Survey: Remote workers are paranoid and feel left out

When you’re a remote worker, there’s a nagging thought that creeps in when your emails and messages go unanswered: Is everyone hanging out without me? When you’re not physically in the rooms where it happens, you can start to worry that you don’t have a seat at the table.

That’s what a new VitalSmarts survey of 1,100 employees found.

Of the half of employees who reported working from home for at least part of their work week, these virtual employees said that they did not feel like their voice was getting heard as much as on-site employees. Morale is low and stress is high for these remote workers.

Survey: Remote workers feel left out and ostracized

Virtual employees were significantly more likely to believe that their co-workers were badmouthing them behind their backs. Remote workers were also more likely to see treacherous snakes in every cubicle. They reported higher rates of agreement that their workplace was a battleground where colleagues would lobby against them, change projects without warning them, and that they had no advocates in the office fighting for them.

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How to make remote workers feel welcome

This paranoia can stem from a lack of face-to-face reassurance from remote workers’ managers about their value to the team. When you lack clear and explicit communication from your supervisor about expectations and goals, rumors, mistrust, and fears can take root.

To combat virtual employees’ paranoia, the researchers behind the survey recommend prioritizing relationships with remote workers and erring on the side of over-communication. That can mean scheduling mandatory phone calls or face-to-face interaction on a regular basis. Remote workers in the survey said that their most successful managers were the ones who checked in frequently. For managers of virtual teams, that can mean using more innovative video conferencing technology and tailoring communication to the convenience of each employee.

Above all, remote workers need to feel like their manager is as available to them as he or she is to on-site employees.

“Remote employees should always be able to count on their manager to respond to pressing concerns, no matter where they work,” the study’s authors concluded in Harvard Business Review.