When it comes to remote work the biggest issue organizations need to overcome may very well turn out to be the way business leaders manage employees. One of the primary reasons so many employees worked in an office despite the availability of a wide range of collaboration platforms is that most business leaders were simply more comfortable managing employees they could engage with at will.
Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, many employees have adapted to working remotely. However, a survey of 1,126 business decisions makers conducted by RingCentral, a provider of a collaboration service, suggests business leaders are not coping nearly as well.
Nearly half the business decision-makers surveyed (46%) reported feeling isolated and lonely while working from home compared to only just over a third (34%) of workers. Slightly more business decision-makers (47%) who feel lonely due to remote work said it is impacting their ability to do their job. A total of 43% of business decision-makers say they want to connect more with employees and therefore want to return to the office compared to only 16% of workers. Nearly half of business decision-makers (49%) prefer working in an office compared to 38% of non-decision makers. A full 59% of business decision-makers claim they are working with colleagues they have never met in person, compared to only 36% of workers.
The survey, however, finds that many of the 874 workers that RingCentral surveyed don’t share that feeling. If forced back into the office, the survey finds one out of three Americans would leave their job. In fact, 52% of workers said they’d rather wash their dishes and 40% said they’d rather clean their toilet at home than commute to the office. The survey also notes 43% of Gen Z and millennials are likely to seek new employment if forced back to the office compared to 24% of Gen X and boomers. Nearly half of parents (46%) said they will seek another job if their current employer changes the work model to a more in-person approach. Overall, 50% of workers report being happier at work.
The survey also finds 60% of Americans don’t feel isolated in a work-from-home environment, with 69% saying connecting online through voice or video calls is as good as being in-person for work-related tasks. More than three-quarters (78%) who use voice communications say they feel more connected to each other, with 54% saying connecting online through voice or video calls is as good as in-person for work-related tasks. Nearly two-thirds (62%) of workers in the U.S. believe that voice or video calls can be as effective as in-person communication for building personal relationships with coworkers.
It’s apparent to most everyone that in the age of the Great Resignation workers are leaving jobs mainly because they prize flexibility, said Jaya Kumar, chief marketing officer for RingCentral. The latest report from the U.S. Department of Labor finds 4.5 million people alone quit their job last month.
Savvy Digital CxOs, however, now realize they can recruit new employees regardless of physical location, so long as they are comfortable allowing them to work remotely, noted Kumar. The challenge now is finding a way to provide a superior digital experience that fosters collaboration across a geographically distributed workforce, he added.
It may be a while before every business leader is psychologically able to move beyond managing a remote workforce. Like it or not, however, it’s also clear at this point they have little choice in the matter.