Business leaders continue to blame remote work for poor job performance—but it is not the sole problem.
- The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that productivity decreased by 2.7% in the first quarter of this year, marking the most significant productivity decline in 75 years.
- Dozens of tech companies, financial institutions, and businesses have responded to declining productivity with renewed return-to-office mandates, layoffs, and frustration.
- The drop in productivity could also be tied to a combination of factors, including supply chain issues, pandemic stress, high inflation, and high consumer costs contributing to employees feeling stressed and disengaged from work, Forbes reports.
- Gallup’s State Of the Global Workplace report notes that declining worker engagement has cost the global economy $7.8 trillion, or 11% of total GDP.
Why It’s Important
The ongoing problems facing the global economy create a need for answers and solutions. Business leaders are seeking single-factor answers that can readily curb issues with declining productivity or profitability, often at the cost of employee morale or customer experience.
Business leaders, including Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, continue to blame remote work as a leading cause of the problem—with Twitter CEO Elon Musk going as far last month as to call remote work “morally wrong” and demanding workers to “get off your work-from-home [bullcrap].”
Julie Bauke is the Chief Career Strategist at The Bauke Group in Cincinnati, Ohio. She tells Leaders Media that she disagrees with business leaders who blame these problems on remote work. Some leaders prefer an instruction manual or handbook that solves every problem in the workplace or tells them how to fix complex problems. Still, the workplace, particularly the younger generations, is not receptive to this. The workplace is evolving.
“When the Silicon Valley Bank collapsed, somebody I talked to recently tried to blame it on remote work because the CEO worked from home. It’s probably more complex than that. When you’re a leader, you will look for anything that makes your case, but the truth is that a positive work environment is tied to productivity. If we’re treated like machinery, people will do the least. That’s where ‘quiet quitting’ comes into play. Productivity goes down when they don’t feel cared about,” says Bauke.
Bauke says that the data on remote work is becoming very clear and indisputable, despite the efforts of CEOs to dispute it. The ongoing trends in remote work did not originate with the pandemic but were already developments that were evolving in the years prior to the outbreak in early 2020. It merely sped the process along, leaving many senior-level leaders eager to return their offices to a pre-COVID state of operations. However, many workers prefer remote work, and they are prepared to demand it or quit.
Not all jobs are going to benefit from remote work. Some fields—particularly jobs where you do not have to be present to complete your work or require working alone without input—lend themselves to working from home. However, some jobs in technology and finance require strong office cohesion and face time. There is no one-size fits all approach to deciding which jobs are which.
“All of the data suggests the ideal situation is hybrid work with roughly two-to-three days per week in the office. Organizations are still figuring this out, and many are attempting to do collaboration days or culture days that allow workers to compromise. They find that collaboration and cohesion do decrease in a fully remote environment. Smart organizations are finding they can create a supportive, flexible, fairly paid work environment with growth opportunities and strong communications and create strong engagement,” says Bauke.