Marketing platform Hubspot recently surveyed thousands of remote workers to get their insights on the future of work and the challenges that come along with it.
For years, it’s been said that the future of work is remote. In 2020, that prediction became a reality as the world transitioned to working virtually. But is it really the future many envisioned? The data from the report confrms that this isn’t remote working in the traditional sense. This is working remotely in a global pandemic. The challenges managers face right now isn't so much about how to return ‘to normal,’ but more about navigating how to best support employees working remotely today, while planning for a better future of work.
Communication and Collaboration during the COVID-19 Pandemic
For existing remote workers, working virtually in 2020 wasn’t new. But for some, communicating and collaborating with newly remote colleagues and fully dispersed teams, especially when it came to team meetings was brand new. 43% of respondents said that they have a harder time participating in meetings when everyone's remote. 29% of respondents also said that it's difficult to give and receive feedback virtually than in person on an employees work.
With no direct supervision, 55% of respondents agree or strongly agree in feeling that they’re expected to be online to prove they’re working to their manager. These gaps began showing up during the initial phase of transition and managers needed to act accordingly.
Career Growth as a Remote Worker
Within months of introducing the remote work experiment, there were parties on both sides who were either in favor of or against the idea of making it permanent. Companies who were in favor of, implemented remote working permanently or made adjustments to create a hybrid work culture. The new changes in the way people work have also brought certain complications along with them. 45% of respondents find it difficult to collaborate as a team in a hybrid work environment while 27% feel productivity is being hampered as a result of this new way of working.
Such changes also tend to create new ways to approach the hiring processes and promotions of existing employees. There’s a popular belief that you need to be in an offce to get promoted, become a manager, or lead a team. The truth is, doing great work isn’t dependent on your zip code, and so recognition for that work shouldn’t be either.
With the remote-working experiment almost about to complete its one-year anniversary, 49% of survey respondents who have been working full-time remotely stated that remote-working has not impacted their career progression. One of the most probable reasons is due to the fact that managers are not able to notice an employee's efforts while working remotely. When asked, 11% strongly agree in feeling that theri managers do not see their full scope of work.
The pandemic has also impacted the job market as many employees were furloughed once countries went into lockdown. With changes in the way people work in certain companies, many job applicants have to do their interviews remotely rather than meeting in person at an office. But since video interviews are not very common in practice, it came with its own set of challenges. 24% of Interviewees cited technical as well as communication difficulties while being interviewed for a remote job. In the event that the interview goes well, 37% of respondents are very likely to accept a job without even meeting their team in person. The implications of this are yet to be discovered.
Remote inclusion and belonging
It’s been proven that a critical driver of employee productivity and engagement is inclusion and a sense of belonging. But, creating an inclusive environment doesn’t just happen naturally. Without an offce where opportunities to build rapport, make small talk, or ask colleagues questions, it’s common for remote workers to feel disconnected and disengaged. But managers are striving to make efforts in this regard. According to the report, 39% of respondents cited that their company solicits feedback every quarter on ways they can improve the remote work experience.
With company's figuring out ways to get employees engaged in the decision making process, 51% reported having plenty of opportunities to be involved in their company’s diversity, inclusion and belonging programming. When asked about characteristics about the company culture that are most important to an employee, the majority (30%) responded in having a proper work/life balance over an attractive salary package. Commuting to and from work takes away most of an employees' time. Remote working allows employees to find a balance between work and social life, which helps them feel fulfilled in their lives. As many began finding structure after the initial transition, 60% of respondetns agree or strongly agree that being a remote employee allows them to bring their best self to work.
Mental Health + Family Life in COVID-19
Employees are not only navigating through the fear and uncertainty of a global pandemic, but their daily routines have been disrupted. Many employees have adopted new roles like teacher, childcare provider, or family nurse — adding to physical and mental strain, and blurring the boundary between “work” and “life.” The stress from managing their home life and work role along with the overbearing weight of the pandemic has impacted their mental health. 25% agree, and 14% of respondents strongly agree that since COVID-19, their mental health has negatively affected work performance. As a result, almost 30% of respondents feel more burned out and stressed.
Due to this, some companies have taken it upon themselves to create an open culture to discuss the problems employee's are facing with regards to their mental health in a safe and comfortable space. 38% of respondents stated that they talk about the importance of mental health and well-being at their workplace very often. But 19% state that they never talk about it.
The biggest irony is while all these tools and services were available to us for a long time, not many considered the idea of working remotely on a permanent basis. It was seen as an exclusive privilige and available only under special circumstances. If the pandemic never happened, the way people work wouldn't have changed. But it has and the world is still trying to navigate it. There won't be a going back to normal anytime soon.