. The hope is that it becomes about where do you do your best work, not about gender.” Because pre-pandemic, our national research showed, most of the workers who did most of their work from a remote location were men. Myth #4: The return to the office will be a set day. Reality: It won’t. Why it matters: “Back to the office in COVID times is going to be an ongoing dial up and dial down, based on frequently changing health and safety considerations…If we can move past this date obsession, it will make people a lot less anxious. I think we’re waiting for this magic day. And I just don’t know if it’s ever going to happen. Perhaps having a back-to-office date is causing more problems than it’s solving.” Myth #5: Money is the main motivator for securing talent.Reality: It isn’t.  Why it matters: As I’ve noted many times before, research shows organizations are competing for talent on three fronts simultaneously—flexibility, money and opportunity.  It’s interesting to point out I have a slightly different interpretation of research from McKinsey that’s cited in the article.  Employees AND employers agree that work-life “balance” (or a lack thereof) is the MOST IMPORTANT factor causing people to quit. BUT looked at more broadly, what is IMPORTANT to employees–and less obvious to employers–is the flexibility to fit their work AND life together AND still:

  • Be valued by their organization
  • Be valued by their manager
  • Have potential for advancement
  • Have caring and trusting teammates
  • Have a sense of belonging

The only way that happens is if work flexibility is executed as a cultural and operational motto of “the way we ALL work here,” not as a stand-alone policy or arrangement.Myth #6: Hybrid requires a one-size-fits-all enterprise-wide HR policy.Reality: It shouldn’t. Why it matters: “There has to be real intentionality around what’s happening on the day that you bring everybody together, otherwise you risk undermining the credibility of having to be together on that day…It can’t be a case of everybody is brought back in on the same days, only to sit in their respective cubes on Zoom calls.”