In an era where remote work is no longer the exception but increasingly the rule, many traditionally on-site organizations are grappling with how to adapt. If you’ve ever caught yourself thinking that “the office is where the real work gets done,” then this article is a wake-up call you can’t afford to ignore. We’ll dive deep into the invisible barriers that remote workers encounter in organizations rooted in an on-site culture, illuminating the emotional and practical implications of being left out of the loop.
Unseen, Unheard, Unvalued?
For remote workers, being left out of company activities is akin to being the last one picked in a schoolyard game—it’s demoralizing. You’re not just missing the event; you’re missing a chance to bond with your colleagues, to feel a part of the company culture, and to engage in mutual learning. This emotional toll can translate into decreased job satisfaction, lower engagement levels, and ultimately, subpar performance.
There are numerous ways in which remote workers can feel sidelined in a predominantly on-site work environment. Though an organization might really value its remote workforce, there may be areas for improvement to ensure remote workers are not overlooked. Here are some areas to consider. If you recognize any of these experiences in your company, let us help you bridge the gap to make room for remote workers in your work culture.
Poor Quality Video Conferences
We’ve all experienced it: that frustrating meeting where on-site employees are clearly engaged in a lively discussion, but the video conference setup for remote participants is so poor that you can barely hear what’s being said. Even worse, when remote workers post questions or comments in the chat, they are completely ignored.
A poor conferencing setup is further aggravated when remote employees attempt to engage, such as posting questions or comments in the chat, go unnoticed. This can happen when the meeting facilitator focuses solely on the in-room participants, failing to allocate time to address input from remote attendees. Such inattention creates an imbalanced dynamic where remote employees feel that their contributions are less valued than those of their on-site counterparts.
Poor video conferencing conditions for remote employees are not just an inconvenience—they’re a manifestation of a double standard that reflects deeper issues within an organization’s culture. Often, this issue arises from inadequate or outdated technology or just the result of not considering the virtual attendee experience when planning an event.
While in-person attendees benefit from direct interactions, a quality sound system, and a focused environment, remote employees may be left squinting at blurry video feeds, asking for repeated statements due to inaudible audio, or grappling with time lags. The technology gap can exacerbate feelings of isolation, rendering remote workers as mere spectators rather than active participants.
A poor video conferencing setup is not merely a technical issue—it is a glaring representation of the double standards that can prevail in an organization between remote and in-person staff.
We’ve set this issue in the number one spot, for it happens often and video conferencing is currently the most media rich experience for employees to interact with their colleagues in real-time. However, there are also other considerations and situations:
Participation in Team or Company Traditions
Imagine a situation where your company organizes an important all-hands meeting or an engaging team-building exercise. As a remote worker, you’re eager to join in and feel a part of the team. However, you find out that the event has been organized in such a way that only on-site employees can truly participate. Maybe you weren’t given login information to join the event virtually, or perhaps the event was just not designed with remote participation in mind.
Access to Resources & Information
On-site employees have the advantage of immediate access to physical resources such as files, training materials, or even hardware that may not be readily available to remote workers. This can create an imbalance in opportunities for growth and the ability to complete tasks efficiently.
Spontaneous Decision-making & Brainstorming Sessions
In an office setting, it’s not uncommon for colleagues and managers to have spontaneous discussions that lead to significant decisions or new ideas. Unfortunately, remote workers are often left out of these impromptu sessions simply because they are not physically present.
Casual Interactions & Networking
The “water cooler conversations” that happen casually throughout the day at the office often contribute to building strong professional and personal relationships. These casual interactions also serve as informal channels for sharing information about company updates, project status, and other relevant news. Remote workers don’t have this same access to incidental learning and networking, which can hamper both their personal growth and understanding of company culture.
On-site Skill Development & Training
Companies may offer in-person training sessions, workshops, or skill development courses that are not made accessible to remote workers. This puts remote employees at a disadvantage when it comes to career growth and personal development.
Recognition & Visibility
On-site workers have more opportunities to be visible to their managers and peers, whether it’s through leading an in-person meeting or simply by being present during a significant moment at the office. This higher visibility often translates into more opportunities for recognition and career advancement, while remote workers may feel they have to work twice as hard for the same acknowledgment.
Sometimes, the “out of sight, out of mind” adage can apply depressingly well to remote workers during performance reviews or opportunities for promotion. Even if remote workers are performing at or above the level of their on-site peers, the lack of physical presence can sometimes lead to them being overlooked.
Office Politics & Cliques
While office politics are generally something to be avoided, being entirely removed from the office dynamic can have disadvantages. Remote workers may be unaware of alliances, tensions, or other subtleties in office relationships, making it challenging to navigate the workplace effectively.
Impact on Remote Workers
The ramifications of this double standard go beyond mere frustration. Constantly feeling overlooked and devalued can lead to a loss of self-esteem and professional confidence for remote workers. This disengagement may eventually manifest in decreased productivity, increased turnover, and lower overall job satisfaction.
This not only deprives remote employees of the opportunity to contribute meaningfully but also sends the message that their input is not valued. In these situations, remote workers may start to question their significance within the team, and their commitment to the company may wane.
From a business standpoint, failing to effectively include remote workers in meetings and decision-making processes is a missed opportunity. Remote employees, like their in-office counterparts, bring unique skills and perspectives to the table. When their voices are muted, literally or metaphorically, the organization loses out on valuable insights that could drive innovation and problem-solving.
How to Level the Playing Field
By identifying these areas where remote workers may feel left out, companies can take proactive measures to foster a more inclusive environment that values and supports all employees, regardless of where they work. With thoughtful planning, investment, and training, companies can ensure that all employees, regardless of their work location, have an equal seat at the table.
Design Around Remote User Experience
When organizing company-wide events or meetings, plan them to be inclusive from the ground up. Ensure that remote workers have the login details and the technical capabilities to participate fully well in advance. Avoid thinking of remote workers as an after thought.
Designate a Remote Advocate
Designate one person in each department or within the company to serve as the remote advocate. Such a role would be best aligned with someone who has worked remote, hybrid, and on-site to understand the full spectrum of experiences and challenges. This role can brainstorm with remote workers and department heads on ways to engage in the remote culture daily.
Invest in Quality Tools
Invest in good quality video conferencing tools and ensure that everyone—both remote and on-site employees—can see and hear what’s going on.High-quality video and audio conferencing tools are an essential investment. Organizations might consider using software that allows for easy screen sharing and real-time collaboration.
Actively Engage Remote Workers
During meetings or training sessions, make it a point to address remote participants. Encourage them to speak up, and acknowledge their questions and comments. During larger meetings, designate someone to monitor chat and video feeds to ensure that remote workers’ input is considered and addressed. One idea is to have a remote representative on the virtual conference communicating with a representative on-site to provide a route for continual feedback and adjustment throughout the event.
Conduct Regular Tests
Before important meetings or conferences, conduct a tech-check to ensure that all systems are working optimally. Evaluate the remote experience or just simply ask remote attendees about their experiences in a meeting or event, and how it could be improved.
Train the Trainer
As a first step, train facilitators to be mindful of remote participants, instructing them to frequently check for questions or comments from the chat and to deliberately involve remote workers in the discussion. As a more ongoing solution, teach leaders how to structure events, work, and team building experiences with the remote worker in mind.
Create a Feedback Loop
Encourage remote employees to provide feedback on the quality of the conferencing tools and their ability to participate. Consider providing opportunities for anonymous feedback to get unfiltered responses. Use this data to continuously refine and improve the remote participation experience. Managers could have regular one-on-one check-ins in addition with remote employees to understand their challenges and find ways to help them feel more connected to the team.
Create Virtual Team-Bonding Activities
Since remote workers can’t participate in on-site social events, create virtual team-building activities that allow everyone to interact and bond, regardless of their location. There are lots of ways to engage remote workers in addition to synchronous video conferences. For example, having a virtual birthday, anniversary, or other celebration card to offer well wishes to one another can be a creative way to connect.
For more ideas, check out our article: How to Engage Remote Workers.
The Bottom Line
Remote work is not a fleeting trend; it’s here to stay. Companies that don’t actively work to accommodate their remote employees will find themselves struggling to maintain a cohesive, engaged, and productive team. So, don’t leave your remote workers saying, “Don’t leave me out, I’m remote.” Make them feel like the valuable part of your team that they truly are. The only wrong way to engage remote workers is simply not trying.
If your company is rooted in the belief that ‘real work’ happens within the four walls of an office, it’s time to reconsider some long-standing assumptions. We have aimed to shine a light on the often-overlooked challenges faced by remote workers who are inadvertently excluded from key aspects of organizational life. From being left out of crucial meetings due to poor video conferencing setups to missing out on the spontaneous brainstorming sessions that fuel innovation, remote workers face a unique set of obstacles that can hinder their performance and job satisfaction.
Ignoring these challenges is not just detrimental to your remote employees; it’s a missed opportunity for your organization to harness the full power of a diverse, engaged workforce. You never know, your organization might develop the next billion dollar idea for supporting remote workers – we are all co-creating what this new way of working will look like – so enjoy the process!
Let us help!
Ready to take the next step in ensuring your organization not only accommodates but thrives with remote workers? It’s time to make a meaningful change, and we have the perfect solution for you. Reach out to WorkForceRemote.org to get your organization certified as a Certified Remote Workplace. This reputable certification will not only elevate your company’s standing but will also demonstrate your commitment to fostering an inclusive, engaging, and productive remote work environment.
But why stop at the organizational level? Take it a step further by investing in your team’s professional development through the Certified Remote Professional and Certified Remote Leader tracks. These programs will equip your staff with the essential skills, strategies, and mindset to excel in a remote work setting, thereby boosting productivity, job satisfaction, and overall employee well-being.
Don’t just adapt to the new way of work – lead the way by becoming a Certified Remote Workplace today. Because when you invest in the well-being and inclusion of your remote employees, you invest in the long-term success of your organization.
We will schedule a free consultation to discuss an affordable plan that aligns with your organization where it is today and scale the plan for growth in the future. Contact us to start your certification journey with WorkForceRemote.org now!