Jun 21, 2022 - Economy

Remote employees more siloed and have fewer connections, study finds

Illustration of one person holding a mug that has half of one "Best Friends" heart on it.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Remote work may be convenient, but it limits the number of people you meet on the job, a new analysis finds. And that can have downsides for employees and companies.

Why it matters: Companies have an interest in making sure employees have a wide network; it fosters collaboration and loyalty. The analysis is another data point in the "go back to the office" camp, espoused by the likes of Elon Musk.

Details: Even after a year, those who started a new job in March 2021 had 68% fewer connections inside their companies than their more tenured peers had at a similar juncture in employment, according to the findings.

  • Researchers looked at data — including emails, Slacks and calendar invites — from 1,300 workers at tech and finance companies in the U.S. and Europe.

The report concludes that this is an issue that stems from "ineffective onboarding."

  • Offsites might help, too. "The best outcomes come from just taking the team out once every one or two months and doing proper offsites," said Jan Rezab, the CEO of Time Is Ltd., a workplace analytics firm, which released the report.

Our thought bubble: As someone who went from working in-person five days a week to working remotely, I'm skeptical that even regular offsites can replace in-office network effects — where you wind up talking to folks with whom you'd never actually work.

  • Certainly, serendipitous interactions, like the time I made an office best friend because we met in a restroom, are difficult to replicate on Slack and Zoom.

The bottom line: But people sure like to work remotely — so companies will have to find new ways to foster relationships and loyalty.

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