Working remotely means having to be online constantly
The feeling of needing to be ‘on’ constantly has nothing to do with remote work, but everything to do with organisational culture. Empirical and anecdotal evidence suggests that it really depends on the work context, and a lack of trust is the underlying issue in organisations where employees feel the need to be online constantly. But, in organisations with high trust and psychological safety, employees don’t need to be constantly online because their managers know that they will complete the work in their own time.
The nature of remote work means that employees use technology to communicate, which could make it feel like they have to be online all the time. This problem is exacerbated by an “always on culture”, whereby employees who are constantly online put pressure on their colleagues to be online also5. Furthermore, practices such as monitoring could exacerbate the situation by making employees feel that they have to be online constantly1. Furthermore, because of a lack of face-to-face connections, managers might start to micromanage employees to ensure that they are working, which could again increase the feeling among employees that they have to be constantly online8.
While not much empirical research has been conducted on this point (to the best of our knowledge), companies that are considered to be remote work experts have argued that feeling like you have to be online constantly may be a result of micromanagement or monitoring, which could in turn result from a of lack of trust and communication between employees and their managers9. New empirical research conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic did find that in teams with high trust and psychological safety, managers allow their employees more job autonomy1. Remote work experts argue that job autonomy allows employees to complete work when it suits them best, as long as deadlines are met9, and consequently reduces the need to be constantly online - although there is no empirical evidence to back up these claims just yet. Again, best practices from remote work experts9, 10, as well as our own experience, indicate that the solution is to focus on deliverables rather than inputs such as time spent working, as a measure of productivity.