Working from home has been rising in popularity among both employers and employees for at least the past decade. Remote workers ensure that managers have access to a wide pool of talent as part of business strategy. For employees, flexibility can augment job satisfaction and morale, as well as saving on the time (and cost) of commuting. In short, it can be a win-win solution for companies and employees.
Younger Remote Workers Get Lonely at a Higher Rate Than Other Generations
However, it can also have some drawbacks, especially for younger workers. According to a recent survey, many Gen Z employees – born in the mid-1990s or later – see the drawbacks to remote work rather than the flexibility. Forty-three percent of these younger workers say remote work leads them to feel lonely, a significantly higher percentage than the overall 26 percent of all workers who say they feel lonely working from home.
While remote work is still popular among Millennials and older generations, they don’t see it as an unalloyed good, either. Among all age groups, 44 percent prefer working in the office because disconnecting from work at the end of the day is easier. That means remote workers still have the majority, but not by an overwhelming amount.
Distraction may also be an issue for all ages of remote workers. Nearly one-third say that are distracted by the ability to watch television at home, and 29 percent have experienced a pet or child disrupting a phone call.
Remote workers can be subject to loneliness and distraction if not managed properly.
How to Manage Remote Staff
Fortunately, there are many actions CEOs can offer to managers to ensure younger workers and their entire remote workforce work optimally:
1. Touch base regularly
Loneliness and distraction may both result from remote workers feeling far away from the office, mentally as well as physically. The best managerial antidote is to touch base regularly: phone calls, e-mails, or Skype sessions should be scheduled for work updates regularly. Emphasize accountability for tasks and work assignments. Managers should make clear they are available for questions, while accounting for time zone differences. If time zones become particularly challenging, a contact/help list can generate a team to answer questions or concerns, which also generates more cross-team connections.
2. Make team communication accessible
Team communication among virtual and physical site workers drives collaboration and productive teamwork. Managers should make sure that all team communications – e-mails, meetings, shared documents – are circulated to remote workers at the same time as they are to physical workers. Otherwise, virtual workers may not have important information and may feel out of the loop, contributing to feelings of loneliness and distraction.
3. Bring remote workers in-house regularly
Meet with all employees physically, too. Start simple: Invitations to the annual holiday party or summer picnic should be offered to all employees. If the company holds periodic retreats, invite remote workers. These events offer important team bonding and allow managers to get to know remote employees informally, as well as the on-site employees. Other options: Schedule travel to meet workers or even create quarterly one-on-one regional on-site meetings.