are remote workers more likely to be laid off?

A reader writes:

Several full-time, long-term employees (with 20+ years of service) are getting laid off at the end of the year and a few others are retiring. This came as a terrible shock to my team but to me the writing has been on the wall for a while now. (I’ve been job hunting for several months.) Our company is going through a major organizational shift and jobs are being outsourced (and were cut a couple years ago too).

Management is clear that the job cuts are due to business shifts and not personal or performance-related (other teams and locations are also experiencing job cuts).

I am definitely shocked that even a supervisor is being laid off (my guess is she’s too expensive after her 25 years). The rest are remote workers, some have been at the company for several years and others have worked for decades. I’m wondering what the possibility is that remote working played a factor in these people being cut.

Are remote workers more vulnerable to being cut as they’re “out of sight, out of mind” or seen as less dedicated for not making the commute to be physically present and collaborate with people when they live in the same city? 

Yes, I do think that in many cases remote workers are more likely to be cut. Not in a company where nearly everyone is remote, of course — but in companies where a large portion of the workforce is on-site, remote workers do tend to be seen as easier to cut. Some of that is that their work can be (but isn’t always) less visible. A lot of it is about relationships — bonds tend to be stronger when you get a lot of face time (although again, not always) and there can be a human bias factor in who’s being cut (although less so if those decisions are made many levels above you). And sometimes, even if only unconsciously, the person who comes into the office every day can seem more invested than the person who doesn’t. (None of this is necessarily reasonable, by the way, and I’m not defending it. It’s just sometimes the reality of it.)

It can also be an indirect effect that builds up over time: because you’re remote, you’re not at the top of people’s minds when they’re thinking about who should take on a high-profile project, and you’re not in ad hoc conversations that spring up spontaneously and turn into decision-making and substantive work. You’re not developing relationships as easily or expanding your network as broadly because you’re not on-site, and so you’re not the first person a higher-up thinks of for a new initiative, and you’re not getting mentored as naturally. All of those things can create a situation where you’re not cut because you’re remote, but because being remote has made subtle (or not so subtle) shifts in the role you’re playing on your team.

That’s not always the case, of course. There are many remote workers who are great at building relationships and ensuring their work is visible. And there are companies that are really good at looking at actual work contributions rather than the factors above, even when a person is less visible.

But can it be a thing that remote workers are more at risk of being cut when cuts are happening? Definitely, and it’s something you should be thoughtful about if you’re working remotely at a company where a lot of your colleagues are on-site.

{ 104 comments… read them below }

  1. Rolly*

    “I am definitely shocked that even a supervisor is being laid off ”

    In the two rounds of layoffs my organization had, in both cases it include people at all levels. Actually in the first one, one of the key decisionmakers for the layoffs was laid off – she actually participated in the decision to end her job (which made sense from an organizational point-of-view and got her some props all around).

    1. Mannheim Steamroller*

      Traditionally, members of the “office death panel” are exempt from layoffs.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      This happened where I am, too–one of the people on the panel was nearing retirement but also knew that her position wasn’t really necessary any more, so she made sure it was eliminated.

      The rest of them were people at varying levels whom everyone knew had been sort of coasting for awhile.

    3. DEJ*

      The majority of people in my last layoff had some sort of tenure – several positions ended up being hired back with cheaper labor.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        The company that bought OldExjob hired a VP to restructure it and its sister company. He laid off several managers, one of whom was the best person they had, in order to bring in his own hand-picked people.

        I guess that wasn’t a great idea because he ended up leaving, the company was bought by another conglomerate, and now it’s closed. :\

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yes, we had a huge organizational overhaul of the finance department at my company many years ago, spearheaded by the Controller–and the Controller ended up deciding his own position was unnecessary.

      But also if you have significant layoffs of lower-level employees, depending on the type of work it might make sense that now you don’t need as many supervisors since, well, there are fewer employees to supervise.

    5. ThatGirl*

      I’ve seen middle management get laid off just as often as higher or lower level people – in some cases they realize there are too many managers and things can be consolidated.

  2. Wisteria*

    “I am definitely shocked that even a supervisor is being laid off ”

    Don’t be shocked at anybody who is laid off. Supervisors are not immune, nor are senior people. If a layoff is truly due to cost-cutting measures or re-organization, then anyone associated with the structure being cut could potentially be laid off.

    That said, all layoffs are personal, in that if there is need and funding to reassign some of the personnel, the ones who have built strong relationships are the ones who will be kept.

    1. Fran Fine*

      That said, all layoffs are personal, in that if there is need and funding to reassign some of the personnel, the ones who have built strong relationships are the ones who will be kept.

      This is what I’ve seen.

    2. Rolly*

      “the ones who have built strong relationships are the ones who will be kept.”

      That was definitely not at all the case in one of the two big layoffs my organization had. I’m not saying it’s not a consideration, but sometimes who is laid off is just business (or in the case of my nonprofit, just nonprofit business). We had to cut expenses, and the decisions seems pretty rational on those lines.

      But for sure, for all of us, the takeway can be to build relationships at work as insurance.

    3. Skippy*

      “That said, all layoffs are personal, in that if there is need and funding to reassign some of the personnel, the ones who have built strong relationships are the ones who will be kept.”

      Not necessarily: as Alison once pointed out, if a company decides to cut its llama grooming division, even the best llama groomers are going to lose their jobs, no matter what their relationships are with the rest of the company.

      The problem with framing layoffs as always being personal is that it creates an unnecessary stigma against people who lose their jobs, when the truth is that good workers get laid off all the time.

      1. AlpacaGroomer*

        Having good relationships outside of your department does increase the chance that they would be willing to absorb you into a different part of the company.

        1. Wisteria*

          Exactly. Here is what I actually said:

          if there is need and funding to reassign some of the personnel, the ones who have built strong relationships are the ones who will be kept.

          Say the company is getting out of the llama grooming business but still has a teapot painting business. The best llama groomers will lose their jobs, but the llama groomers who have built strong relationships are the ones who will be able to make the move into the program management office.

        2. Cera*

          It also depends on the company’s structure. My company has found that they create “hardships” and inequality when they auto assign people to new positions during layoffs. Therefore, there is no longer reassigning. You are welcome to reapply for any jobs that you interested in.

          Though, strong contributors and people with strong relationships usually find an internal position before their severance runs out.

    4. Nikki*

      Two companies ago, I was part of a round of layoffs that also included a Vice President. It can happen at all levels and sometimes it’s better for the company to get rid of senior level people since they’re higher earners.

    5. Medusa*

      One place I worked that had a few rounds of layoffs due to diminishing donations. The first round was exclusively supervisors, partly because our CEO knew that the higher-level people had a much better chance of getting into new positions — which he was willing to pull strings to help them get — than the junior staff (who also were much cheaper than supervisors).

  3. Ghostwriting is Real Writing*

    I agree with everything Alison says. In addition to all the ways people can be out of sight, out of mind – they can also sometimes be too much in mind. A manager wants to have a quick problem solving meeting and normally would just grab the people needed and meet in an empty office – but since one of the team is remote they need to wait for the conference room to be available so they can use the video equipment. Or the manager notices that the remote employee isn’t able to get a word in edgewise during a back-and-forth meeting and so steps in to stop the free flow of ideas so Remote Worker can participate. Good managers do what they can to make sure remote workers are part of the team. But it’s more work than managing when everyone is inhouse because they always need to be thinking about how to make sure Remote Worker is involved. And while the manager tries to avoid bias, when told they need to lay off 5% of their team, the remote worker is very likely to be top of mind because not having to manage them would make life easier. Not necessarily fair, but it’s what often happens.

    1. Incoming Principal*

      Sadly, yes. I once explained something similar to my mentee as follows: I allocate 1 unit of energy to spend on each mentee. For some people, this one unit goes a long way, for others I have to do so much correction or adjusting that 1 unit barely makes a dent. And that is where I fall into the risk of mentoring more of the people whom I have less friction with because I am not drained at the end of the conversation.
      Sadly, this bias isn’t just for elective mentoring, but will rear its head in the actual work.
      If given the option to choose who to cut-off, for relatively similar performance, many people would cut-off the team members who require more managerial effort because they are seen as having less return on investment. This is scary and sad on so many fronts for anyone needing some sort of accommodation

    2. Hey Pal*

      Yep, I’ve experienced this as a remote person in a hybrid company. It was somewhat annoying and burdensome for the in-person workers to have to accommodate the remote workers, so things got easier for all of us when the entire company transitioned to remote.

      1. Hey Pal*

        Meant to add — based on my past experience, I wouldn’t even apply for a remote position where many/most of my coworkers would be in person. It’s not worth the stress and extra work for me.

  4. Scott D*

    While I agree that this is definitely the case in some companies, the opposite can be true, also. I’ve been fully remote for five years and have gotten both bonuses and two promotions.

    I attribute it to:
    1. Making the extra effort to forge relationships
    2. Much less involvement in office politics and gossip
    3. Better concentration (in my case, I flat out CAN’T sit in one place for 8 or 9 hours working so I work 7-10, 11-1, and 3-6 or 7 and I think this comes across to my manager’s as me being available 12 hours when I’m really not)

    1. Rolly*

      “I work 7-10, 11-1, and 3-6 or 7 and I think this comes across to my manager’s as me being available 12 hours when I’m really not)”

      This is interesting. People think I’m working a ton, but it’s that when I was working from home I really spread it out. So I had touchpoints with teams alll around the world. Something someone doing 9-5 might not.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I think #2 can be either a positive or a negative, depending on the company/situation. Not getting caught up in drama is great, but not being tuned into politics can be damaging.

      1. Fran Fine*

        Yup. Office politics is pretty much how I received my last promotion at my current company (I too am fully remote and have been for three years), lol. Knowing how to play the game, and knowing who all the major players are I need to align with, is absolutely crucial for me to get shit done here.

        1. Wisteria*

          To a certain extent, building relationships *is* playing politics. I guess do your best to play politics for good, not evil.

      2. AcademiaNut*

        I do wonder how the informal information network and labour organization works in a remote setup where your primary means of communication with coworkers is in company controlled, recorded environments. An off topic Slack channel is fine for discussing Game of Thrones, not so much for finding out that layoffs or coming, organizing a union, or learning which bosses are toxic and how to handle them.

        1. Cera*

          Text messages or phone calls. We chat about a lot of things we don’t want recorded that way. Also, you would be surprised what people are willing to write in a dm even though it’s “monitored”.

    3. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      Your point #3 brings up an interesting point. It’s the inverse of the double-edged sword of being an internal candidate (where the hiring manager knows your faults, not just the highlights on your resume), being remote can allow someone to be known as “Scott, who’s always available when we need them” and not “Scott, who talks way too much about fantasy football and microwaved fish that one time”

  5. Dust Bunny*

    Most of the things that can be done remotely at my organization, can be done remotely because they’re not that specialized (think data-entry-ish) so, yes, those would be vulnerable because they’re easily filled in by other employees if there isn’t enough work to justify a whole position.

    1. Fran Fine*

      And see, it’s the exact opposite at my company. In fact, the more specialized you are, the more likely you are to be fully remote because my company is global and our leaders want to get the best talent they can find anywhere it exists in the world.

  6. MK*

    I would assume that remote work is perceived as easier to be outsourced too. The downgrade from having an employee doing the work on site and hiring a contractor is seen as obvious and immediate. But if it’s someone doing the work two counties away, it can seem like much the same thing to hire an outside person.

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I wonder if that’s also one of the possible knock-on effects of going remote at a company that’s mostly in-person.

      I remember we had a staff member move and go remote at an old position. When she first left she was working on a high-collaboration project. After that wrapped, she got put on another project that involved less collaboration. I don’t recall that as a punishment or even a strategic decision, but there was a time difference and she wasn’t in the office for impromptu meetings and so I think there was a gradual shift towards her working on pieces that would naturally be easier to outsource.

    2. anon e mouse*

      Years ago, definitely. I think a lot of companies have come to the conclusion that outsourcing is more trouble than it’s worth except for very specialized one-offs (and then “good enough” work is still often only cheaper because the relationship ends with the contract instead of being indefinite).

      1. AlpacaGroomer*

        Outsourcing can be really handy for extremely repetitive tasks, but most companies that are going mostly remote aren’t usually in the business of having employees that do a lot of extremely repetitive tasks

    3. Adam S*

      This. It’s not just a perception – for every in-person position I tried to fill, I had 3 applicants offering to do it remotely. We live in a high-cost-of-living area and getting people to relocate is extremely expensive, so the ones already here are very valuable.
      And there are definitely many advantages in having most of the team onsite – I really appreciate this, now that we are in a hybrid work environment. It’s much easier to have in-depth discussions with people in-person. So yes, given a choice, I would likely choose to layoff the remote staff first unless they are really a rock-star.

    4. Sure I guess*

      This was exactly my thought: good ol’ “correlation is not causation”.

      The cause could be that it’s really any job that can be done remotely is outsourced, or handled by temporary contractors, and so all the people who have been able to work remotely feel targeted. In turn, the people who are required to be in person and excel with “face time” are protected because their jobs must be handled in-house. (Though this is not to deny Allison’s points! Just that it can be a combination of things)

  7. ThursdaysGeek*

    My first thought was not just remote, but older, and thus more expensive. But laying off workers just because they are older is illegal. So they can use remote as an excuse.

    1. MaryLoo*

      In several companies I’ve worked at, older workers tended to be let go first, with just enough younger workers included to avoid having it look like age discrimination. Almost all of them were good at their jobs.
      All of these companies were self-insured, and in each layoff (using the obnoxious term “right-sizing”) several of the people let go had expensive medical conditions, or spouses/family members with expensive medical conditions.

      This is one reason why it’s so hard to prove age discrimination. Just make sure you include enough younger workers in the layoff.

      1. How About That*

        Nope, the actual EEOC term is “disparate impact”, which can happen even f a few strategic younger folks are thrown into the mix.

        1. someone*

          Knowing what the formula for what “disparate impact” is, the company can run numbers and know exactly how many younger workers they need to lay off to not have disparate impact, at least on paper.

          1. Midwestern Scientist*

            This x100
            It’s not hard to work out the numbers. And even if the employee does have a pretty good case, it’s usually better for them and the company to come to a severance agreement. Example: family friend was laid off and had the receipts for it being age-related. Contacted several attorneys who specialize in employment and all told her the same thing – she would be better off to settle with the company for a better severance package than try to fight it out in court

            1. The Starsong Princess*

              Never take the first offer and having a lawyer negotiate on your behalf can be worth every penny. It makes them think they will end up paying more in legal fees than it would take to get rid of you.

      2. Loredena*

        I’ve always suspected that when my area had to add someone to the layoff list I was picked due to a combo of age and spouse with expensive medical condition. But impossible to prove

    2. Skippy*

      When I saw that the supervisor had 25 years of experience I thought the exact same thing.

    3. Rocket*

      In my office, the older, more expensive employees do not at all correspond with the workers who are fully remote or want to be fully remote.

    4. Haven’t picked a user name yet*

      US companies over a certain size must put together a disclosure for anyone over 45 I think. It has been a long time since I have seen it. So you have to prove that the layoff isn’t disproportionately effecting a protected age group, or other protected classes. I am not saying that it isn’t a consideration in many layoffs but the company has to be able to show that a protected group was not targeted.

  8. Divergent*

    I’d think that if folks are being cut in order to outsource the jobs, it’s the remote jobs that are easiest to cut and then outsource, since they are already out-of-office and can therefore more easily go overseas.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Yes, I think the answer (and the question, come to think of it) gets cause and effect the wrong way round. The situation isn’t “given that we need to outsource work, who should we lay off?” but rather “given that this work is already demonstrably doable remotely, does it make sense to outsource it?”

  9. generic_username*

    But can it be a thing that remote workers are more at risk of being cut when cuts are happening? Definitely, and it’s something you should be thoughtful about if you’re working remotely at a company where a lot of your colleagues are on-site.

    Something I’ve come to realize is that if you’re remote, you have to be A LOT more proactive about building bonds than you do if you work in the office. Sign on a little early to all virtual meetings so that you can make small talk with people as they sign in (obviously for smaller internal meeting, not large and/or client-facing ones), have the meetings that could have been an email (not like a waste of time sort of thing, but just talk with a coworker about something instead of having an email or chat back-and-forth about it, use your camera for virtual meetings so people can see your face… that sort of thing. Obviously YMMV and some people don’t want to build those bonds, but it can be really important for career growth and visibility to put yourself out there

    1. A Beth*

      Hey, this is really good advice that I hadn’t thought of in regards to working remotely. I have been a camera-off person in larger meetings due to zoom fatigue/admiring my own face syndrome but I hadn’t thought about the perception of that, even when I make sure to chime in via chat or whatever when necessary.

      1. Fran Fine*

        I think you’re fine as long as you at least turn it on during 1:1s or smaller team meetings like generic_username said. I know plenty of people at my company who never seem to turn their cameras on, and they have no problem moving up the ladder.

        1. A Beth*

          Yeah, that makes sense. My immediate team probably needs to see me. Sitting in on meetings where I’m only listening anyway, just being looped in instead of getting action items, maybe not so much.

    2. Edith Cranwinkle*

      I’ve found that going into the office every couple of months for a week in-house makes a HUGE difference in me being able to keep up with who’s who in the office. It’s kind of a pain to do it, but it’s worth the hassle. Anyone who can do that, should, IMO.

  10. Bend & Snap*

    So as a remote worker who got laid off *this morning* and also at my last job where I was a remote worker…yes. :(

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      Oof. I’m so sorry to hear that! I hope you can find a great job next that breaks that cycle.

  11. Doctors Whom*

    So the LW says that these layoffs are coming at the end of the year, but the writing has been on the wall for awhile. The LW also says that they have been told that the layoffs are due to business shifts that are readily apparent due to a “major organizational shift”. This staff being remote is clearly not the only thing in the pattern.

    If the nature of the business is shifting (markets, technology, etc), then a part of the business decision needs to be about the skills and capabilities of teams and people to fit with those changes. If you’re a supervisor of a team/capability that is not necessary under a new strategy, yes, it’s not surprising to see a supervisor laid off. If you’ve been at a company for a very long time and have a core skill set or drive a function that is not needed under the new business strategy, then yes, it’s not surprising. So while the LW is surprised to see a collection of long term employees included in a layoff – are they long term employees in a business area in which the company no longer needs to maintain that level of staff & expertise?

    I admit to being especially sensitive to this because I had an employee once reach out to me raging that we were “clearly trying to drive out the remote people.” He discerned a “pattern” from 3 unrelated departures that took place over about 6 months under different managers -there was absolutely no pattern and one of the departures had been a long-planned and discussed retirement. But because he was not privy to the HR info (rightly), he noticed that 3 remote people left and presumed that remoteness had put them under the gun. In reality no such thing was true (though in one case an employee was using remoteness to try to mask problem behaviors).

    Getting laid off sucks for the people it happens to. Absolutely. It’s happened to me. But the LW also said that there is plenty of notice and the organizational changes are known. That means that the people involved have a lot of time to seek out new options, which is good. And without more to go on, there isn’t really a reason to conclude that the remote employees are more likely to get the brunt just because they are remote employees. Or it could mean that the company is trying to be more deliberate about where its workforce is located – in which case any individual happening to “be remote” is part of the business decision, but not for the reasons the LW was questioning.

    Looking back on this: TL;DR it sounds like the business needs driving these changes are understood to a large degree already by this workforce. “Major organizational shift” accompanied by new outsourcing says to me that the organization has re-evaluated what it believes are its core capabilities/competencies/expertise and these layoffs are part of a larger strategy to re-orient the workforce toward the new strategy. I just don’t see enough here that the remote status is really the thing that would jump out at me.

  12. SnappinTerrapin*

    If it has already been demonstrated that the job can be done off-site, there is a cost incentive for the company to move the job even further off site to a more competitive labor market. That might mean a different region of the same country with lower wages and cost of living, or it might mean a transnational move with similar dynamics.

    And the off-site workers aren’t people that upper management sees in the hallway, so it’s easier to view them as economic units rather than people.

  13. Temp anon*

    I was one of those supervisors who was let go, several years ago. I went remote years before the pandemic; our company moved a call center to a smaller building deliberately to get people to volunteer to desk share and go remote. I already had a long commute, and it was going to increase by another hour or so each day, so I volunteered and WFH 3 days per week.

    I liked not commuting, and I was productive (everything in this job was very quantifiable, so it wasn’t just my feeling) but I missed the informal interaction of the office. More ominously, I was out of the loop on new initiatives and procedural changes–out of sight, out of mind really sums it up pretty well. It didn’t help that my own manager was burned out on his role and no longer putting in much effort.

    My industry (finance) was going through a lot of upheaval, I had survived many rounds of layoffs, reorganizations, etc and then I got laid off, as did my manager, despite having significantly higher productivity compared to my peers. The new upper management regime was very anti-WFH and did everything possible to eliminate it, despite a)the fact that the company initiated it due to wanting to cut real estate costs, and b)clear evidence that many people were more productive WFH.

    IMO someone considering WFH needs to weigh the benefits with the potential risks/tradeoffs. Nowadays it’s much more common, video conferencing is more prevalent, and many managers are more receptive to WFH, but there are still many that are hostile to it or simply lack the skills to manage/interact with remote employees. There are many companies showing this can be done successfully, unfortunately no everyone works for one of them.

    Ideally, layoffs should be about getting rid of the least productive employees, or those that don’t align with changing business objectives. Unfortunately, quite often those making cuts are either not aware of who those people really are, or don’t cut them for non-business reasons. Relationships can count for more than productivity when it comes to many layoffs.

  14. voyager1*

    If you are in the USA and are over 40, take a close look at the ages of the folks laid off. When I was laid off last year I saw the ages of everyone cut vs kept. Everyone let go but handful were over 40 and most in their 50s. They will say it is because we made more but it sure looks like age discrimination.

  15. Hiring Mgr*

    Not sure when this letter was written, but if it’s recent then it sounds like the laid off people have around nine months of lame duck status. Remote or not, that’s a pretty amazing runway to job hunt

    1. RVA Cat*

      Unless maybe it’s fiscal year and switches over in July? That’s still a whole month more than the WARN Act.

  16. Katie*

    In this case, I think working from home did cause it. They saw that people didn’t have to work in an office to be successful so therefore they could get labor anywhere. If they can get labor anywhere why not outsource it?

    1. Anonny NonErson*

      They saw that people didn’t have to work in an office to be successful so therefore they could get labor anywhere. If they can get labor anywhere why not outsource it?

      I don’t disagree that some short-sighted employers might absolutely think this way.

      But I can tell you my employer can’t get *my* labor just anywhere.

      Oh, I’m sure they could hire someone for my position, for less dollars, who would sit at a desk in a building for 8 hours doing the same thing I do….but they would be getting what they pay for.

      1. Colette*

        Yeah, in my experience with outsourcing, it takes a couple of years and a lot of effort to get a new team up to a similar level as the old team. It’s a savings only on paper.

      2. Katie*

        So my work was 95% outsourced many years ago. I 100% agree. More people have to do the work now and the quality just isn’t there. I oversee the work they do and ugh.

  17. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    It’s possible, but it’s not the explanation I buy most. It’s behind:
    1. Laying off the most costly employees (salary, infrastructure e.g. VPN, etc).
    2. Laying off the employees with the most negative RoI (same as #1 with revenue-generation taken into account).
    3. Laying off based on personal relationship (I guess this is where it can appear to target the remotes)
    4. LIFO (Last-In-First-Out)
    5. Acceleration of Involuntary Retirement (aka Age Discrimination)

    1. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

      I would add
      Expendable Crew Mate: It’s none of the above things precisely, but the person’s job is just not essential. They’re a “nice to have,” but not necessary to have to function.
      There are a lot of middle managers in this category who basically don’t DO anything but sit on meetings all day. Work would get done without them.

  18. Just Me*

    Not saying this is justifiable or true in all cases, but I think many of the jobs in a traditional organization that can be done remotely are also ones that can be outsourced or done on a part-time basis if the company is short on funds (accounting, HR, IT, etc.) The jobs that require employees to be physically present every day might be the most essential to the organization (meeting with clients/customers/partners face-to-face, fixing machines, teaching classes, or what have you).

  19. Can Can Cannot*

    Over time I expect to see more layoffs for people who live in expensive areas, and are paid more as a result, with replacements hired in areas where wages are lower. Maybe lay off the New York or California employee, and replace them with someone in a lower cost state. In the extreme this could lead to off-shore hiring, where the wages are even lower.

    The infrastructure that allows an employee to work from their nearby home is the same infrastructure that allows people to work hundreds or thousands of miles away from the office. Time zones are probably the biggest wrinkle, along with the necessary local paperwork.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Also just the logistics and expenses to be set up in multiple states. especially for smaller companies, could be its own savings if they let go of out-of-state remote workers. There are many new factors to consider.

  20. Letter Writer*

    LW here. Thank you, Alison, for responding to my letter.

    It’s been a while since I wrote in. I wrote in late last year. I’m now at a new job and very happy because the new company is collegial and growth-minded. The last place was a multinational corporation without opportunities for growth, hence the cuts and layoffs.

    Some more info about the layoffs: our work is indeed being outsourced to our offices in developing countries. A couple years ago there was a mass layoff where they got rid of the accounting, marketing, and other departments because those functions can be consolidated globally and done cheaply at the company’s other locations. Then they cut out middle management, or the people managers who got paid a lot but weren’t actually doing the operations. And this past year, the company laid off more of the operatives and asked some to retire.

    About the people who were laid off. They range in age, so while most are older who’ve been with the company for 20+ years, there are some who are young and have only been with the company for 5 years. Some are single older women, young moms, or the breadwinner with the steady paycheque in the family. The company could’ve chosen any one of us to cut because we all had the same roles, but it’s only the people who work from home that are cut. The rest of us who trudged into the office daily were safe (for now anyway).

    I’m fortunate that I managed to get a new job at a place where a lot of ex-employees of the corporation are at (it’s the same line of work but different atmosphere and prospects). My old colleagues aren’t so lucky and they have it harder than me (young family, single and almost retired, etc.).

    1. Mannequin*

      Ugh, this makes your ex employer sound even WORSE. Targeting some of the most vulnerable employees for layoffs, way to go!

  21. Alexis Rosay*

    I totally agree with what Allison said. I used to supervise a team that worked primarily off-site, while the core staff worked together out of the office. I witnessed other employees talking down about members of my team, insinuating they weren’t as committed or weren’t working as hard. Of course I fought back against these kinds of comments, but it was exhausting and demoralizing.

  22. moonstone*

    Based on my personal experience, part of what may affect it is how you interact with clients/customers in addition to leadership.

    I’ve only worked in industries where our client base is remote. In my last job pre-COVID, I worked in the office full time but still interacted with clients remotely. Half of my team was also full time remote, including a coworker whom I frequently collaborated with. It didn’t cause issues for me at all since the way we engaged with clients was virtual anyway, and we would be using the same tech and software even if we were both in office. Our company was focused on hyperproductivity and shortening project timelines wherever possible, and we were able to keep up with it as a hybrid remote team. There were a lot of issues with that job, but I don’t think remote work was one of them.

    Also, leadership. My managers in my last job were also pro remote work so didn’t judge other remote workers. But my current jobs leaderships is less so so it would be a disadvantage to be remote when everyone else is in office. You just have to gauge what your work culture is.

  23. Oakwood*

    Middle managers are always the first to get cut. They always think they can “flatten the management structure” and in a lot of cases they are right.

    Pre-pandemic, the remote workers I knew all had some highly specialized or in-demand skill, thus they were able to negotiate a remote work agreement.

    Post-pandemic, given the cost of office space, I think many companies are embracing the idea that remote workers can save them money. But, if you are a person that NEVER wants to come into the office, not even once a week, I think you may be looked at as a problem.

    Age discrimination? Yea, it’s a real thing, especially in layoffs. Older workers with seniority tend to have worked their way up the pay scale. They also, as a group, use more benefits (particularly medical benefits) than younger workers.

    They are also less likely to be the gung-ho, live at the office, eat and breath your job types. There’s a reason some companies have game rooms, beer in the refrigerator, and free snacks. They want you to be at the office all the time! I’ve even seen companies with hammocks where people could take a nap (instead of going home).

    This also applies to women with children. I’ve noticed they also get hit harder in layoffs, for many of the same reasons older employees do.

    1. moonstone*

      Oof- while I would never wish for anyone to lose their job, my last job had too many middle managers the company could have stood to lose. They actually caused more friction in projects getting completed than improved efficiency. Like that whole strata should have been eliminated. It had nothing to do with remote work though – just their job functions weren’t relevant.

  24. Anony*

    As the supply of workers who are willing to work onsite diminishes, it makes sense to keep on the in-person workers, since there are more people who could replace a remote worker’s functions but harder to find good people to do tasks that require office attendance.

    1. moonstone*

      I mean, it reeeeally depends on the industry. If anything, the pandemic accelerated automation in certain manufacturing sectors where onsite work – while not completely replaced – will be minimized as a lot of functions can be controlled remotely. A lot of maintenance functions can be done remotely as well – this has been a trend since before COVID. Full time onsite work has more impact in some jobs than others.

  25. Just saying*

    In my opinion it’s not remote workers are out of sight out of mind, there are little things that take place on site that help on site get noticed. It could be as simple as seeing a senior person at a jammed copy machine and helping them or holding door open for them. The list goes on. Sometimes it is seeing them on the elevator every morning and saying hello

    1. moonstone*

      In my personal experience, I’ve never seen this lead to a promotion for anyone, but it could be a very case by case basis thing.

      1. Allonge*

        Nobody is going to get promoted just based on one occasion, but it can help to be recognised.

  26. IT Manager*

    Remote work is also a default candidate for outsourcing/offshoring – after all, it’s proven to work without face time.

    That’s not always true of course due to time zones, culture, skill set etc, but it does make sense they’d be the first roles to consider. The processes already exist for that work to be done outside the office.

  27. SwissMrs*

    At my job people who asked to stay remote after Covid were fired and their jobs moved to India. Management said if you think the work can be done from home then it can be done from Mumbai.

  28. DJ*

    Alison perhaps you could do an article on how remote workers can market themselves to protect themselves against layoffs.

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