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More people are working from home than ever before, but there's a hidden drawback that can keep them from getting promoted

Business Insider | Jun 24, 2019, 10.27PM IST

remote workers

  • Remote workers often sacrifice family obligations and work over time to prove to their boss they are committed, a new study out of the University of California-Santa Barbara finds.
  • Remote workers are "always on" and attend meetings at odd hours more so than in-office employees just to get access to the same projects.
  • This research has implications for the growing body of remote workers in the country.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

To some, working remote means never having to leave your house or put proper pants on.

In reality, new research finds, many remote employees work harder than in-office employees for the same benefits and promotions.

The study, published in Organizational Science and authored by a pair of University of California-Santa Barbara (UCSB) researchers, finds that employees who are physically present in the office are seen as more committed, more productive, and harder working than colleagues who working away from the office.

Across employees, perceptions of hard work and commitment translate to better performance reviews and quicker promotions, the study finds.

Because of their need to show that they too are committed, remote workers are forced to being "always on" and they attend meetings at odd hours more than their in-office colleagues, all to gain access to the same opportunities.

This is a trend affecting more and more people: The number of US employees who worked from home at least half the time grew 115% in the last 12 years, from 1.8 million employees in 2005 to 3.9 million in 2017.

To co-author and UCSB management professor Paul Leonardi, this means that remote workers are especially at risk for things like disengagement, overwork, and burnout.

"Even if remote employees are successful in getting promoted and achieve their career goals, they will have already 'died trying' in the process and compromised their work-life balance," he tells Business Insider over email. "Paradoxically, even after achieving career goals, employees often express career dissatisfaction."

Read more: Bosses, take note: Workers say lack of engagement is a top reason they'd quit their jobs

It's an extension of earlier findings on "face time," or how connecting with your boss at the water cooler or in meetings can help build trust.

Leonardi and his co-author Ioana C. Cristea looked into how managers at two Fortune 100 companies, SunTech and Autoworks, perceived their remote employees. They found remote workers were more likely to sacrifice a family obligation or work overtime to prove they are committed, moreso with larger differences in time zones.

Remote workers do have a couple tools they can lean on to get more face time in. Turning your video on during meetings, quickly responding to emails, and actively participating in video meetings signal commitment to managers, Leonardi said. He advises managers to minimize the time zone differences between themselves and remote workers, as well as impose mandatory maximum working hours and vacation.

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