Remote Workers Are Feeling ‘Virtual Fatigue’

A woman sits at her computer while on a video call with multiple coworkers.

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The solitude of remote work may be taking a toll, according to a new study of more than 3,300 office workers around the globe conducted by the commercial real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle. The survey shows that the loss of face-to-face interaction among office workers has led to dips in emotional engagement. What’s more, that loss of interpersonal interaction may be a strong driver for many to return to the office, says Dan Adamski, senior managing director at JLL.

Sixty-one percent of respondents ranked human interactions as the most missed element of the office routine, followed by collective face-to-face work (46%) and clear personal and professional boundaries (46%), according to the JLL survey.

“Our ongoing research shows that office employees are consistently experiencing feelings of disengagement and virtual fatigue,” says Adamski. “Long-term remote work leads to disconnection from colleagues, and employees lacking a sense of purpose in their organization, all of which contribute to higher turnover.”

Only 36% of survey respondents say they feel they have maintained strong working and personal relationships with their colleagues while working remotely. JLL researchers note this could lead to high turnover and burnout and may negatively effect productivity.

Further, the number of respondents who feel more productive working at home instead of their company’s office is dropping. Only 37% of respondents say they feel more productive at home than in the office, which is down from 48% in an April 2020 survey, JLL finds.

JLL believes that the office will remain an important hub for workplaces. However, employers will likely need to focus on health, well-being, and flexible work arrangements to reengage employees who may be feeling disconnected after working for so long away from the office.