What happens between remote work and hybrid? Two surveys show how employees feel

Leaders and employees say they don’t feel supported by their teams.

Nearly 90% of workers who work remotely or in hybrid mode — spend time at home and in the office — say there is a lack of connection with other members of their team. Some 72% of workers surveyed said they lacked downtime with co-workers and were unable to socialize enough when remote.

The findings are based on a survey by Airspeed, an employee social media platform, and Workplace Intelligence, a research and consulting firm, conducted between March 8 and March 20, 2022. Some 800 senior managers and 800 employees working remotely or hybrid organizations were surveyed.

“The transition to remote work has been extremely difficult for companies and their employees,” said Doug Camplejohn, Founder and CEO of Airspeed. “However, our findings revealed that most leaders did not understand how this change would affect their workforce.”

Remote work reduces grueling commutes and helps parents juggle work and personal responsibilities, but some are feeling the burn. “So many people reported feeling lonely, disengaged and detached from their colleagues and their company,” Camplejohn said. “We are now at a critical juncture where leaders must make connection a priority.”

Some people have lost the spontaneous connection they feel when they see a friendly face: no more laughing with co-workers while queuing for lunch or chatting about the latest TV show.

While many employees who have the luxury of working from home have said it has dramatically improved their work/life balance, others have lost the emotional, spontaneous connection they feel when they see a friendly face: more need to laugh with colleagues while standing in line for lunch or chatting about the latest TV show.

Yet other research points to a positive impact of remote working — being able to work in your own environment and go out to your local cafe for lunch with family, friends, or neighbors during your work day. Tracking Happiness, a company that measures how satisfied people are, found that people’s happiness increased by 20% with remote work.

The Tracking Happiness survey, conducted in April, surveyed 12,455 workers worldwide. Almost twice as many men (65%) as women (34.5%) responded. Millennials were more likely to say their quality of life and as a result satisfaction had improved, with many citing a reduction in time spent commuting each day.

The answer, if it exists, is to give people a balance, say proponents of hybrid working. This includes hosting social events where people can mingle and reminisce that – maybe – office life wasn’t so bad, while maintaining informal check-ins in person and on video platforms like Zoom ZM ,
and Google Meet GOOGL,
to make sure people are okay.

Another important strategy: Be open and transparent about people’s mental health issues, and make sure executives and employees have company support to take time out for counselling, or even to rest and recharge. A recent study by the World Health Organization concluded that mental health problems cost the global economy $1 trillion a year due to lost productivity.

Others point to the absence of strenuous commutes, the ability to work in one’s own environment and to go to one’s local cafe for lunch with family, friends or neighbors during one’s working day.

Remote work is a luxury for many. Only 6.5% of workers in August were telecommuting specifically because of the pandemic, according to the latest jobs report, down from 7.1% in July. A Federal Reserve report released in May found that at the end of 2021, only 22% of people were working full-time from home (and 33% for those with at least a bachelor’s degree).

Some companies have become totally remote. Airbnb ABNB,
launched a “live and work anywhere” program for its employees. As more cities institute strict rules around short-term stays, the company has a clear interest in leading by example and having its employees work from home. Shopify store,
Slack and Coinbase COIN,
have similar policies.

A lot of companies allow their employees to work a hybrid schedule, meaning a few days a week at home and a few days a week at the office. They include Twitter TWTR,
Facebook parent Meta META,
and, of course, Zoom – another business that obviously benefits from people working at least part of the time from home.

Young people are more likely to need mentorship and may have fewer family responsibilities. Research has shown that women, especially working mothers, are more likely to want to work from home. Others may have underlying conditions that put them at increased risk for serious consequences from COVID-19, or someone in their household who is at increased risk.

“People are looking for a real connection with their colleagues — a connection that goes beyond Hollywood squares, transaction-like interactions felt in back-to-back Zoom meetings,” Camplejohn said.

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