Remote Workers Are Not Losers

A stigma that many people, including 911 dispatchers and people with disabilities, are trying to change.
6 min read | by Jennifer Cameron
Person in Wheelchair

Imagine the mix of anticipation and excitement as you, a dedicated remote worker, make your way to downtown Minneapolis for the city revitalization announcement. Eager to hear about the upcoming projects from the mayor himself, your enthusiasm quickly turns to disbelief when the mayor labels you as a “loser.” Yes, that's right—the mayor dismissively stigmatizes remote workers as “losers who stay home sitting on their couch with their nasty cat blanket diddling on their laptop.”  The troubling trend continues with leaders perpetuating the stigma that workers can’t be productive from a place other than the brick-and-mortar walls of a downtown office building.

Most of us know the benefits of remote and hybrid-remote work models, including Mayor Jacob. And I understand his purpose and intentions around revitalization of downtown spaces. This is an important task that many city leaders are accountable for right now. But it does not have to be at the expense of the many engaged and productive remote employees out there. 

We know that businesses can save on overhead expenses when they choose to have a distributed workforce. And this means that office space now needs to be repurposed in some instances. But it doesn’t mean those distributed employees are losers. We also know businesses benefit from expanding talent pool options by having no barriers around location. 

There is plenty of research to show employees prefer to work remotely than in-person because they can integrate their work into their lives. Nothing speaks louder than leaders supporting an organizational culture that shows they trust their people to do the right thing and get work done whenever it needs to be done. In turn, they retain committed, responsible, happy employees who feel empowered to manage their time how and when they want, and they prove it by going above and beyond to ensure they deliver on their goals and the company mission.

Stop the Stigmatization

I only mention a few but there are so many more advantages of going remote. I now want to highlight some examples where flexibility is so crucial to survival for humans and to businesses being agile and able to pivot on a moment’s notice when needed. Downtown LA, Long Beach, Pasadena, and other parts of California have experienced widespread disruption in power, flooding, hurricane winds, and other weather-related side effects this year. 

Many local universities and other schools switched to online learning as a precaution. Additionally, staff working on campus were permitted to work remotely as well, allowing the universities to continue operations during one of the worst floods in decades. Noting that without the ability to flex and enact this contingency plan, students and employees could have been endangered and had to make up classes and work later.

Natural disasters and regular winter storms happen all around us, so it pays to have options in place to stay productive and operational. Local governments and other businesses recognize this need. The list goes on of municipalities and organizations allowing remote work for weather events. The point is, that permitting employees to work remotely, whether due to bad weather or personal circumstances, reinforces the legitimacy and necessity of remote work in ensuring the safety and continuity of business operations

One very important segment of the workforce is those with disabilities. During the pandemic, we saw a notable positive increase in employment opportunities for people with disabilities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics released a studyshowing that “the percentage of disabled people who were employed rose to 21.3% in 2022,” which was a record high. Unfortunately, because of this stigma around work workers being lazy, laying around in cat blankets, and diddling on their computers, we are now seeing the negative impacts on those with disabilities. When leaders want to demand a return to office (RTO), we must remember some people have increased barriers to employment opportunities simply because of the demand to be in person. 

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Paramedic in Ambulance

The Life-Saving Impact of Remote Work

Have you ever thought about the possibility of remote work saving lives? Completely debunking the stigma that remote workers are losers is an example of one area getting creative in order to serve emergency needs. We have a story on the staffing shortage in Kitsap County, Wash., titled “A dangerous Washington 911 staffing crisis was averted with a simple fix: remote work.” 

This county was the first to approve a work-from-anywhere program for 911 dispatchers, who quickly proved that with a good internet connection and the right technology, lives can be saved from your own home. I think we can all agree, that is winning, not losing. Unlike leaders who revert back to older ways of doing things, this example illustrates that thinking outside the box, not being limited by traditional processes, and a willingness to flex a bit on what was “normal,” amazing things can happen. 

Improving Lives Through Remote Work

There are benefits beyond employment. Many people have experienced the broader life improvements of remote work, including reduced commuting stress, better work-life balance, and the opportunity for individuals with disabilities to participate more fully in the workforce. Additionally, studies show improved mental health and productivity among remote workers, emphasizing the importance of choice: working where you are the most comfortable and productive. Leaders need to shift their mindsets. Going to an office, likely to take video meetings most of the day, is not inherently better than remote work simply because that is what worked in the past. We are no longer advocating for a one-size-fits-all approach. We have a beautifully diverse workforce, with varying needs and preferences that remote work can accommodate, from parents to people with disabilities, to those living in remote areas, and more.

The Need for a Balanced View on Remote Work

So please, readers, leaders, employers, and policymakers, try to recognize the value and potential of remote work, not as a lesser alternative but as an equally valid and sometimes superior option. Coworking alternatives and even using corporate office space strategically when getting employees together is a great way to show that you can change and show your employees you hear them and care for their wellbeing.

Flexible work arrangements that include remote options to foster an inclusive, diverse, and resilient workforce are not going away. Those who come out publicly and demand a return to office are expressing their fear that they are losing the battle. Change isn’t always easy, but there are remote and hybrid-remote work options that can provide your employees the flexibility they need while providing excellent output for your company. 

Reach out to us at Blend Me, Inc., and see how we can help you implement these solutions.

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Originally Published by Jennifer Cameron on Wednesday, February 14, 2024 | Updated on Wednesday, April 3, 2024
Tags:
Community
, Disaster Contingency
, Inclusion
, Disabilities
, News and Events
, Remote Work Wednesday
, Human Resources Today
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