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10 remote work myths debunked (+ tips for working remotely) by Maria Wachal

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There are so many negative myths about remote working but those who work remotely will know that often it can be more beneficial than working within an office environment! Maybe you sometimes feel that working remotely gets a bad reputation that it doesn't deserve? Well, we are here to help dispel these rumours, we found this prominent article written by Maria Wachal, Marketing and Growth Manager at SoftwareMill on 10 remote work myths debunked and we wanted to share it with you. So have a read and rid those negative delusions.



According to the Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2018 remote work option is the highest priority for 10.3% developers when assessing a potential employer.

Image Source: https://insights.stackoverflow.com/survey/2018/


Telecommuting is becoming a natural habitat for us programmers, also for workers from other industries:


Image Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/15/us/remote-workers-work-from-home.html


Many companies embrace remote work, because flexibility and mobility that come with it, are factors that attract talented individuals who are looking for something that goes beyond a typical office job.

Telework comes in different sorts. From offering semi-flex positions when you can work from home a few days per week, to a completely distributed workplace. We’ve been such a distributed company for almost 10 years now. We have no common office, and all of us work from places they like best. Usually their homes or co-working spaces. However, some of us do not hesitate to take a workation.

Not having an office doesn’t mean you cannot be successful as a team and as a company. BUT, you need:

  • a set of rules to create a remote friendly environment,
  • new hires need to have the skill set necessary to work remotely.

There are many myths around remote work, so to help you set the foundation for how it can actually look like, we decided to debunk the most common remote work myths. We back it up with our best practices and tips we learnt by being a 100% remote company for 10 years.

Time to toss aside concerns and become your own boss!


Myth 1. Remote workers are not productive

The image of a person dragging all day in their sweatpants, doing plenty of different stuff, but no work is a common misunderstanding of remote work. How can one be productive outside the office environment? The fact is, healthy remote companies rely on trust. Additionally they create an environment that supports remote work.

In SoftwareMill we emulate being together, using TeamSpeak and Slack. We also try to minimize situations in which people are left alone, meaning we are not taking single-person projects. We believe that, given an optimal work environment, ordinary employees can propose an idea and then implement it, to jointly shape the company’s future. That’s why we are ~40 CEOs, and together we are more productive and engaged everyday.


Myth 2. Communication in a remote environment fails

Communication is the very foundation of just about everything. It may become challenging in distributed workplace and requires a certain set of rules and tools. Working from home, you don’t have a possibility to simply walk up to a colleague and have a chat. Plus, without a body language and a tone of voice your real meaning might get lost in translation, right? I would say that it depends on a person’s communication skills and a quality of remote friendly environment.

There are telecommunication standards that, when implemented, help remote teams communicate effectively. It is very easy to make your people feeling left out without any connection with the rest of your company. To emulate the feeling of being together in SoftwareMill we use TeamSpeak, tool I already mentioned before. It is a central hub for our voice communication.

Each team working on a specific project has its own channel (room) where developers and other team members spend their time. Any of them can initiate discussion with other team members using “push-to-talk” in just one click.

Tomek Dziurko wrote a whole article on how to improve your remote communication with TeamSpeak.

Here we are celebrating Woman’s Day, so the guys dressed to impress.


Aspiring remote companies will also find this list of tools we use to communicate effectively useful:

  • BigBlueButton — for video streaming
  • TeamSpeak — voice communication and a central comms hub
  • Slack — written communication and a central comms hub
  • Confluence — our wiki for documentation and knowledge sharing
  • TrelloJira — for agile project management
  • SkypeHangoutZoom — for standups with clients
  • Join.me, Zoom— for pair programming and company presentations
  • Git — for a flexible source control system
  • GitHub, Stash— for code reviews

Myth 3. There are too many distractions outside the office

Distractions are everywhere, an office environment is no exception, especially the ones with open spaces. Noisy coffee breaks, loud phone calls, spending too much time in common rooms, air conditioning settings never right…

All these take us away from focusing on work. It’s true that in remote environment it often becomes hard to draw the line and you will spend lots of time telling friends and family ”no!” at the beginning. But eventually they will get used to the fact that you being at home doesn’t mean you being available.

Successful remote companies reward results to attract and retain people that will be productive anywhere. During our hiring process we make sure to check if the candidate has good communication skills and is passionate about their work. We believe that simply liking what you do makes us immune for distractions, wherever they may come from.


Myth 4. Home office is not a healthy space

Only if you don’t organise it your way and make it ergonomic. First of all, ideally you will need a separate room with a desk for work. It will help you clearly distinguish your workspace and create a mindset in your head that being at home doesn’t mean being at work and vice versa.

Take a look at two of our colleagues’ home offices below. What they have in common are:

  • good lighting
  • comfortable and ergonomic chair and desk
  • separation from outside work distractions
This is how some of us work on a daily basis

Organising your workspace the way you want it will be a great perk that pays off in a long run. When working remotely it’s worth to take care of the necessary equipment and tools. An additional monitor, headphones, and the most important — access to a good Internet connection. Do not hesitate to ask other remote workers for advice on how to set up your space properly.

Actually we have the company wiki page dedicated for this purpose. Here we share our opinions about desks, chairs, monitors, hardware and anything useful when working remotely.

Office chairs ranking page from our company’s wiki


Myth 5. There is no work-life balance in remote work

How does an employer know whether their remote workers spend enough hours working? Is there a pressure to make an impression of being available 24/7?

Nothing more wrong. Healthy remote companies rely on trust. If they didn’t, they would not offer remote positions in a first place. People who work from home work similar hours to everyone else and they don’t need to put more effort on actually proving that they’re getting things done.

Actually, planning activities like gym, family time, taking care of pets, passions or hobbies is much easier with flexible remote schedule. You’re free to organise your workday around important family matters or other obligations if necessary. Being at home foster experiencing such simple, but important moments like: watching your children grow, first steps, first day of school, etc. It’s a luxury just a few of “working parents” have.

And one more big bonus: no commuting means saved time, money and reduced carbon footprint in the environment.

Nevertheless to remain effective and lead a stress-free and balanced life, you should remember about the 3 most important rules when working remotely:

  • don’t go “dark” — even over communicating is always better in remote environment than making assumptions and not vocalising things,
  • keep a to-do list — it will help you stay organised,
  • don’t stay away from social interactions — there is life outside work, no matter if you’re a remote or regular worker.

Myth 6. Remote workers become socially awkward


If you don’t maintain the daily routine of showering and dressing as if you’re going to the office, you will end up like this guy:

Image Source: theoatmeal.com

But setting laughs aside, working remotely doesn’t mean you won’t have a meaningful human contact. In our company, we hold a daily integration stand-up meeting with all team members. This is the place to say good morning everyday and have a little chat to kick start a productive day.

We also use Slack for important and sometimes not-so-important conversations. It simply emulates being together. We have plenty of different themed channels and when you’re done with your work, you can chat with others about whatever interests you.

Furthermore, not having to spend money for renting an office allows us to get together more often. It feels more like a family reunion than a dreaded work obligation. We meet monthly in various locations, often in places where our teammates come from. This is our latest trip to one of Poland’s mountain ranges:


SoftwareMill on the top of Babia Mountain


Myth 7. Working from home feels lonely

It might, if you decide to never leave your home. But why would you do that if there are so many possibilities to work practically from anywhere. When working remotely your one and only limitation is the access to good Internet connection.

We are a Polish company and according to “Flexible workplaces in Poland” report, there are 174 locations offering co-work spaces in Poland:

  • Warsaw — over 94 000 m² of office space, 80% of which is located in buildings classified as modern office buildings.
  • Kraków — over 17 000 m² of office space
  • Poznań — 9 300 m² of office space
  • Wrocław — 6 200 m² of office space
  • Łódź — 2 200 m² of office space

Some of our team members use co-working spaces, some work from coffee spots in their area, some decided to enjoy the beauty of the world and other cultures during their workations.

The Gallup poll proves that remote workers actually feel more connected to their companies than on-site workers. You won’t feel lonely if there is a whole remote-first mindset set up. Additionally, working from home may actually motivate you to do more outside home after work.


Myth 8. Remote workers can’t learn from co-workers

Learning is important and readiness for learning and teamwork are essential in remote-first companies. Our team welcomes feedback, and is all too happy to share experiences for the benefit of everybody.

We conduct R&D, agree on important decisions together in working groups that are self-organised. All these allows us to more effectively complete projects to the clients’ satisfaction.

We also hold reading clubs and a thing called Friday Market. These are places to discuss programming books together or learn from each other during internal keynotes that resolve around a subject someone mastered or explored recently.

Although we work remotely, we also practice pair programming. Applications like Screenhero or Zoom give us all what we need for this. And whenever you need help with an ongoing project, there are technical channels (#java, #scala, #devops, #javascriot, #technical, etc.) on our Slack full of developers willing to help you to solve problem you’re facing.


Myth 9. Remote workers have no control over the project

With project management tools (we use Trello) you can have a transparent vision of what’s going on in your project. It’s visual enough to recreate of what a whiteboard tends to look like after an intense retro.

Being a flat company, we stand out even more among other remote companies when it comes to being fully committed and transparent. We give our developers the power to make decisions by removing management from the equation. Our developers talk directly with every client so the feedback loop is shortened. We found out it increases their interest in the projects to the point they are motivated to do research.


Myth 10. Remote companies have no company culture

A fact is that only companies with a high level of trust and respect are able to work completely remotely.

In our company we created an organisational culture where decisions and changes are triggered from the bottom up and do not require (or only to a limited extent) supervisor acceptance.

  • we are agile — we can get to better and faster decision-making while maintaining full transparency,
  • we are motivated — we use open allocation and our employees can move between teams at will,
  • we have a low turnover rate — we are a so called “teal organisation” and it gives our Team members a sense of purpose and prevents them looking for a different job,
  • we have happy clients — our project teams are involved and deliver that translates directly into reviews we get from our customers.

We also pay great attention to the atmosphere and trust in our company. We spend time together outside work and simply like each other.

Want to join our team? (you need to speak Polish)

We’re always looking for fresh talents!


Wrap up

remote work can work. We’ve managed to work hard — not hardly — remotely very successfully for almost 10 years. We started as a fully distributed company, and we have a solid onboarding system to show for it.

Still curious for more tips on how to go remote? Don’t hesitate to ask us in the comments section!'


This article was written by Maria Wachal and posted originally on blog.softwaremill.com