Why some bosses hate remote work and what can be done about common gripes

It’s been more than three years since COVID-19 forced waves of employees out of their offices to work from home, and while some businesses are still trying to lure them back, it appears the pandemic-era trend is not going away.

A study released this month by Stanford’s Institute for Economic Policy Research found 40% of U.S. employees now work from home at least one day a week – a five-fold increase from 2019 to 2023. 

The popularity of remote work has caused companies to cut back on office space leases to the point that it is posing a significant threat to commercial real estate.

So, the workers have spoken. Remote work is now a significant factor in attracting top talent for positions that can be carried out from home, and in a tight labor market, many companies have been forced to embrace it to remain competitive – but that doesn’t mean they like it.


Remote workers on a zoom call

The ability to work remotely is not going away, but many traditional managers wish it would, according to executive adviser Jay McDonald. (iStock / iStock)

Executive adviser Jay McDonald, MBA, author of “Strategic Jaywalking: The Secret Sauce to Life and & Leadership Excellence,” has identified five major reasons why bosses hate remote work, and how those challenges can be addressed.

1. Inadequate communication and collaboration

Fully remote work means the traditional water-cooler discussions and impromptu desk huddles are gone, so leaders must find ways to replace those interactions.

“Finding ways to engage people and make them feel like humans, not like numbers, is so important in leadership, and it is more difficult in a remote situation,” McDonald told FOX Business. “It takes more effort, it takes more creativity.”

He said managers have to reach out to their remote workers and stay connected with them in other ways, like through phone or video calls, and those touchpoints have to be meaningful.

“Not just the brief, what I call ‘the Brady Bunch screen’ where you’ve got a dozen people on the screen, but one-on-one,” McDonald advises. “Get to know them as people, get to know about their families and their values and what’s important to them.”


2. Task allocation and clarity

Unclear roles, responsibilities and task allocation can cause confusion, duplication of efforts, and a lack of accountability.

McDonald says it is even more critical in a remote-work environment for employers to set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals, and ensure everyone understands their tasks and how they contribute to the overall team objectives.

3. Time management

Some workers can become distracted with outside responsibilities while working from home, while others become workaholics who put in more hours than they would if they were still commuting to an office.

McDonald suggests providing workers with training on time management techniques and encouraging prioritization and delegation.

Technology can assist in this area, too.

He notes companies can utilize tools such as task management software or project management systems to track progress and deadlines.

man sleeping with hand on laptop keyboard at home

Some remote workers have difficulty stepping away from work while at home, and put in longer hours than they would otherwise. (iStock / iStock)

4. Workload and resource allocation

Imbalanced workloads and inadequate resource allocation can result in burnout, low morale and diminished productivity, McDonald says.

He recommends managers regularly assess workloads, redistribute tasks as needed and ensure individuals have access to the necessary tools, training and support to accomplish their work effectively.

5. Recognition and reward

Working from home can be isolating, and lack of recognition and reward for individual and team achievements can demotivate employees and hinder productivity.

McDonald told the story of one of his clients that has never had a corporate office job and operated a fully-remote team – even prior to the pandemic – with fantastic success.


He said their team of 30, which is spread worldwide, doesn’t necessarily have more Zoom calls than other companies, but the ones they do have are meaningful. 

The company celebrates a lot in those meetings – birthdays, holidays, sometimes dressing up in fun ways or having gift exchanges – and has built elements of fun into meetings where the primary objective is for each person to outline what they are doing for the week related to various projects the team is working on.

“Their turnover has been quite low, and they’re attracting people from a lot larger firms who are working people much longer hours, often in person and so forth,” McDonald explained, adding, “These people that they’re hiring are top-notch professionals making six figure incomes.”

Executive adviser Jay McDonald headshot

Executive adviser Jay McDonald is a nationally recognized trainer for commercial lenders and credit administrators, as well as a keynote speaker and workshop leader. (Jay McDonald / Fox News)

McDonald, who has built and sold five businesses of his own and served on the boards of more than 20 privately-held companies, said some traditional CEOs are resisting remote work because collaborating in person is what they’re accustomed to and comfortable with. 

“But I implore them to think differently, to think creatively, and innovatively,” he said, “because work from home is here to stay.”


He added, “If these leaders don’t adapt and proactively keep tweaking and reshaping their organizations in a positive way for the environment they’re competing in, they’ll go by the wayside and they won’t have to worry about where people work or don’t work. They won’t be working for them.”

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