For all the apparent benefits of remote work for the employee experience, remote workers reported a lower level of satisfaction with their coworkers when compared to the benchmark of all employees, according to our research. This isn’t particularly surprising, given that these employees have limited interaction with their colleagues, with most, if not all, of that interaction happening virtually.
27% of respondents reported having experienced a work-related problem because they weren’t in the same place as their team. It’s not hard to imagine what kinds of problems might arise: an employee missing a vital update about a project because it was only shared with the team in person, a connection failure excluding a remote worker from an office meeting, or perhaps a coworker who is rude over email.
Victor Lipman, a management consultant and author of The Type B Manager: Leading Successfully in a Type A World, has seen this dynamic occur with remote employees throughout his career. He says:
“It underscores the need for increased communication. As important as communication always is in management, it becomes even more when individuals or teams are remote and thus the potential for disconnection and confusion is greater.”
Let’s take another look at employees who are required to work remotely versus those who choose it for the freedom. As with happiness and retention, workers who are required to be remote tend to rate their colleagues and company culture lower than those who opt in for the flexibility.
There is, however, one way in which remote work seems to actually benefit collegial relationships. We asked employees how much of a difference there was between their time zone and the main time zone of their team, then compared those responses to their ratings of their coworkers. As you might expect, a time difference of three hours or more correlates with a lower rating. However, the people who are happiest with their coworkers? Those whose team doesn’t have a single main time zone.
There could be any number of reasons for this trend, but one possibility is that having teammates scattered across locations eliminates the “us versus them” mentality that might spring up when there is one centrally located team and remote employees isolated outside of it. When everyone has to put in effort to engage with their colleagues, the whole team benefits.