Whether remote employees are doing their work in a tiny closet at home or in a lounge chair by the pool, apparently they are getting the work done.

That’s according to a survey by SpiralMethod, which found that more than three-quarters (80 percent) of leaders and remote employees in the U.S. feel that productivity has remained the same or increased since the shift to telecommuting because of the pandemic.

At the same time, 77 percent of leaders reported that their level of contribution to their team and the organization as a whole had increased since working remotely.

Virtual onboarding during the pandemic also has been successful, respondents said. Forty-five percent of business leaders and 48 percent of employees agreed that their remote-onboarding experience was successful. They cited streamlined communication and a “clear understanding of roles as it pertains to the organization’s larger objective,” the study said.

Still, all hasn’t been peachy for remote staff forced to work from home because of the health crisis.

Despite being positive on remote productivity and the onboarding experience, employers and employees didn’t see eye-to-eye when it comes to communication, transparency and the future of in-office work.

Almost all (93 percent) of the leaders polled said they maintained a “transparent feedback loop” with their “direct reports,” whereas 44 percent of employees said their company didn’t have a “feedback loop” established, the study said. That disconnect also was apparent in the two groups’ visions for future work arrangements.

Remote connection

More than half (63 percent) of employees polled said they wanted to remain working remotely, while 56 percent said their organization planned for remote staff to return to the office, indicating a disconnect in expectations of future work, a gulf in communication and the absence of an established feedback loop.

Perhaps contradictorily, while most employers expected a return to in-office work, 67 percent of business leaders polled said they felt more connected with their employees in a remote environment over an office.

“While output hasn’t been negatively affected by remote work and in many cases has improved, the findings indicate that communication has been both negatively and positively impacted,” the report said.

The means to achieve transparency in communication from employees to employers are more complex than just simply requesting feedback.

“Setting up a structure for feedback doesn’t mean there is honest feedback,” said SpiralMethod founder Leslie Jones. “Leaders often know little about in-depth realities of their company’s culture. If a leader is not aware of their own blind spots, they can’t be effective in creating innovations, especially around psychological safety.”

Tracking results, not time

The survey results highlighted why it’s crucial that employers communicate effectively with their teams so employees understand that their work is valued and appreciated.

According to the survey, when leaders failed to do so, productivity dropped and had a negative impact on employees. Eighteen percent of workers said their employer’s response to the pandemic had a negative impact on their work contribution because they felt it was not being valued.

“The idea is to take the entrepreneurial mind-set and apply it to employees so you’re no longer tracking time, you’re tracking results. Employees tap into their own efficiency, production, innovation, and collaboration in new ways. They are no longer going through the motions, rather they have elevated engagement. Isn’t that what we want?” Jones said.

Transparency within the organization also is key to successful outcomes for a remote workforce, the survey found. Three-quarters of employees and 72 percent of leaders agreed that more transparency would boost overall morale and success for the company.

SpiralMethod’s research, conducted by SurveyMonkey in June 2021, polled 1,168 employees and 125 decision-makers (owners, executives) not specific to the company’s customers.

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