Remote work has plummeted from its pandemic high, with less than 26% of U.S. households having someone working from home at least one day a week, down from a peak of 37% in early 2021, according to Census Bureau data.
The decline reflects the ongoing push from companies to get employees back in the office, with 43% of companies having set tighter limits around remote work or mandated some form of return-to-office over the past year.
Business leaders have given various reasons for their disdain for the model, arguing that collaboration, mentorship, and employee engagement all suffer without the office. But the biggest disadvantage of remote work that employers cite is how difficult it is to observe and monitor employees.
Pre-pandemic, bosses relied on desk visits and peer monitoring to keep employees on track in the office. But there is no clear replacement for these practices in a remote setting. Demand for employee monitoring software has skyrocketed since 2020, but companies still haven’t figured out how to effectively measure remote workers’ performance.
“It’s hard to know which measure these software programs track even matters,” says Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter. “A lot of knowledge work is done in video meetings, or offline in phone calls, research, and brainstorming, and it’s impossible to quantify all of that.”
Research has also shown that workplace surveillance can backfire as it undermines employees’ confidence in their managers and desire to be productive, which can lead to increased turnover.
“If the pandemic and ‘great resignation’ taught us anything, it’s that managers need to be intentional and engaged with employees to be truly effective,” says Pollak. “The challenges with remote work aren’t going to be solved overnight, but making that change is a strong start.”
The sources for this piece include an article in CNBC.