A new study of more than 1,100 global remote workers finds they're living up their name. Remote workers do feel remote. In fact, they can feel shunned, and avoided, by their in-office colleagues!
Thanks to technology, employees can work anywhere now. They probably get more done that way, too. But an emotional price is paid for this lofty level of freedom. Many remote workers think their colleagues in the office are shortchanging and backstabbing them, big time! They feel left out, and left behind.
But wait an ironic minute: technology is supposed to bring us together, isn't it? We can Skype and Slack our way to remote worker inclusion! Or can we? According to the researchers' article in the Harvard Business Review:
We polled 1,153 employees, and 52% said they work, at least some of the time, from their home office. And when they do, many feel their colleagues don’t treat them equally. Remote employees are more likely to report feeling that colleagues mistreat them and leave them out. Specifically, they worry that coworkers say bad things behind their backs, make changes to projects without telling them in advance, lobby against them, and don't fight for their priorities.
Okay managers, I know what you're thinking: that's it, I'm bringing everyone back into the office next week! I don't have time for this!
Before you end your remote working policy, however, think about how you might be able to switch up your communication style a little bit to make remote working work better. Really, better communication is all it takes to make remote workers happy! Remote workers simply want to feel included. They want to feel like a part of the team. They want to know what's going on. That's it. So when you send a team-wide email, make sure to include the team's remote workers. Easy peasy!
Look for random excuses to call or conference with your remote workers occasionally, too. Even if it's just a voice mail, it lets the remote worker know that they mattered enough for you to reach out to them. The more hours a remote worker spends outside the office, the more basic communication they require to allay their fears of always being out of sight, out of mind.
Remote workers who feel left out will begin to guess what's going on within the company's four walls as they sit outside those walls. Remote workers crave feedback and communication, even if it's not entirely positive. So talk to them.
Remote workers need to know that somebody at work has an open door policy for them at all times. Who can they contact for quick answers to their questions, and concerns? The biggest barrier remote workers feel is a lack of trust. They feel like they aren't trusted with information. So bring them into the circle of trust.
Finally, include remote workers in the daily company culture. When the company wins an award, for example, include them in the general announcement email even if they didn't play a direct part in winning the award. It's a way of telling remote workers that they are a part of the team. The same goes for sending them a company holiday card. It's the little things that make a big difference.
I've never liked the phrase "remote worker," because it implies just that: a sense of remoteness and aloofness. Synonyms for "remote" include distant, doubtful and dubious, which are not words likely to make work-from-home employees feel better about their team-based work arrangement. So as we're working on improving our communication with remote workers, we can also think of a better thing to call them.