While the advantages of remote workers have been well documented, you will not find much coverage on the negative aspect. It may seem that working remotely is a dream job for most people – flexible hours, no commute time, and no boss looking over your shoulder; however, there is one thing missing from the remote experience that should not be underestimated – socialization. Team camaraderie is an important part of creating a successful work environment. More and more reports are surfacing that show remote workers face increased isolation and miss out on shared experiences that office mates have.
Lauren Young, writer for Reuters.com shares, “A recent survey of more than 2,000 managers and employees in 10 different countries found that employees increasingly depend on technology to communicate with their colleagues, including email (45 percent), text messaging (15 percent) and instant messaging (12 percent).
Of those who cited email, more than 40 percent said they felt lonely always or often, were not engaged and had a high need for social connection.”
It’s also important to understand that it’s not only social isolation that remote workers can feel but other forms of isolation that are more impactful on someone’s career.
Laurel Farrer with Forbes.com goes on to say, “When telecommuting independently from home or mobile offices, workers aren’t just cut off from interactions that contribute to Maslow’s foundational need of love and belonging, they’re also distanced from the opportunities that being around other people provides. In other words, it’s not the break room parties and high-fives that the remote workforce misses—it’s the causes for these celebrations.”
Farrer goes on to describe other types of loneliness or isolation that remote workers have to cope with. Feeling cut off from being able to use the same resources that those working in the office use and feeling like you are missing out on opportunities for promotion and rewards, due to being out of sight are two of the most impactful.
“Without the visibility of a co-located environment, it’s hard to achieve the top-of-mind status that is so beneficial when a promotion or roundtable review is due.
Being engaged in a workforce allows employees to continually compare output, compensation, and goals with others to ensure future growth. Team members are able to silently observe the strategies and successes of others—which in turn inspires individual growth and development. When working independently and focusing only on personal productivity, remote workers run the risk of career stagnation.”
Sophia Bernazanni, with OwlLabs.com, says, “The number of remote workers has increased dramatically, but this physical separation of coworkers has led to more people feeling like they don’t have friends at work, and that they’re less loyal or connected to their company because of it.
For remote workers, loneliness leads to poor outcomes for physical and mental health and productivity. For employers and team leaders, strengthening bonds and connectedness between remote team members and co-located team members can help reduce turnover and improve team collaboration by building relationships.”
For employers looking to keep a remote work staff, be sure to find ways to keep them engaged. Regularly hold video conference based meetings, schedule onsite events quarterly, and do what you can to include the remote workers in any decision making processes. These steps will go a long way towards combating any isolation they may feel and will increase their productivity and loyalty to the company.