The Dark Side of Remote Work: Impersonal Layoffs
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Imagine you wake up in the morning, roll over in bed, and grab your smartphone. You’re checking your texts and email like you do every morning before starting your workday at your home office. Suddenly, you see an email in your personal email inbox with the subject title “Important Announcement.” It appears to come from an official email of the company where you work - info@[companywhereyouwork].com - and informs you that you were laid off and need to set up an account for laid off employees.
What would you think? Surely, the company where you work is not callous enough to fire you by email, especially when their motto is “don’t be evil.” Maybe it’s a spammer or something.
But no, it’s the reality for many employees at Google. The “don’t be evil” company fired 12,000 employees by email. It joined the ranks of other large tech companies like Twitter, Amazon, and Meta, which all recently laid off their employees by email.
ouAs a highly experienced expert in workforce management in hybrid and remote work, I have consulted for numerous companies on the challenges posed by remote work for workforce strategy. One area that has become increasingly complicated in recent months is the process of layoffs. With the bulk of layoffs happening over email, remote work has made this already fraught tactic even more impersonal.
Lack of Personal Connection
For companies, the convenience of email layoffs is undeniable. It saves time, eliminates the need for difficult in-person conversations, and can be done quickly and efficiently. It’s a simple solution for a complex problem, but it comes at a cost.
For employees, the impact of receiving a layoff notice via email can be devastating. The lack of personal connection and in-person interaction can make it difficult for employees to understand the reasons for their layoff, and they may not have the opportunity to ask questions or seek clarification. This can leave employees feeling confused, frustrated, and isolated.
The impersonal nature of email layoffs can also have a negative impact on company culture. When employees feel that they are not valued or respected, it can lead to decreased morale, decreased motivation, and a general sense of disenchantment with the company. This can have a long-term impact on the company's ability to attract and retain top talent.
While email layoffs may be convenient for companies, they come at a high cost. The lack of personal connection and in-person interaction can be difficult for employees to deal with, and it can have a negative impact on company culture. Companies need to be mindful of the impact that layoffs will have on their employees and find ways to handle layoffs in a responsible and compassionate manner. This can include offering support, providing resources, and having a face-to-face conversation, even if it is over video conference.
Isolation and Loneliness
The lack of personal connection and in-person interaction during a layoff can be especially damaging for remote workers. When a layoff happens over email, it can feel even more isolating and devastating for the employee. The sudden loss of a job and the lack of support from colleagues and superiors can take a heavy toll on an employee's mental health, leading to feelings of sadness, anxiety, and depression.
Companies need to be mindful of the impact that layoffs will have on their employees' mental health and well-being, especially for remote workers. This could include offering access to counseling services, online support groups, or even simply encouraging employees to reach out to one another for support. Additionally, companies can reach out to employees who have been laid off to offer support and check in on their well-being.
When a layoff happens, employees often face financial difficulties. They may need help paying bills, finding new employment, or even just getting by day-to-day. This is particularly true for remote workers, who may not have access to the same resources as on-site employees. For example, they may have limited access to networks for job search.
Companies need to be proactive in addressing this issue, providing remote workers with access to job search resources, online networking events, and other tools that can help them connect with new job opportunities. Moreover, they need to provide financial support and resources to help employees transition to a new job. This could include offering severance packages, job placement services, or even financial counseling.
While remote work has made layoffs through email more convenient for companies, it has also complicated the process and made it more impersonal and difficult for employees. Leaders of companies need to consider the impact that remote work will have on their operations, including the process of layoffs, and find ways to handle these challenges in a responsible and compassionate manner. By doing so, they can protect their reputation, maintain employee morale, and ensure the long-term success of their business.
Email layoffs are convenient but impersonal, damaging morale and mental health of remote workers. Companies need to offer support and resources...>Click to tweet
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Bio: Dr. Gleb Tsipursky helps leaders use hybrid work to improve retention and productivity while cutting costs. He serves as the CEO of the boutique future-of-work consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts. He is the best-selling author of 7 books, including the global best-sellers Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters and The Blindspots Between Us: How to Overcome Unconscious Cognitive Bias and Build Better Relationships. His newest book is Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams: A Manual on Benchmarking to Best Practices for Competitive Advantage. His cutting-edge thought leadership was featured in over 650 articles and 550 interviews in Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, USA Today, CBS News, Fox News, Time, Business Insider, Fortune, and elsewhere. His writing was translated into Chinese, Korean, German, Russian, Polish, Spanish, French, and other languages. His expertise comes from over 20 years of consulting, coaching, and speaking and training for Fortune 500 companies from Aflac to Xerox, and over 15 years in academia as a behavioral scientist at UNC-Chapel Hill and Ohio State. A proud Ukrainian American, Dr. Gleb lives in Columbus, Ohio.
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