The Risks for Employees Who Choose to Work Remotely in Post Pandemic

In an Atlantic piece titled What Bosses Really Think of Remote Workers, it sounds like people who work from home may get fewer raises and promotions. Remote work might feel great now, but it could hurt the career of many talents out there. 

Are full-time employees practically begging their bosses to change their status as “contractors,” thereby cutting their benefits and pay? That is the risk many employees face these days if they refuse to come back to work. 

For those who work in the big corporate world, they claim that there’s not much work that happens on-site, and a big chunk of work is swallowed up by meeting after meeting, as this video reveals. Many positions, as the person behind it says, are non-productive or cloaked under certain euphemisms — to keep a job more respectable or productive than it truly is?

And even if study after study points to the growing productivity of employees doing remote work, bosses look at their absence from on-site work as non-productive work.

Remote work is not rewarded

Remote work, even with increased productivity, is not rewarded. 

In another study of a WFH (work from home) experiment at Ctrip, a 16,000-employee, NASDAQ-listed Chinese travel agency, it was revealed that call center employees who volunteered to work from home were randomly assigned either to work from home or in the office for nine months. 

Home working reportedly led to a 13% performance increase, of which 9% was from working more minutes per shift (fewer breaks and sick days) and 4% from more calls per minute (attributed to a quieter and more convenient working environment). 

Home workers also reported improved work satisfaction, and their attrition rate halved, but their promotion rate conditional on performance fell. Due to the success of the experiment, Ctrip rolled out the option to WFH to the whole firm and allowed the experimental employees to reselect between the home and office. 

Interestingly, over half of them switched, which led to the gains from WFH almost doubling to 22%. This highlights the benefits of learning and selection effects when adopting modern management practices like WFH. 

That was in China.

In May this year, it will be recalled that some CEOs of big US companies had formed their opinions of workers who were not as thrilled by the idea of coming back to work. 

A magazine’s CEO even wrote in an opinion piece that business leaders had a strong incentive to change the status of staffers who are rarely in the office from full-time to contractor.

First laid off

It doesn’t get any better. Someone from IBM, an early promoter of the work from home concept years ago, also observed that something far more egregious. Those who did so were the first to get laid off.

So it turns out that bosses have their own biases. If they don’t see their employees at work, it means they’re not giving it their all. They can be perceived as laid-back and less interested in the company as a whole.

Fighting that bias is not easy to overcome, as increased productivity studies don’t even help in making bosses look at data this way. 

Those who choose to work from home as colleagues will head back to the office soon will have to fight long-held stigmas associated with remote work.

David Solomon, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, has also been quoted as saying that he wants his people back at the office.

Synergy of on-site teams

The synergy of teams is diminished when people are disconnected from one another, according to Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan. Leading by example, Dimon and his other senior-level executives have returned to the office. 

The realistic thing that could happen in a post-pandemic world is that both bosses and employees will eventually come to an arrangement and see eye to eye on the issue. A hybrid work system will emerge and workers will have to come to work 3 times a week at least. The work is cut out for mobility managers.

The stigma associated with remote work will remain, perhaps not in all companies, but in others that believe in something far more intangible or hard to measure at the moment — the propagation of a good work culture and how relationships serve as bonding moments for employees in the most trying times. (Dennis Clemente)