Remote Work Is Changing Again
Employees and managers alike continue to debate the pros and cons of working remotely. Many workers desire to keep their flexible schedules, lower costs, and improved work-life balance. On the other side, some managers and executives believe that for employees to be fully engaged in their work, they must be present in the workplace.
A Harvard Business Review (HBR) article claims that reducing employees' sense of alienation from their coworkers and the corporate culture is a compelling justification for getting them back to the office. Studies have shown that remote workers are more inclined to leave their jobs when they feel alienated and separated.
These emotions of loneliness can be lessened by encouraging employees to socialize and assigning them a talking companion. For remote and hybrid workers who live in the same city, employers can arrange gatherings to lessen their sense of loneliness.
Many firms argue that returning to the workplace is necessary to boost worker productivity, since people are less productive at home than they are at work.
But the HBR analysis shows just the opposite. Following the COVID-19 lockdowns in April through mid-May 2020, researchers collected metadata from all Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and WebEx meetings (with webcams on or off) from ten sizable international organizations. They then compared this set of six weeks in 2021 and 2022 with the same set of six weeks in 2020.
The study concluded that, while remote work doesn't reduce productivity; it does alter how both employees and employers define productivity. The habits of remote employees changed in 2022 as compared to 2020, when it was novel.
The survey found virtual meetings are more common today. They’re more spontaneous, condensed, and with fewer people. We can assume that as remote working became more ubiquitous, people realized that sometimes it's unnecessary to have a 30-minute to an hour-long meeting.
The HBR study found that meetings were 10 minutes shorter in 2022 than they were in 2020, and 66% of one-on-one meetings were unscheduled. In contrast to the strict timetables organizations followed prior to the epidemic, these statistics can be attributed to managers and employees arranging meetings on an as-needed basis.
Another interesting fact from the research found that meeting attendance decreased by 50%, from an average of 20 participants to 10. According to HBR, this decline was brought on by a rise in one-on-one meetings in 2022, when 42% of meetings were one-on-ones, up from 17% in 2020.
The goal of the HBR study was to refute the claim that remote workers are not interacting with their coworkers. Unplanned one-on-one meetings, according to the report, may take the place of the face-to-face interactions that employees once had at work.
Although the ways that we work now are different and might change more over time, it's clear that people are still working. Bottom line: Does it really matter where employees are working as long as they finish their tasks on time and meet their targets?