Remote work leads to poor communication between team members
While remote working can inhibit effective communication, experienced remote workers are able to understand these constraints and deal with them appropriately to ensure that the level of communication does not suffer. Furthermore, much of the empirical evidence presented here is relatively old, and therefore more research is required on how remote work technology developments are changing computer-mediated communication patterns in remote work settings.
Research generally points to the fact that remote work can result in poor communication between team members54, 55, caused by:
- Time delays in feedback;
- Lack of a common reference frame for team members;
- Differences in importance and how text is interpreted; and
- Employees interpreting virtual meetings as a license to multi-task56.
Also, computer-mediated communication that takes place between remote team members may lack the contextual cues that are present in F2F communication, making it difficult for team members to fully and correctly interpret the meaning of the conversation51, 57. This leads to restrictions in the information flow51, where computer-mediated conversations become long and confusing, hindering understanding58. This can, in turn, lead to lower trust, liking, and respect among remote team members51, as well as lower productivity1. It also leads to a lack of mutual knowledge, leading to ineffective communication8, 54, 59.
Research has also found that co-located team members despised communicating with remote team members52, leading to a breakdown in relationships between remote and office-based workers. Professional research suggests that this could be a result of irregular working hours of flexible employees, which may make them appear “irresponsible and uncommunicative to their co-workers on a standard clock”14. On the other hand, remote workers built stronger relationships with other employees working in a similar way53.
Academic research found that remote workers recognised that working remotely could lead to ineffective communication and consequently actively tried to be vigilant in making sure they continue to communicate well and extensively with their managers, but this was not found for maintaining communication with other team members51.
On the other hand, other research found that remote working does not necessarily have to lead to ineffective communication. In fact, successful remote workers recognise the constraints of computer-mediated communication and actively ensure that social cues and information exchange is made more explicit, that information is communicated to all parties, and that everyone understands the information as intended60. Also, they are able to choose the communication tool appropriately based on the level of nuance and clarity needed to communicate a certain piece of information to others60.