Study Shows Supervisors Say Remote Workers Are “More Easily Replaceable” And They “Sometimes Forget” About Them – Forbes

A new study shows that supervisors don’t hold remote workers in high regard. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that supervisors are not happy with remote work. They reported “negative perceptions” of the working from home trend. Managers said they’d prefer their staff to operate from an office setting. 

The managers who responded to the survey were brutally blunt. Nearly 70% replied that remote workers are “more easily replaceable than onsite workers.” About 62% contend that “full-time remote work is detrimental to employees’ career objectives and 72 percent say they would prefer all of their subordinates to be working in the office.”

Remote workers shared their concerns too. Specifically, they mentioned that they’re missing out on opportunities for networking. People who are working from home feel the pressure to log in more hours a day to validate their jobs. 

Those who worked outside of an office “agree remote work is beneficial and increases performance.” However, over 50% believe that  “working remotely on a permanent basis would diminish networking opportunities (59 percent), cause work relationships to suffer (55 percent) and require them to work more hours (54 percent).”

Despite the drawbacks, in a prior SHRM study, the organization found that “over half (52 percent) of 1,000 U.S. workers would choose to permanently work from home on a full-time basis if given the option.” 

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This study found that “Of those who would choose to work permanently from home, 35 percent would accept a reduction in salary to do so, and 66 percent would still choose to work from home full time if the majority of Americans got the COVID-19 vaccine and herd immunity was achieved.” Other surveys similarly indicate that most employees want to work remotely and would quit if forced to return to a 9-to-5 job in an office.

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, SHRM’s president and chief executive officer, said “With COVID-19 forcing a leap to remote work in many sectors of our economy, and organizations struggling to determine the best workforce strategies post-pandemic, there’s one fact that can’t be ignored—remote work is not ideal for everyone.” 

Taylor added “Remote work can offer benefits, but employers need to take a closer look at whether remote and onsite workers have the same opportunities and whether managers have the tools they need to be effective leaders.

Here are some of the other highlights of the survey:  

Remote workers

  • Fifty-one percent of remote workers say they spent between $100 and $499 on equipment or furniture needed to work remotely.
  • Sixty-one percent of remote workers who spent money on equipment or furniture paid for it out of pocket.
  • Thirty-four percent of remote workers say working remotely on a permanent basis would reduce the number of career opportunities available.
  • Twenty-nine percent of remote workers say they will have fewer developmental opportunities while working remotely.

 Supervisors

  •  Sixty-seven percent of supervisors say they spend more time supervising remote workers than onsite workers.
  • Forty-two percent of supervisors say they sometimes forget about remote workers when assigning tasks.

About the findings, Taylor said “These results raise the question of who’s really winning with remote work,” and “HR and business leaders need to answer this question to ensure they are able to attract and retain top talent and build an equitable workplace where everyone has the ability to succeed.”

If the results of the SHRM study are commonly shared by the majority of managers, it does not bode well for the career trajectories of remote workers. The survey indicates that managers believe that it’s harder to keep track and oversee employees when they’re not altogether at an office.

Although the study doesn’t cover this matter, it does seem to make sense that managers who haven’t had experience overseeing a dispersed workforce will find it challenging. It takes effort, planning, patience, staying in close contact and having empathy. 

Management needs to ensure that supervisors possess the appropriate technologies, communication tools and online videos to keep in touch. To effectively manage, the supervisors must pay close attention to ensure that remote workers don’t feel left out. It would become easy for this cohort to feel as if they’re second class citizens. By not being treated the same as in-office professionals, it will only be a matter of time until they quit and switch to a company that has a better management system in place.  

It appears that remote workers in the survey acknowledge a trade-off. While they enjoy a better quality of life by not having to commute and be stuck in the office for over eight hours every day, they tend to feel like outsiders. It’s not as easy to meet people, build their network and get in front of key decision makers.

The negative perceptions of supervisors should send a warning to all companies. Executive management must take notice and ensure that their managers are sufficiently trained and equipped to oversee the future of work which will predominantly include hybrid and remote  models. 

The companies that get this, develop well-trained empathetic managers who bridge the gaps by ensuring that both in-office and at-home personnel are being treated equally, with respect and dignity will do well. These companies will be able to attract and retain the best talent. 

The organizations that allow supervisors to “sometimes forget” about their remote employees and consider them “more easily replaceable” will fall by the wayside as the best and brightest jump ship to better run companies. They won’t be “replaceable” since their bad reputation would affect them, and people won’t want to work at that type of company.

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