As companies move to reestablish pre-pandemic workplace norms, an alarming trend has emerged — not only are employees being ushered back into the office, but those choosing to remain remote are facing higher layoff risks, according to recent data.
The Wall Street Journal reported that full-time remote workers were 35% more likely to be laid off than their in-office counterparts in 2023, based on findings from Live Data Technologies. The data revealed that 10% of remote employees experienced layoffs last year, compared to only 7% of those working in the office or adopting a hybrid model.
This shift comes on the heels of a surge in layoffs experienced last year and recent job cuts spanning various sectors, impacting media outlets such as Business Insider, the Los Angeles Times, Pitchfork, and Sports Illustrated, as well as commerce sites like eBay and Wayfair, along with tech giants like Microsoft.
Andy Challenger, Senior Vice President at the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, explained to the Journal that the emotional distance associated with virtual interactions could contribute to the higher likelihood of remote workers being included in layoff lists. The lack of a close personal relationship with remote employees may make them easier targets during staff reductions.
George Penn, Managing Vice President at the advisory firm Gartner, noted that this trend aligns with the sentiments revealed in a 2021 Gartner survey, where managers and executives tended to view in-office employees as higher performers.
“Managers believe employees who work remote are lower performers than those that come to the office,” said Brian Kropp, Chief of Human Resources Research at Gartner. “They will on average be more likely to lay off those who are working remote than those who are coming into the office.”
The challenge, as Kropp emphasized, is the “out of sight, out of mind” dynamic, making remote workers vulnerable during downsizing decisions.
Alyssa Ciesky, a talent acquisition specialist in San Antonio, concurred, noting the lack of a “personal connection” with remote workers, making them “easy to get rid of.” Ciesky, who herself was laid off from a fully remote role in 2022, emphasized the challenges of maintaining rapport when her boss was based in England.
In addition to higher layoff rates, Live Data Technologies found that remote workers are more likely to voluntarily leave their jobs. The data indicated that 12% of remote employees sought and secured new positions within two months, compared to 9% of hybrid or in-person workers.
David Risch, a recruiter in the supply chain industry, highlighted the employer perspective, cautioning remote workers with the phrase, “easy come, easy go.” Risch emphasized the reciprocal nature of investment, suggesting that companies are more likely to invest in employees who show commitment to the organization.