Remote working causes communication gap between managers and employees

A lack of communication is impacting remote workers' progression and managers’ understanding of their team's challenges, a new study has found.

A quarter (28%) of UK workers said they wish their managers understood more about their financial challenges, according to new data from talent management service Right Management.

A similar proportion (26%) wished their managers understood more about the impact of work on their mental health and wellbeing.

Sarah Hernon, principal consultant at Right Management, said that this lack of managerial understanding could be due to remote working limiting opportunities for spontaneous conversations.

Speaking to HR magazine, Hernon said: “Communication has become more of a planned event with a fixed agenda. Employees are incredibly busy, as are line managers, with more pressure than ever to achieve results, be productive and focused.

“If managers want employees to be honest they need to be much more cognisant of their soft skills, such as how they demonstrate empathy and a foundation of trust.”

More on remote working:

High earners and Londoners most likely to work from home

Law firm highlights tension between hybrid and remote working

Remote staff taking more mental health leave than those on-site

The survey also found the lack of communication is detrimental to remote workers’ career progression.

A quarter of hiring managers (26%) said hybrid workers are less likely to be considered for a promotion, while more than a third (38%) said that remote workers are less likely to spend any time with senior managers, which could fuel presenteeism.

Hernon said these missed opportunities could be due to employees lack of openness about the challenges they face inside and outside of work.

She said: “From this survey, as well as anecdotally, the trend appears to be with employees who are not speaking up. The consequence is that managers might be unaware of some of the pressures their teams are under, while workers may be missing out.

“It seems that some are losing the art of conversation, which could be a result of the longer-term impact of hybrid working.”

Martin Tiplady, managing director of HR consultancy Chameleon People Solutions, said in order to solve the communication gap, managers need to be educated on employee challenges.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “I don’t think that the issue is specially about encouraging employees but more about managers being open minded and receptive to today’s challenges, be they mental or financial wellbeing, or any other contemporary challenges in the modern workplace.”

Tiplady added that there needs to be more innovation around remote communication.

He said: “My experience is that the pandemic allowed a series of innovative communication channels that have since become forgotten and lost as we have all adopted more permanent virtual working as a norm.

“It is time now to be equally innovative in order to make sure that communications and employment practices, including promotion, are fairly and properly managed.”

Right Management surveyed 2,030 UK-wide employers and 1,000 UK-based employees.