Employees around the world yearn for freedom and flexibility. The most common form of flexibility that companies offer is the ability to work remotely.
But after interviewing over 2,000 employees and managers globally, we discovered that two-thirds of remote workers aren’t engaged, and over a third never get any time to be with their team, even though over 40 percent said it would help build deeper relationships. The study also found that remote workers are much less likely to stay at their company for the long term.
While the population of remote workers is growing, some companies are simultaneously rolling back their remote work programs and forcing their employees to be at the office every day. They believe it’s the best way to build a strong culture, increase engagement and fuel work relationships.
Instead of saving money by promoting remote work, many companies are investing money in their office designs. A well-designed office, with an assortment of meeting spaces, gives employees the flexibility they desire, but in a collaborative environment. These companies understand that employees’ proximity to one another matters. The closer we sit to our colleagues, the more likely that we will interact with them and form the relationships that lead to long-term team commitment.
Aside from the lack of physical proximity, communication can be much slower with a remote work force. Getting everyone on the same page, on the same call and in the same mindset is challenging when people aren’t located in the same place.
Although research shows that remote workers are more productive—and they’ll tell you they enjoy the flexibility—they typically won’t reveal how isolated they are. Some companies have gone to extremes to either force everyone into the office to work or enable all employees to work remotely. But very often, meeting in the middle is best.
Give remote workers the flexibility to be able to work at the office, while maintaining for them the option of working remotely part-time, based on their position and needs. They need face time, even if they won’t admit it, and companies need an engaged work force in order to retain talent and compete in the global economy.
By Dan Schawbel
Dan Schawbel is a partner and research director at Future Workplace.