Hearing the other side: The case against remote work

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On 9th November, 2022, employees of Twitter received their first email from their newly appointed CEO: Elon Musk. In that email, Musk strictly prohibited his employees to work from home, unless given permission on reasonable grounds. This announcement wasn’t really a surprise, as Musk has been quite vocal about this stance on remote working and had already banned it at SpaceX and Tesla.

Twitter isn’t the only company to ban remote work; in fact, recently many corporate giants such as Apple, General Motors, Yahoo, Reddit and Google have revised their work from home policies and have switched to on-site work, on the other end, recent studies and surveys suggest that remote work is currently thriving and will continue to do so in future. In a survey by Gallup, conducted in 2022, it was revealed that 8 out of 10 employees are either working in a hybrid or a remote work environment. As for the future, an AT&T study showed that by 2024, it is predicted that the hybrid work model would grow up to 81%. Numerous other studies have consistently shown tremendous benefits of remote work, including increased employee productivity and profitability of an organization. Despite all this, why is it that many big companies are turning away from it?

Lack of social interaction may lead to isolation and disconnection

Steven Klein, the co-founder of Status page once wrote on Reddit:

“some people just aren’t wired for working remotely… For people who are used to and need to be around people to be happy, this can be an enormous problem. To be honest, I haven’t been myself and I haven’t truly been happy since leaving and I feel like it’s due to the isolation of working remotely.”

This explains why Status Page has canceled remote work in their company. Klein isn’t the only one who feels social isolation is in fact one of the biggest challenges of remote work. In a survey conducted by Chargifi, 81% of Millenial and Gen Z workers are afraid of being lonely as a result of long time remote work. The survey that included 2000 workers from US and UK further revealed that 67% of the participants found it difficult to maintain a relationship with their colleagues. This sense of isolation and lack of physical interaction could lead to a low morale which in turn can affect the productivity of the employees.

While social isolation is no doubt a serious concern, it does not mean that it cannot be resolved. Companies that are still working on a hybrid or a remote work model are dedicated to resolve this issue for the benefit of their company.

Some people are still struggling to adapt to remote work

While remote is not exactly a new practice, there is no doubt that it surged rapidly after COVID 19 pandemic. Which means that for a majority of people, it still is something that they are learning to adapt to. Especially those workers who were previously working on site. Replacing virtual connections with physical ones could be difficult for some. Many managers, for instance, might not be comfortable in handling their employees in an online environment. For some it could be simply hard to grasp the concept of an employee to be productive while working in their PJs, sitting on a sofa. Whatever the issue might be, many organizations may find it difficult to adjust to this model of working and their owners might be more comfortable in a more old-school approach.

It’s hard to supervise employees remotely

Another major concern of remote work is that employee visibility practically becomes zero. It becomes hard for the managers to keep a track of their employees’ performance and movement when there is no physical supervision. For many managers, out of sight means out of mind and if they can’t physically see their employees working they can’t really be sure of their performance. While many companies are adopting a more target based approach and rely on the KPIs of the employees only, some companies are still reluctant to adjust to it. Many employers believe that a target based approach is not an accurate measure of an employee’s performance.

Lack of physical interaction may lead to trust issues between manager and their employees

In one survey, it was revealed that 66% of employers don’t trust their employees when they are working remotely. This lack of trust could be because of many reasons: maybe there is a gap in communication between the managers and the employees or it could just be some unresolved misunderstandings or maybe the absence of physical supervision could trigger it. Whatever the reason might be, lack of trust can have a huge impact on the performance of the employees which in turn could affect the overall performance of the company.

Some employers think that remote workers might ‘slack off’

To understand this, let’s take the example of RLM public relations. Before completely abolishing the work from home policy, the company did try its hands on a hybrid work model where employees were allowed to work from home on Fridays. Soon after that, the company’s CEO, Richard Laermer realized that it wasn’t working for them. According to him, the employees started to treat Fridays as a day off and every weekend would become a ‘three-day’ holiday. He realized that the response time of the employees became slower and that they would not be as available as they would be if they were physically present in the workplace.

For many employers, ‘slacking-off’ is a major concern as they believe that remote workers cannot be as invested in their jobs as an on-site worker would be. While it is true that for remote workers distractions from home can hinder their work performance, it does not mean that it is true for everyone. It all depends on how one maintains a work-life balance and how an organization aids their employees to do so.

Collaboration and teamwork can be difficult within remote teams

Recently, Reddit decided to let go of their work from home policies, blaming a lack of coordination and ineffective collaboration within their remote teams. Virtual collaboration is not easy, there is no doubt that there are numerous hindrances that may come in the path of smooth teamwork. Unless there is a solid channel of communication or a team building strategy in place, having all the team workers collaborate virtually can be challenging. That might explain why some companies would rather have their employees physically present rather than risking poor team work due to lack of connectivity.

All the concerns mentioned above are genuine and can be major issues when it comes to remote work. However, modern HR systems and solutions like hellofriday have effectively tackled all these concerns, building solid work from home policies and implementing softwares and strategies to ensure maximum employee engagement and productivity.