IT Infrastructure Insights

Why Remote Workers Will Be Laid Off First: The Facetime Paradox

Mar 28, 2024

Share this:

Posted in:

Career Advancement

For a while, remote workers seemed to have it all: no commute, no wardrobe rules, better focus, and the freedom to cook and work out in between calls.

However, recent evidence indicates that entirely remote workers are lagging behind.

For example, according to data collected from 2 million employees by employment-data provider Live Data Technologies over the past year, remote workers were promoted 31% less frequently than people who worked in an office either full-time or on a hybrid basis.


The Facetime Paradox Hurts Remote Workers

Ongoing research from authors Florida Internal University, San Jose State University, and the University of Delaware provides some explanation via a concept called the “facetime paradox.”  

Remote workers’ “facetime” refers to the time employees spend at a workplace that is observed by their managers and coworkers; it includes face-to-face interactions and working in the presence of these key stakeholders.

Facetime is especially relevant for distributed work arrangements such as hybrid work, remote work, and virtual teams – all of which are similar in that employees are spatially and/or temporally separated from their managers and workgroup members.

As a result, employees are often interacting with these key organizational constituencies using virtual communication technologies and losing out on physical “facetime.”

Proximity Bias Makes Facetime Important for Remote Workers

The significance of “facetime” is largely due to manager attribution biases. Whoever is in front of a manager on a daily basis is perceived as more hard-working and involved in their work.

Their research really drives home the significance of employees having face-to-face time with their managers. It’s not just about performance ratings and promotions; it also affects how hard-working and dedicated they seem, which is a bias managers might have about remote workers. 

Could this prevalent bias spell doom for those working remotely during the layoff season?

Of employees working full time in an office or on a hybrid basis, 5.6% received promotions at their organization in 2023, according to Live Data Technologies, versus 3.9% of those who worked remotely.

“There’s some proximity bias going on,” says Nick Bloom, an economist at Stanford University who studies remote work and management practices. One of the challenges facing remote workers is “discrimination.”

Remote Work Today

While many workplaces have adopted hybrid policies or reverted to a fully in-person approach, nearly 20% of all employees with college degrees or higher still work on a fully remote basis, according to December 2023 data from the Census Bureau.

In an online survey of 1,325 CEOs of large companies in 11 countries, conducted last year by professional services firm KPMG, almost two-thirds of respondents said they expect most employees will be working full-time in another three years.

Furthermore, nearly 90% of chief executives who were surveyed said that when it comes to favorable assignments, raises, or promotions, they are more likely to reward employees who make an effort to come to the office.
As the white-collar job market has tightened, more company leaders have been vocal about the need to show up in person, with high-profile employers such as Meta Platforms and Google calling workers back to the office several days a week.

More research needs to be conducted – especially whether even three days a week in the office is a reasonable middle ground. And, whether attributions are accurate and indicators of performance.  

Until then, remote workers might be the first to be laid off.   

Visual One Intelligence™ is a suite of software-as-a-service (SaaS) products and services tailored to help IT Infrastructure and FinOps professionals maintain and optimize cloud, compute, and storage environments. By consolidating independent data elements into unified metrics, they surface actionable insights through easy-to-interpret visual analysis – enabling better performance and lower costs for hybrid infrastructures.