Remote Workers Can Be More Engaged, Sometimes
In response to Why Remote Workers Are More (Yes, More) Engaged
Having coached over 150 remote teams, and having, happily, worked remotely for 10+ years, this discussion caught my attention. I would agree that a team working remotely doesn’t have to be less engaged. As Sylee wrote, a leader who is a better communicator is likely to have more engaged employees.
But it’s important to distinguish between a team and a group of individual contributors who report to the same person. In the latter case (more often found in an investment firm), I would agree that remote workers can easily be equally engaged. But when it comes to the factors that contribute to high-performing teams, proximity can reduce “communication overhead.”
Consider whether it’s more efficient to communicate with remote employees or with ones down the hall. To Bwedderburn’s point, how much more gets done when you can walk a few steps, see if someone is busy, and ask a quick question, than when it takes a few emails/chat messages/phone calls just to establish whether the person is available?
The comments here extolling such benefits of working remotely as avoiding time wasting pop-ins by bosses suggest that bosses who waste people’s time face-to-face are less likely to waste remote workers’ time. I’ve definitely seen the opposite – technology can work both ways. In fact, the quick check-in with a remote worker actually becomes more time consuming and fraught when the body language is stripped away. How often do you spend time re-writing an email or text chat to make sure it conveys the appropriate tone – how many ways can you inflect “I’ll get right on that”?
I’ve observed repeatedly that majority remote teams with at least one member located in a hub – where senior management (or the team leader) is located – get things done faster and with less effort than teams without anyone at the hub – especially when collaboration across teams depends on the leader to connect them.