Passive face time for remote and virtual employees

Employees who work remotely may end up getting lower performance evaluations, smaller raises and fewer promotions than their colleagues in the office — even if they work just as hard and just as long.

The difference is what we call passive face time. By that we are not referring to active interactions with coworkers or clients, but merely to being seen in the workplace. To be credited with passive face time you need only be observed at work; no information is required about what you are doing or how well you are doing it.

As you may know, I’m not entirely convinced by the techno-centric concept of the digital workplace. In this post by academic researchers, Kimberly Elsbach and Daniel Cable, they highlight the importance of “Passive face time” and the negative impact this has on remote and virtual employees. The comments on this article are well worth reading too.

This isn’t news to me. Over the years I’ve come to realise from looking at both the theory and reflecting on my own experience that the critical factor for remote working isn’t technology, but the attitude of both the remote worker AND the people they work with. Sure, you need some level of remote access to enterprise systems but it doesn’t need to be particularly sophisticated and the tools have been available for more than a decade.

In terms of technology, social media tools do provide a way to replace or at least augment the need for passive face time. Unless your business already works without the need for passive face time, all the transactional technology in the world won’t work unless you address this issue.

A digital workplace is a social workplace. Remove the ‘social’ and you place remote workers at a huge disadvantage and guess what, they know it!

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