Survey: Supervisors See Remote Workers As ‘More Easily Replaceable’

August 2, 2021 by Dan McCue
A remote worker. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Over two-thirds of supervisors who participated in a new poll said they consider employees who work remotely “more easily replaceable,” than onsite workers at their organization.

In addition, the survey found that 62% believe full-time remote work is detrimental to employees’ career objectives and 72% say they would prefer all of their subordinates to be working in the office.

The Alexandria, Virginia-based Society for Human Resource Management conducted the survey of more than 800 supervisors in mid-June and released its findings last week.

The study also found that while employees agree remote work is beneficial and increases performance, a majority (59%) believe working remotely on a permanent basis would diminish their networking opportunities, 55% said it would cause work relationships to suffer, and 54% felt it would require them to work more hours .

“With COVID-19 forcing a leap to remote work in many sectors of our economy, and organizations struggling to determine the best workforce strategies post-pandemic, there’s one fact that can’t be ignored—remote work is not ideal for everyone,” said Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, SHRM’s president and chief executive officer.

“Remote work can offer benefits, but employers need to take a closer look at whether remote and onsite workers have the same opportunities and whether managers have the tools they need to be effective leaders,” he said.

Among the survey’s other finding:

  1. Fifty-one percent of remote workers say they spent between $100 and $499 on equipment or furniture needed to work remotely;
  2. Sixty-one percent of remote workers who spent money on equipment or furniture paid for it out of pocket;
  3. Sixty-seven percent of supervisors say they spend more time supervising remote workers than onsite workers;
  4. Forty-two percent of supervisors say they sometimes forget about remote workers when assigning tasks;
  5. Thirty-four percent of remote workers say working remotely on a permanent basis would reduce the number of career opportunities available.
  6. Twenty-nine percent of remote workers say they will have fewer developmental opportunities while working remotely.

Although women and men have similar responses on most of the ways their career will be impacted by remote work, there are some areas that differed. 

For example, 23% of women were more likely to indicate that they will not have the opportunity to form strong work relationships compared to men working remotely (18%).

“These results raise the question of who’s really winning with remote work,” said Taylor. “HR and business leaders need to answer this question to ensure they are able to attract and retain top talent and build an equitable workplace where everyone has the ability to succeed.”

The Society for Human Resource Management surveyed 817 supervisors and just over 3,800 working Americans including those working remotely, online between June 16 and June 19.

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