Remote jobs are becoming more 'gig-like' as workers feel detached from their company's mission, Gallup finds


Amid the ongoing debate surrounding remote work, new data shows people who work from home feel increasingly detached from their organization's purpose.

According to a new Gallup survey, a record low 28% of remote workers felt their company's mission made them feel their job is important, down from 32% last year and 37% in 2020.

For on-site employees capable of remote work, though, the year-over-year trend actually rose from 32% to 33%. Hybrid workers felt agreed most strongly at 35%, a slight drop from 36% in 2022. The survey analyzed responses from nearly 9,000 workers between spring and summer 2023.

The report notes how workers' connections with their employers feel increasingly "gig-like," suggesting that more workers merely complete the tasks assigned to them without contributing more to broader company initiatives. Remote workers are also on the whole feeling less loyal, which could impact employee retention and productivity.

The data comes as more companies including Goldman Sachs, Meta, and Zoom crack down on remote work.

The data on remote work productivity is limited. One much-cited recent study on entry-level data entry workers in India found they were more productive at the office. Other research suggests workers may quit if forced to return to the office full-time, as many remote workers noted they can skip the commute and use breaks for working out or running errands. 

For some companies, remote work fits since employers trust their workers to get the job done. Though for others, the desire for collaboration and in-person mentorship gives workers a greater sense of purpose and belonging.

The disconnect here perhaps stems from a lack of conversations between workers and their bosses over where they should work. Just 12% of remote-ready employees choose the best place to work based on team discussions, the Gallup survey found. For some companies, what's good for them beats what's good for the employee.

Around 17% of service firms expect to require more in-person work next year, reporting declines in workplace culture, cohesiveness, communication, and training and mentoring of employees, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York's most recent Empire State Manufacturing Survey and Business Leaders Survey.

On the flip side, overall engagement has been growing slowly the Gallup survey shows, with 34% of employees feeling engaged at work — up from 32% last year. However, this is still well below the 40% high in mid-2020. The percentage of actively disengaged employees, many of whom feel most of their workplace needs are unmet, also fell year-over-year.

These changes were most pronounced among on-site employees, around 30% of whom feel engaged. Hybrid and fully remote workers did not have improvements in engagement, though 38% of both groups still reported feeling engaged.

This slight increase in worker engagement was led by improvements in workers knowing what's expected of them at work, having the right equipment to complete their assignments, and being given opportunities to pursue projects that best align with their skills, Gallup reported. However, overall engagement is still lower than pre-pandemic levels.

"It is possible that some employees and job roles are not a good fit for exclusively remote work that requires ongoing collaboration and response to spontaneous demands of customers and colleagues," the report states. "That, of course, should be carefully vetted based on each organization's ultimate purpose and job demands — and how well each person can attain exceptional individual performance, team collaboration, and customer value."

This conflicting data could suggest that companies are still unsure of the best way to maintain productivity while also considering the needs of employees, many of whom won't budge on returning to their office cubicles.

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