Still Sitting at the Desk too Far

It’s true that of late I haven’t given this blog the true love and attention it deserves. The summer holidays, a house move and my youngest son starting school have all got in the way.

In fact I haven’t been working much at all recently, but before you ask I haven’t been skiving! I just had quite a bit of holiday owed and what with bank holidays and working part-time I feel a little like not-working is the new working for me!

Not working much has also meant that I haven’t been in to the office for a good while. I’m worried my holiday biscuits will be out of date before I get round to taking them in! I have to admit that I’m starting to feel out of touch with what is happening on site.

A recent article entitled Why Off-Site Employees Feel Virtually Disconnected provides research evidence that shows that remote workers feel disconnected from company culture. Not only this but many also “believe they are less respected in their organizations than their colleagues who work together in person.

The research, carried out by Caroline Bartel, associate professor of management at the McCombs School of Business, Amy Wrzesniewski of Yale University and Batia Wiesenfeld at New York University, is based on a recent study they carried out.

They were feeling removed from the organization in such a way that they felt as though their status in the organization had dropped considerably,” Bartel says. “That drop in status made them feel as though they were not respected members.

The study identifies two main types of disrespect at the workplace:

  • disrespect by commission (for example, when off-site employees are remotely monitored or supervised more than their on-site peers)
  • disrespect by omission (e.g., when virtual employees are left out of the decision-making

Both are seen as negative but omission can have a more detrimental effect on morale and well being. The research also claims that isolation negatively affects employees regardless of how long they have worked at a company.

The article outlining the research, which appears in Educated Exec, a US online magazine, also claims that in America there has been an overall decrease in the proportion of employees that telecommute almost every day. The drop is from 51 percent in 2006 to 40 percent in 2008. Slightly out of date figures but still it seems strange that there should be a drop.

I think the research is interesting because once again it raises the need for organisations with remote workers to have procedures in place that reduce the gap this working practice creates.

A long while back, in an article entitled A Desk Too Far?: The Case for Remote Working published in Ariadne web magazine, I wrote the following:

Although there is no universal panacea for the challenges discussed above, those who have experience of remote working often feel that the key to success lies in making sure that remote workers feel included and supported….”

During the article, and in future articles, I made suggestions of ways this could be achieved.

I concluded with:

What has been observed when investigating remote working further is that quite often problems that have already been observed in the office, such as feelings of isolation and low morale, can be amplified when employees work remotely. Organisations which truly address these issues by engaging with their staff, whether they work remotely or not, will find that the benefits are significant. Maybe it matters little where the office of the future will be, more whether the office of the future connects.

There is just no getting away from this and for an organisation ensuring that its employees remain happy employees will remain a constant battle.


3 thoughts on “Still Sitting at the Desk too Far

  1. Hi Steve,

    I’d agree with you to a certain degree.

    I talk to far more peers than I used to when I worked in an office (Twitter is responsible for this). However I don’t talk to far more colleagues – i.e. people who work at my organisation. Many aren’t on Twitter, or Google+ or Facebook, or use IM or reply to email mailing lists. Quite often the only way you can talk to them is face-to-face.


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