November 5, 2020 | watsimp

Has remote working made the workplace worse?

I was in a roundtable discussion with some technology professionals recently. Weariness with the extended remote working was certainly taking a toll on everyone. But the biggest issue that everyone spoke about was team toxicity. Most people are dealing with some form of toxicity, that they had earlier not noticed or did not exist when they were working in co-located teams. Everyone agreed that they did not have to deal with verbal abuse or visible aggression from their peers or managers. But the everyday micro-aggressions were slowly eroding their mental health and quality of their work life.

We brainstormed the issues and possible solutions. Here’s what came up-


Micro-aggression has become widely prevalent. Antagonistic behavior from peers has risen, especially because people know that they can get away with it! Collaboration, information sharing and support which is driven largely through “team self regulation” when teams are co-located, has dropped dramatically.

What can leaders & teams to make this better:

  • Leaders need to actively discourage “side conversations” and gossip about other team members
  • Walk the talk on information sharing- encouraging the team to be open and honest in a team setting.
  • Recognize team members who are role models of collaboration. Set expectations that performance is about the “what gets done” and “how it gets done”. There is no place for the “solitary hero” in the team.

Miscommunication & Misunderstandings

With remote work, all communication is through voice calls, chat or email. Written communication, especially when done in the heat of the moment can come across as rude and hurtful. We have all heard that just 7% of communication is through the spoken word, 38% is through vocal cues and 55% through non verbal cues. With virtual communication, teams are losing the context and intention without the face to face non verbal cues. This is leading to people feeling that their peers/leaders are disrespectful or just don’t care about their point of view.

What can leaders & teams do to make this better:

  • Use video and voice calls as much as possible
  • Resist the temptation to “instantly” respond in anger. Take a minute to re-read the message before sending it
  • Read to understand, not just to respond


Women are feeling particularly marginalized in the remote work scenario. On most teams, women are often the minority and were already struggling to make their voice heard before remote work. With remote work and virtual team settings, they are finding themselves in a vicious cycle- they are not able to speak up and are often not heard. Because of this, they are sometimes being viewed as “contributing less” than their male peers.  They are beginning to fear for their future on their teams and company!

What can leaders & teams do to make this better:

Leaders need to lead by example on this one! Encourage the team to let each other speak, listen carefully and respond. This did not mean that everyone should all polite and non-committal. Not at all! There can be heated arguments and discussions. But ensure that no one gets sidelined just because they speak softly or are shy. Coach the team to include their quieter colleagues and making sure that their opinions get fair airtime.

Remote work is new and unfamiliar for many of us. Despite the fact that we will stumble along the way, there is no doubt that we can ultimately get to a good place. Remote work is a great opportunity for us to minimize (& hopefully completely eliminate) workplace toxicity and create workplaces that we can be proud of!

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