Why Remote Workplaces Fail

The number of remote workers across the country is rising like a tidal wave. But too many organizations are failing at making it work.

— Meredith Haberfeld

The remote workforce grew 80% between 2005 and 2012, and it’ll increase by another 21% over the next year. At first glance, this trend (sea change, really) is a positive one. We now know that “remote-ers” log more hours, are more productive and cost their employers less money (when they’re set up well, that is). And businesses can now hire the very best talent, regardless of location.

But the issue—much like in physical offices—is culture. That “best talent” will perform like a B-minus player if she feels disconnected, dis-empowered, unappreciated or out of the loop.
Employee engagement in an average U.S. workplace is a staggeringly low 30%. Take away a person’s ability to huddle in a conference room to work through issues or build relationships informally, and the idea of a remote workplace starts to look less attractive. (And Marissa Mayer’s decision to ban remote workers starts to make good sense.)
What does it take to make “remote” work?
A playbook for employee engagement among remote workers doesn’t yet exist. But here’s what we do know: Organizations that do remote work well have a certain culture—a foundation that fosters engagement and trust.
It’s better to say no to a remote-workplace policy than to half-commit and fail. If you’re in, Step One is training people leaders. All the technology in the world won’t matter if your leaders don’t know how to lead in this environment.