Are remote workers being overlooked? The COVID-19 pandemic has seen working from home become the ‘new normal’ for employees throughout the UK. While some are relieved to give up the daily commute and wish to continue remote working, others are anxious about the future of working from home.
One of the biggest concerns for employees working from home is being isolated and overlooked compared to those who return to the office.
In fact, a study of over 1,000 employees carried out by Business Electricity Prices has found that more than half (53%) of remote workers are concerned about being left out of team meetings and other activities taking place at the office.
This has led to fears regarding career progression for some homeworkers. Over a third of employees working from home worry about being overlooked for promotions and pay rises in favour of those who have returned to the office.
Could fear of exclusion affect a remote worker’s mental health?
Missing out on chatting to co-workers in-person at the office can leave remote workers feeling disconnected and excluded from their workplace. A large concern for employers will be how these feelings of exclusion could affect employees.
Feelings of isolation or loneliness can have a real impact on both mental and physical health. One study has even found that loneliness can increase the chances of mortality by 26%.
Prolonged feelings of loneliness or exclusion can also lead to a number of mental health conditions including anxiety and depression. The co-founder of London-based People Collective, Matt Bradburn, conducted an internal survey which found that 70% of his network were experiencing social and mental health problems including feelings of loneliness.
Are remote workers being overlooked in the workplace?
For many businesses, productivity has been viewed as a large barrier to allowing remote working. There have often been fears that staff work rate would drop given the comforts of working from home.
However, with the pandemic forcing staff in many offices to work from home, those fears have significantly reduced. One study has found that two-thirds of employers have reported an increase in productivity for remote workers compared to in-office workers.
Yet these feelings have not necessarily led to a sense of security for employees. Many remote workers feel they must work harder than in-office colleagues, as management cannot physically see them at work.
An Indeed study found that 37% of remote workers feel that working from home can result in reduced visibility and access to company leadership.
This lack of visibility has led to 35% of homeworkers worrying they may be overlooked for pay rises or promotions in favour of those who work at the office full-time.
What can employers do to support remote workers?
With the potential for remote working to leave employees feeling isolated, it’s vital employers take steps to encourage inclusion.
Keeping communication open is vital. Research has found that 46% of employees believe the most successful managers check in with remote employees regularly.
Maintaining personal relationships is often just as important as professional communication. 39% of employees reported that they feel a greater sense of belonging when colleagues enquire how they are doing.
For employers, this can require extra effort to communicate with staff who are out of the office. Speaking with staff and encouraging them to check in on each other is also vital.
Regular communication. Fortunately, applications including Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Slack have made team meetings for remote workers much easier. However, employers and managers must ensure communication doesn’t fall away the longer staff from home.
Light-hearted conversations. Remote workers may feel they are missing out on light-hearted conversations and non-work-related chats which regularly take place within an office setting. These conversations are often vital to building morale within the workplace and creating a team mentality.
Daily News Channel. Employers can keep remote workers in the loop by creating a daily news channel where staff can share funny or relevant news articles. Setting time aside for team members to check in on each other can also help reduce feelings of exclusion and loneliness.
Inclusive Work Environment. It’s also vital that remote workers don’t feel they are being left out of meetings or workplace discussions. Employers should ensure meeting minutes are always taken and distributed to any relevant employees.
Once COVID restrictions allow, managers should aim to have face-to-face catch ups with remote workers. Even an informal monthly face-to-face catch up can help employees voice any concerns they may have and help them feel more comfortable in their role.