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Flexible, supportive company culture makes remote work more successful

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Remote work arrangements appear to be most successful at companies that create flexible and supportive environments, according to new research released by the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Based on data from Glassdoor, the strongest remote workplaces were at companies that catered to employees’ interests, gave employees independence, fostered collaboration and had flexible policies.

“One of the biggest changes during the pandemic for all of us, for better or worse, was remote work,” Munmun De Choudhury, the senior researcher and an associate professor in the School of Interactive Computing, said in a statement.

“The motivation for us in this research was to understand what makes some organizations more suitable for remote work and others not,” she said. “We found that cultural aspects matter the most.”

Overall, they collected and analyzed more than 140,000 reviews from current employees at 52 Fortune 500 companies that allowed remote work between 2019-2021. Their textual analysis mostly focused on the pros and cons section of Glassdoor reviews.

Companies with a positive culture for remote work were more likely to empower employees to pursue their own goals and interests, give their employees freedom to make their own decisions, work in a collaborative environment, and have flexible remote work and hours. Keywords such as “work-life balance” or “flexible work” occurred more often in the pros section.

On the other hand, companies that didn’t have a supportive culture for remote work were more likely to act unethically, make workers feel disrespected and fail to promote diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

In general, the results seemed to reflect generational differences in employee values, the researchers concluded.

“There are a lot of reports of quiet quitting and the Great Resignation because Millennials or Gen Z value culture a lot, in contrast to previous generations like Baby Boomers, for whom job satisfaction was largely about compensation,” De Choudhury said. “Younger generations might say they’re OK with an average salary if they can have that flexibility in work hours, and that’s what makes these companies more favorable to remote work.”

Other factors may play a role in successful remote work arrangements as well. Firms at the larger end of the middle market ($50 million to $1 billion in annual revenue) have been better able to handle the transition than smaller firms ($10 million to $50 million), according to a recent survey.

Although remote work offers flexibility, the survey found, employees may struggle with mental health concerns, such as isolation, anxiety and depression. This can lead to presenteeism, sickness absences and disability, according to another report, which leaders can help address through targeted programs and benefits that address mental health.

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