virtual meeting

Employees Think Remote Work May Not Be Sustainable

With a decent amount of businesses switching to remote work, questions start to rise on its sustainability. Do companies see a virtual workplace as a long-term model? Is the company capable of handling drawbacks when dealing with remote staff? It goes without saying that despite being able to function with a virtual workforce, some companies are quite skeptical of its permanence. 

Current data show companies are clearly divided on whether they should keep the work-from-home setup or not. S&P Global Market Intelligence’s Digital Pulse COVID-19 Flash Survey demonstrates that 67 percent of 575 IT decision-makers foresee their companies continuing implementation of established work-from-home policies even after a Covid-19 immunization. 

However, from the employees’ perspective, sources say many want to return to the office for work. According to Gensler’s Work From Home Survey, only 12 percent of an estimated 2,300 US workers prefer to continue working from home full-time.  

Although many studies prove the advantages of possessing a virtual workforce model, some organizations expressed that a remote staff might not be suitable for everyone. 

Companies such as Planet Money are dealing with different issues while working at home. Running a podcast, the company struggles to replicate studio-quality audio and fostering team spirit at home. Aside from Planet Money, other companies from other industries are experiencing hindrances as well. 

A survey of around 2,200 human resource professionals conducted by Society for Human Resource Management indicates that 71 percent of employers are struggling to adjust to remote work. The survey further mentions that 65 percent are finding it harder to maintain employee morale. 

Even in pre-Covid-19 era, studies have shed light on the disadvantages of working remotely. Here are a couple:

On alert 24/7. Without clear policies or guidelines on set working hours, employees feel they have to be on the lookout for sudden calls at any time of the day. A project mentions that this “always on” culture can potentially lead to unnecessary consequences in terms of health and work performance.

Less visibility. Without the team’s physical presence, global mobility managers often find themselves worried if staff are performing the tasks assigned to them. A study dated back to 1994 points out that the absence of frequent feedback can potentially lead to miscommunicated directions, task duplications, and job errors. Therefore, it is of paramount importance for managers to monitor the work progress of their remote teams. 

Isolation. An empirical study reveals that individual virtual task assignments that require social interaction and collaboration in a face-to-face manner, affect work isolation levels. Employee experiences do vary for each individual. Nevertheless, the study noticed patterns on employees’ positive emotional response when physically communicating with colleagues who are key members of the same projects. 

Work-family conflict. Balancing work and family life can be harder for remote employees. A study explains that remote workers are more susceptible to interruptions from family duties since they’re pretty much home everyday. Consequently, remote workers need to make conscious efforts to improve on self-management and self-discipline.

Other than pre-Covid-19 research, new discoveries have already risen while adopting a work-from-home setup in the middle of the pandemic. For instance, Twingate emphasizes cybersecurity problems companies are facing. Its research demonstrates that 59 percent of workers felt more cyber-secured when working in company offices than at home. It also mentions that 10 percent reported hacked video calls.

Video call fatigue was also found to be an issue. This new phenomenon is drawn from the consistent usage of video communication channels for virtual meetings. Dr. Linda Kaye explains that because video calls make it difficult for users to express using a wide array of social cues, employees need to pay more attention to a participant’s behavior in the screen. This tires them out over time. 

Another discovery is the variety of distractions at home. The Coronavirus Disruption Project released data on different distractions from residences that disrupt task assignments. Children, pets, phone calls, and noisy neighbors are considered the most common distractions. The unclear boundaries between work and home priorities ranked second.

It’s evident that some employers don’t deem their companies fit to execute a virtual workforce. It’s perfectly understandable considering that companies from various industries are run differently. For example, a manufacturing company can’t possibly run on a completely remote staff while a digital marketing one can. The bottom line is that remote work can be effective, but it’s definitely not for everyone.