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August 2, 2023 | Categories: Mitel, Remote & Hybrid Working

Mind the gap! The career opportunity gap between remote and in-person employees that is. There are significant differences in opportunities for collaboration, productivity, and career development for remote and in-person workers, found a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the University of Iowa, and Harvard, called “The Power of Proximity to Coworkers.” After studying engineers at a large tech company before and after the COVID-19 lockdown, the researchers found that teams with even one remote member communicated very differently than those entirely on-site. What’s more, remote workers face certain disadvantages regarding career development. Three years in, companies have largely sorted out the logistics of remote work. However, the push to return to the office has shifted the dynamics again, leading to a post-pandemic divide between in-person and remote employees. Working from home isn’t going away – in fact, 68% of employees globally still want a hybrid arrangement – but workers may have to sacrifice salary or upward mobility in exchange for more control over their schedule. And companies will have to figure out how to create equal opportunities for employees in all locations. Fortunately, the right culture and managerial style backed by modern unified communications and collaboration technology can help close the remote work gap, benefitting both employees and companies. Proximity, Productivity, and the Possibility of Promotions Remote employees enjoy their independence but may feel isolated from their coworkers and overlooked by their managers, especially if they have only met them virtually. Many are looking for positions that allow them to go into an office at least a few times a week to build relationships with their colleagues. This is particularly true for younger employees, especially recent graduates who have spent their education and early careers trying to connect over video conferences and work chats. Gen Z is ready to gain on-the-job training and build their networks in person. Junior employees benefit significantly from in-person interactions, with substantive feedback, mentorship, and observation from their supervisors, found the Power of Proximity study. This boosts their productivity, as they can adjust their work in the moment. On the other hand, senior employees are more productive at home, where they can work more independently. In-person colleagues collaborate better, holding more extensive and deeper conversations than hybrid or remote teams. When there is even one remote member on a team, the entire discussion must shift online – or risk isolating the remote employee. For many remote workers, the fear of isolation is a real reason to return to the office, especially if they aren’t comfortable advocating for themselves online. Some managers have an “out of sight, out of mind” approach when providing their employees with opportunities for career development. Employees who prefer in-person work often do so because they want more spontaneous networking and the chance for career advancement. Bumping into someone in the hallway and discussing a new project idea might be common in an office building, but the casual conversation is more challenging online. The proximity study discovered other factors that can create a gap for remote workers. Leadership is more likely to give a promotion to an employee whose face is familiar around the office, but the contributions of remote workers might get overlooked. Remote workers, especially younger hires, are likelier to quit due to losing relationships or lacking recognition. Because more women, people of color, and people with disabilities tend to prefer remote work, this can lead to a lack of diversity at the leadership level down the line. If companies don’t close the remote work gap, there could be significant ramifications for the future. Four Tips to Close the Remote Work Gap Suppose employers want to retain top remote talent, maintain productivity, and future-proof their workforce. In that case, they must find ways to level the playing field between remote and in-person employees. With the right approach, they can ensure equal career opportunities for all their workers, regardless of location. 1. Maximize Hybrid Schedules Trying to manage hybrid employees with varying schedules can feel like herding cats, but finding one day a week for in-person collaboration can make a big difference in productivity and teamwork. If a single schedule can’t be arranged or remote employees live far away, aim to have monthly or quarterly in-person meetings to build face-to-face relationships. Workforce scheduling software can analyze employees’ availability and suggest the best days for everyone. 2. Try Alternate Methods of Management Managers should have a “no employee left behind” approach regarding hybrid teams. That might mean checking in with remote workers via video calls to ensure they receive the same feedback and training as their in-person peers. Employees should be held to the same performance goals regardless of location, and leadership should track KPIs, promotions, and pay across staff to ensure everyone has the same opportunities. 3. Improve Remote Employee Engagement If their office colleagues get all the face time, remote workers might start to feel invisible. “Drop-in” video conferences, more “fun” meetings, and open chats can allow them to have conversations they might be missing and get comfortable talking with their team. 4. Bridge the Divide with Unified Communications Remote employees can feel disconnected – because of a literal disconnect from their coworkers. Give them the tools to do their jobs just as well as their in-person colleagues, like collaboration software with seamless chat-to-video capabilities. If there’s only one remote worker on a team, have in-person members dial in because it can be challenging to be the only one not in the room. Don’t leave it to remote employees to close the gap themselves. Company leadership must proactively provide equal opportunities for remote and in-person employees or risk negative impacts on their workforce later. As a Mitel Gold Partner, contact Norcom Solutions today and discover how unified communications solutions from Mitel level the playing field for remote and in-person employees. Chat with one of our experts to learn how your hybrid teams can benefit from collaboration software.


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