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: Are remote workers more replaceable than in-person workers? Managers say yes

The ability to work from home may be the mother of all perks for some workers, but others worry it could stand in the way of advancing their careers — and managers seem to share their doubts.

Nearly six in 10 workers said that permanently working from home would diminish networking opportunities, according to a report published Monday by the Society for Human Resource Management. Some 55% said that working from home also causes work relationships to suffer.

Among supervisors of remote employees, more than two-thirds agree — 67% admitted that they view remote workers as “more easily replaceable” than employees who work in person.

Similarly, some 42% of supervisors said they “sometimes forget about remote workers when assigning tasks,” according to the SHRM report, which was based on surveys of more than 800 supervisors, 3,800 remote employees, 360 employees working fully in-person and 300 working both in-person and remotely.

That said, some four in 10 workers said they’d start looking for another job if their employer required them to go back to the office full-time, according to a separate survey published by researchers at University of Chicago’s Becker Friedman Institute for Economics.

“Many workers and employers have discovered that working from home works better than anticipated,” the researchers wrote. “That’s led to new-found desires to continue working remotely after the pandemic ends. Some employers are willing and able to accommodate those desires, and some are not.”

Women working remotely are suffering more than men in some areas

Some 23% of women said they were less likely to form strong work relationships while teleworking compared to some 18% of men, the SHRM surveys found. In contrast, the women surveyed were more likely than men to say they’re more productive when working from home.

Recent MarketWatch interviews with remote workers suggest they’re worried about falling a few rungs down the career ladder while they’re not physically at the workplace.

“A lot of people are getting promotions — and most of them are in the office,” Alyson, an administrative assistant at a staffing agency in Cincinnati, Ohio, told MarketWatch. “It’s like even though you show up on time to your desk at your home and clock in, and you work all day and you’re doing a lot … if they can’t see you doing it in person, it’s not real somehow.”


‘A lot of people are getting promotions — and most of them are in the office’


— Alyson, a Cincinnati, Ohio, administrative assistant at a staffing agency

(Alyson, who uses the pronouns she and they, asked not to have her last name used when MarketWatch spoke with her earlier this month.)

“These results raise the question of who’s really winning with remote work,” Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., CEO of SHRM, said referring to the survey.

“HR and business leaders need to answer this question to ensure they are able to attract and retain top talent and build an equitable workplace where everyone has the ability to succeed.”

The share of American workers working remotely fell to a pandemic low of 14.4% in June, but the spread of the delta variant may be slowing some companies’ plans to return to offices full-time. About one in five workers in the U.S. has been able to work remotely during the pandemic.

Overall, the ability to work from home falls unevenly along dimensions like education level and race, according to research published by the Economic Policy Institute, a progressive think-tank.

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