remote worker's career

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When companies sent their employees home to work for the last year and a half due to the pandemic, productivity didn’t suffer and workers enjoyed their new freedom and time and money-saving lack of a commute. Now employees are revolting at the idea of going back into the office full-time or at all. What will be the impact on a remote worker’s career?

Will it even be your decision?

According to a SurveyMonkey Report only 23% of workers expect to be able to decide whether or how much they will be able to work from home after the pandemic is considered over. Over 42% say their company will make that decision, 15% their manager and another 15% says their department or location will be the deciding factor.

Distance Bias

Scott Dawson, author of The Art of Working Remotely: How to Thrive in a Distributed Workplace said many managers have distance bias: a tendency to favor people who are closer in physical proximity. . Dawson goes on to say, “We’re wired as humans to prefer someone who sits next to us over a person who’s just a thumbnail on a screen.”

More than half of workers say they expect people who work in-person to have better career opportunities. Some industries that have a large number of their workforce still doing their jobs remotely have workers who say in-person employees will have a leg up in terms of career opportunities. Over 46% of finance professionals are still working from home but by a 4-to-1 margin they say that in-person workers will have better career opportunities and remote worker’s careers will be adversely impacted at their company a year from now.

Generational Issue

Younger workers are substantially less likely than older workers to say they value seeing their colleagues in person: 55% of 18-24 year-olds and 52% of 25-34 year-olds say they value in-person work “a lot.” Workers older than 45 are in the 61% to 66% range of preferring to see their colleagues.

Suzy Welch, a CNBC contributor, says “The best work in an organization, the important work, never gets done on the phone, or over email or on Zoom. It is almost always facilitated by relationships and understandings that only happen when people are together physically. Great teams are built on the banter, the lunches, the late nights, the jokes, the asides, the shared ah-has!”

Supervisor Stress

Managing remote workers and in-office workers requires two different management systems. When fewer people are participating in meetings via video, managers will have to work harder to include those workers. It is easier to banter with someone in person because more cues, visual, verbal, posture, are available and it’s what people have been used to long term. Technical glitches are no longer universal, it’s just the one or two people working full-time from home.  People’s tolerance level will be lower.

Managers also have to schedule check-ins with remote workers since they aren’t passing them in the hallway. Managers may have to do more intelligence gathering for a remote worker as they aren’t in the office doing it themselves. When supervisors assess workers for promotion just the effort of coming into the office make them appear more motivated and committed. It may not be fair, but it probably will happen.

Be careful in your choice of your work schedule as it does seem like a remote worker’s career could be adversely impacted. Interested in discussing the pros and cons? Contact the Executive Recruiters at Smith Hanley Associates.


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