Ellen Pao, former Reddit CEO, who currently runs an advocacy group for diversity & inclusion, conducted a survey that dug deep into the dark side of remote working -- work pressure, mental health impacts, harassment & hostility. The results are eye-opening and warrant an urgent systemic change by companies.
The full report is available here, what follows is a summary of the findings & possible solutions.
Increased Work Pressure
- 64% of people are working longer hours since Covid-19
- 10%+ people said their manager checks in on them daily
The pressure is just magnified with surveillance tools to track key-presses or to record videos & screenshots as employees work.
Increased race & gender based harassment & hostility
Per the survey, harassment includes behavior like yelling, dismissive attitudes, teasing put-downs, uncomfortable & repeated questions about identity & appearance and requests for dates or sex. Hostility is less abusive yet harmful or toxic in nature.
Surprisingly, we are worse off on all these aspects than before Covid-19.
People have experienced increased levels of harassment based on age (14%), gender (26%) & race (10%). The same numbers for hostility are 15%, 30% and 13%.
98% of those who experienced increased gender-based harassment were women and/or non-binary people.
Mental health impacts
- 85%+ people across levels said their anxiety levels have increased
- 50%+ people had increased anxiety about communicating with coworkers
Employees don't trust companies to prevent or respond to harm
The biggest setback is that employees don't think companies are capable to prevent any of the above problems. Only 42% of respondents said that their company would fairly respond to problems related to harm.
Remote work by itself is not the problem, neither the solution. We need to bring in a conscious systemic level change.
Clearly, companies advocating that remote work by itself will promote equality, diversity & inclusion have misplaced beliefs. There has to be a conscious effort to solve for the problems at the root level.
Some solutions proposed in the report:
- Conscious effort to bring in diversity in the leadership
- Hold leaders & teams accountable: Ask proactively about harm. Build systems to track outcomes, positive & negative.
- Give real time off: Away from meetings, emails, devices.
- Make mental health a priority at the workplace
- Lead by example: Leadership must be the first to religiously follow the guidelines eg. no meeting fridays.
Here's what our users had to say:
Alda Lima said "Thanks for posting this. Very interesting. I must admit I'm a bit surprised (it's probably naive, but I always am when I see human beings going backward on issues that shouldn't be happening anymore at all 😡). "The pressure is just magnified with surveillance tools to track key-presses or to record videos & screenshots as employees work." - Tracking key-presses? Screenshotting people in their homes? I didn't even know this was a thing. It's sad that people aren't trusted and treated as adults (I'm sure some probably must not have acted as adults also for someone to come up with that, but still...). Imagine what a world it would be if we all took responsibility for our part. All in all very interesting... It's crazy to see how we witnessed such an important part of history that will be changing everything. I'm sure last year's consequences will be seen for many decades, this is the tip of the iceberg."
Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "Employee monitoring is the worst side-effect to come out of 2020s global WFH experiment. I think companies & managers were just clueless & insecure about measuring & tracking employee productivity, so they just took the easiest (and the worst) route possible. Not just key-presses & screenshots, I have read about tracking software that monitors how much time you spend at desks and how often you get up for breaks. This is truly as disaster. But I guess people will learn it only the hard way."
Antony said "This is infuriating to read and I think misrepresents the general landscape of remote work. I am not a fan of EP since her conduct at Reddit so that probably clouds my opinion. `- 10%+ people said their manager checks in on them daily` Is this really framed as a bad thing? Communication is critical in remote work. I check in with my team every day so that the culture of communication and openness is propagated. How can I appear approachable if they don't see me regularly? `Increased race & gender based harassment & hostility` What the hell kind of places do people work where "requests for sex" are part of your daily conversation?"
Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "I think most things have nothing to do with remote work (done the right way), but that's been the sad part about this large-scale WFH experiment. People were pushed to work remotely all of a sudden and so they resorted to all possibly weird solutions like tracking time, keypresses, screenshots of work etc. Trusting people to do their work somehow doesn't come naturally for managers. `- 10%+ people said their manager checks in on them daily` Is this really framed as a bad thing? Communication is critical in remote work. I check in with my team every day so that the culture of communication and openness is propagated. How can I appear approachable if they don't see me regularly? This is on point. Even I have a daily standup with my team where we discuss everything from work to general catching up. `Increased race & gender based harassment & hostility` I think this is a general workplace problem but even I was surprised to see that it's been reported to have increase post Covid. Although as I said in the post as well, I don't think it has to do with remote working in particular, but generally broken modern workplace."
Luis Barroso said "This is a great report and all this data shows that working remotely is not the problem, the real problem is continuing to work in a remote world with the same policies and culture that we used to promote in the office. The way of working has changed and we, as leaders, must also update ourselves and find new mechanisms."
Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "Absolutely, very well said -- couldn't have put it better myself."
Puneet said "Yeah, working remotely is definitely not the problem. The real issue here is that we're continuing the same BS that we used to promote in the office. The rules need to change and we need to adapt. In order to solve some of the problems mentioned here, my friend and I started working on a project last year. It's called Pluto : https://plutohq.in We launched it last week and are now looking for small teams who could use it and provide feedback + suggestions. Do check it out and let me know what y'all think."