Remote work gives cold comfort to fired employees
Remote work is thriving but it also gives bosses a way to shield themselves from the emotional fallout of bad news, says Billy MacInnes
9 December 2021 | 0
I think very few people would disagree that one of the great triumphs of IT during the pandemic has been the instrumental role it played in enabling businesses to keep trading and people to carry on working. The way that IT made remote working and working from home possible provided a ringing endorsement of the opportunities and possibilities technology presented to change the way the world works.
No matter how far away people lived from their work, no matter how great the distance between them and their tasks (not to mention their bosses), employees could continue to do what they had to do. In many cases, they found working at a distance an improvement over much of the working environment they had been employed in before Covid arrived. No wonder so many are keen not to go back to what they had before preferring, at the very least, to have a hybrid working week split between the office and home.
Employers are also getting the message and obviously see benefits for them in technology’s ability to connect with employees even when they are somewhere in the distance. Not that they’re prepared to let go entirely. A recent survey by the Compliance Institute of more than 280 organisations in Ireland found that 67% of those with employees working from home will still want them to visit the office at least once a week. Of that group, just over half (53% or close to 36% of all organisations) said employees will have to be in the office two or three days a week.
There were clear differences over just how remote employees could be when it came to working from home. Up to 28% stated employees would need to be near enough to the office to commute every week, but more than three in 10 organisations said they would allow employees to work remotely from anywhere in the country. A particularly brave 5% said employees could even live outside Ireland if they wanted to.
And despite the belief that companies are anxious to reinstate face-to-face meetings with employees, Michael Kavanagh, CEO of the Compliance Institute, said the survey found 72% of employers would continue to use online and video conferencing platforms to varying degrees, “often using them to replace the traditional face-to-face meeting”.
All of which suggests that technology is helping organisations and their employees move to a distance model for working where work isn’t so much about where you do it but how you do it.
Pretty much everyone is agreed that’s a good thing, right? It’s good for employers, employees and for the technology industry because it cements IT’s central role in the future of working.
Bad news in HD
Unfortunately, there are times that serve to highlight the deficiencies of the distanced IT approach. One such occasion emerged a couple of days after the Compliance Institute published the findings of its survey when it was reported the CEO of a company had used Zoom to connect to a large number of employees. As many as 900 in fact. While managing to connect with so many people over Zoom might sound like something IT supporters would want to applaud, this impressive technological feat wasn’t exactly a heartwarming story.
Forbes revealed that the CEO of unicorn mortgage lender start-up Better.com, Vishal Garg, had told the 900 that they were being fired “in a cold, awkward one-way video announcement”.
In the video, Garg stated: “If you’re on this call, you are part of the unlucky group that is being laid off. Your employment here is terminated effective immediately.” So that’s 900 people who definitely didn’t feel the company was living up to its name.
As the article in Forbes notes, Uber did something similar in the early days of the pandemic when it laid off 3,500 employees via an online Zoom call.
So yes, working from home is something people appreciate and IT can be proud of how it helped make it possible. But we shouldn’t forget that IT’s ability to make good things possible at a distance makes it easier for bad things to happen too. You just have to hope that’s not why so many employers told the Compliance Institute they were happy to continue with online meetings in the future.