Business leaders think remote working has negative effects both for companies and their employees according to a new US study. 96% of executives agree that primarily remote workers are disadvantaged compared to those who work primarily in the office. 94% say remote employees were less connected and have fewer opportunities within the company than their office-working counterparts. However, close to half of executives say the companies are to blame for employees not being engaged.
The survey is published by by Austin, Texas-based management consultancy Vyopta and made by Wakefield Research. It comprises 200 US executives at companies of 500 or more employees between March 9 and March 17. The survey comes after the pandemic when many employees have been working from home and surveys show they express an interest in continued remote working.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4.5 million workers quit their jobs in November 2021 and 4.3 million people quit or changed jobs in December — down from November’s all-time high but still near record levels, as the omicron variant swept through the US.
93% of executives agree the frustration of working remotely is causing some employees to be less engaged on virtual calls. They say collaboration challenges as the reason primarily remote employees are less engaged. The top issues are over-reliance on others to be collaborative (52%), lack of access to company leadership (47%), and less connected to colleagues and their office culture (43%).
92% of the executives say employees who are less engaged, either frequently on mute or don’t turn on their camera during virtual meetings, probably do not have a long-term future at their company.
93% say employees who turn their camera off are generally less engaged in their work overall. 44% strongly agree with this.
43% suspect that employees who are on mute or off-camera entirely are browsing the internet or are on social media, texting or chatting (40%).
COMPANIES TO BLAME
46% say companies are not providing the tools to allow their workers to be as engaged as their in-person counterparts, the survey shows. 49% say C-level executives bear the greatest responsibility for increasing employee engagement at their company, followed by HR (28%), and division leaders (10%).
99% say there is room for improvement of the work environment, with nearly half (47%) saying there is “a lot” of room, the survey says.
”The tendency to compensate by resorting to an abundance of virtual meetings may be taking its toll. Nearly half of executives (48%) cite too many meetings as a reason why employees do not talk during virtual meetings, saying they had too many calls that could’ve been an email. Nearly as many (47%) say not speaking up is a habit that has developed among their junior staff.”
BAD FOR BUSINESS
97% of executives see the lack of engagement in a virtual environment as bad for business across the board. The most frequently cited negative consequences are slower skill development among employees (46%), lack of collaboration across teams (42%), and errors or mistakes slipping through due to a lack of virtual engagement (40%).
”As the pandemic enters its third year, the level of trust executives have in their staff to correctly navigate remote collaboration continues to be an issue”, the survey says.
”Executives estimate they fully trust an average of just 61% of their staff to be able to work remotely, down from 66% in 2021. Those that said they trusted 75%-100% of their staff to work remotely dropped more dramatically, from 46% in 2021 to just 30% in 2022.”
34% think all errors on virtual calls were because of a user issue as opposed to a technical issue. The survey shows all companies have taken steps to encourage greater collaboration between primarily remote employees and their in-person counterparts since the start of the pandemic.
”Technology is essential for the push to promote greater collaboration. Most (54%) say their company established channels on messaging apps such as Slack or Teams to encourage further collaboration between colleagues. Half (50%) required more participation on virtual calls/meetings and another 50% instituted formal training on remote collaboration.”
The top three strategies for increasing engagement are: highlighting an individual’s performance publicly, such as through awards or promotions (49%); providing direct individual feedback (48%); investing in tools that make collaboration more seamless (43%).
92% say it’s extremely or very likely that their company will invest in technical solutions to increase engagement.