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Remote Worker disconnectedness blamed for remote work cancellations

Search Remotely Remote Worker Disconnectedness

There has been a lot written about technology companies revoking employee policies allowing remote work from home arrangements. So far, one of the major reasons touted in the media for this potential trend is purported employee disconnectedness.

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This may be totally unfair based upon faulty logic and inaccurate assumptions.  The purpose of this article is to analyze the possible reasons for either the slowed adoption of remote work policies or the outright cancellation of work from home arrangements.

Pullback rate not as rapid as in China

The general movement away from the adoption of remote work polices can be considered a cause of concern. However, the rate of remote work pullback by employers in the US is considerably slower than those operating in China.

Researchers have observed that China was the first country to take drastic lockdown measures in response to Covid-19; leading to early adoption of remote work policies. And yet, by January 2021, less than 1% of those participating in a workplace survey,  were “still working at home full-time.”

Reduced social pressures to adopt remote work policies

Now that we have put the situation in perspective, let’s take a few steps back. At the advent of Covid-19, many companies; particularly those harnessing the power of technology were often pressured by society, their national governments, workers and consumers to adopt remote work policies. Several complied with societal expectations to ‘keep the train moving’, the ‘engines running’ while the global markets reacted to the pandemic. Large scale macroeconomic policies of large multinationals and government agencies in turn impacted individuals on a microeconomic level as well.

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In the Journal of Business Research, it has been argued that the driving factor of corporate remote work adoption was social influence. Hip corporations, particularly those that are technology driven wanted to be seen as market leaders and innovators. So too, did they want to be perceived as providing essential products, goods and services during a global emergency for the benefit of society. What better way to demonstrate market dominance and altruism than by showing to the world evidence of business continuity in a time of worldwide pandemic and an international crisis?

Now that the worst of Covid-19 is behind us, is there as much societal pressure to adopt remote work? Possibly not.

Perceptions of lower levels of connection between remote workers

Another possible theory for the trend to cancel remote work policies is the perceived lower level of connectedness between remote workers and their employers. It was reported that companies have become appalled by the levels of disengagement and disconnectedness with their distributed labor force working from home.  Perhaps it is not entirely true that remote work is the causal factor of employee disengagement. In 2021, Forbes referenced WeWork CEO who stated that workers who were highly involved with the company wanted to report to a traditional office about two-thirds of the time while workers who were the least engaged were comfortable working from home.

Feelings of losing control

But can one make the jump from assuming that employees who prefer to work from anywhere or work from home are not as committed to the success of their employer than those who prefer to report to a traditional in office setting? Many who work from home profess to enjoy interacting with their work colleagues in an office setting, but too, also look forward to the convenience of working from home.

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Are these feelings of disengagement and disconnectedness expressions of a deeper fear of  losing control?

Research studies cited by Science Direct dating as far back as 1993 and 2004, emphasized the importance of front line supervisor’s management style on the acceptance and practice of telecommuting. At the time, researchers concluded that the likelihood of employees given the opportunity to work from home was dramatically reduced when their managers were fearful of losing control.

Digital tools may not replace face to face interaction for complex tasks

Some research has shown that in spite of the plethora of remote work tools, systems and technology, they may be no replacement for face-to-face interaction for complex tasks.

Economic uncertainty

In 2022, according to Crunchbase, technology companies shed roughly 150, 000 jobs. Further, in the first month of 2023 Crunchbase estimates more than 90,000 employees of technology companies headquartered in the  U.S were laid off.

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Pressures from commercial real estate

Using National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), The Register and other news outlets estimates that the adoption of remote work policies and hybrid working arrangements allowing employees to work from home or work from anywhere has taken a gigantic bite out of commercial real estate valuations.  Estimates are as high as 1/2 Trillion US dollars (453 billion USD).

Using New York City as a reference point, the economists calculated a revaluation of the pool of office buildings located in NYC has led to reductions in cash flow and added discount rate effects. They estimated an approximate 45% drop in office values in 2020 and about a  39% decrease projected for the longer term.

In this light, major employers who have adopted a remote first ideology, may experience countervailing winds shifting in the other direction.


So the next time someone complains to you about the drop in employee connectedness to their company as the primary reason for the need to restrict work from home policies or cancel them altogether, point to this article for consideration of a wider discussion.

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