Remote working helps engage staff in their tasks as a new study on meeting shows, according to the Harvard Business Review.

Managers have consistently worried that remote working is not a true replacement for in-office work. Despite the success many organisations made of homeworking during the pandemic, several businesses are desperate for staff to return on site.

But that worry may be misplaced. Since the pandemic, remote meetings have become more frequent, shorter in duration, with smaller numbers of people, and more spontaneous. The latter is particularly true for one-to-one meetings.


“Whereas there have been substantial concerns that employees are missing out on the casual and spontaneous rich interactions that happen in-person, these findings indicate that remote employees may be beginning to compensate for the loss of those interactions by increasingly having impromptu meetings remotely,” report authors Andrew Brodsky and Mike Tolliver concluded.

Only leavers bucked these trends. Those who left organisations had 67 per cent fewer one-on-one spontaneous meetings, 22 per cent fewer scheduled meetings and 20 per cent fewer group meetings.

Proximity bias

But there are ways in which remote workers miss out. Most executives (96 per cent) say they notice and value the contributions people make who are in the office more than they do for those who are working remotely, according to workplace business Envoy.

This an example of proximity bias – people notice things that are present or that they have seen recently rather than distant objects, people and events. 

“While the quality of the work is the same, the physical location of the work can create favouritism in the workplace,” it said.

Cold front

Remote workers may also suffer more from cold winter weather. Employers are bound by law to ensure that employees work in an office that is heated to a reasonable temperature. The recommended minimum temperature in a workplace should be at least 16°C, or if the work involves rigorous physical exertion, it can be 13°C.

Jonathan White, legal and compliance director at National Accident Helpline, told People Magazine that no law states workers can stop working because of temperature-related complaints, but employers must legally ensure a reasonable temperature. 

White told the magazine that businesses should carry out risk assessments since people with existing health conditions could be impacted more by cold temperatures.