A recent UK study showed the results of working from home during the time period between 2011 and 2020. It looks like remote workers didn’t do too well.
Some of the takeaways include the following:
- People who mainly worked from home were less than half as likely to be promoted.
- Around 38% remote workers didn’t receive a bonus.
- Telecommuters put in 6.0 hours of unpaid overtime on average per week in 2020 and homeworkers worked well into the evening.
- The sickness absence rate for at-home was 0.9% on average in 2020.
The survey sadly indicates that remote workers felt the pressure and stress to put in more hours while not reaping the rewards. Although we’d like to believe that all at-home workers would be treated similarly to in-office employees, the study, and some basic understanding of human nature, points to inevitable differences in the treatment of the two groups of people.
As a certain percentage of people return to the office on a full time or two to three days per week basis, they’ll form unique bonds. As this once-in-a-generation crisis is nearing an end, it’s natural that the folks in the office will share a special bond. They’ll renew old relationships, forge new connections, hold in-person meetings, and after being vaccinated, go out together for lunch and dinner. They’ll pop into the office of their managers, hold casual conversations in the hallways, and interface with people from other divisions. Those at home may miss out on this close-knit camaraderie.
Management may feel that the people who choose to go back to the headquarters are more dedicated to their jobs. The flip side of the coin is that some managers may feel remote workers don’t possess the same passion as in-office staff. You can imagine how easy it will be for leadership to focus on employees who are physically around, and for the others, it’s out of sight, out of mind.
Bosses may even start feeling that it’s a big inconvenience for them to have to manage a large group of people who are out of the office, live in different time zones or have hybrid schedules. They’ll feel aggrieved that it’s on them to figure out where everyone is when an immediate response is needed to cope with a crisis situation. They’ll feel annoyed spending time tracking down telecommuters for the quick impromptu meetings that routinely arise at the office.
You can easily envision a dual-class system arising amongst workers. There will be those in the room being first-class and those at home being second-class corporate citizens. Similar to the UK study, there will be concern that remote workers will find that they are not getting promoted at an equal rate, because they are less visible and their managers aren’t sure what they do all day.
Bosses are likely to formulate false assumptions about their work ethic and commitment to the company. If a remote-worker arrives late or misses a virtual meeting, it could be presumed that the person is goofing off. Some managers will question why some employees are in the office only Tuesdays through Thursday, and operating remotely on Mondays and Fridays. They’ll feel that they are taking advantage with extra-long weekends.
Skeptical managers may start deploying invasive surveillance technologies on the computers of home-based employees to ensure that they are actually working. The remote employees may grow resentful of this type of micromanaging and distrust.
Management needs to be aware of this potential issue and take proactive measures. They’ll need to ensure that they show the love and care for their remote staff. The experience at home should mirror, to the extent possible, of the in-office atmosphere. Supervisor will have to ensure that remote staff are kept in the loop of all new developments. Companies need to provide all the tools, technologies, computers, furniture and fixtures to ensure that they can perform their job well.
As the job market continues to heat up, there will be a new war for talent. If bosses allow resentment to fester between the two classes of employees, people will start leaving. Usually, the first to go are the most talented, since they have more options, highly prized and sought after by recruiters. When the best and brightest are siphoned off, it further worsens the experience at the company and things start going downhill fast. Management needs to move quickly to ensure that this doesn’t happen as we are at the beginning of a new work paradigm.