Are Remote Employees More Likely to Get Laid Off?

Remote employee laid off.
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Out of sight, out of mind. A common phrase you are probably familiar with. 

But is this also impacting remote workers when it comes to current layoffs?

While the measure of one’s work should be performance based regardless of where someone is working, there appears to be manager bias that leans towards letting remote employees go over those in the office. 

So what does the data tell us? Does that mean remote work is more risky? And what can you as a remote worker do about it to ensure you aren’t on the end of a layoff? Let’s dive in. 

The Data

One of the common questions that pop up in recent months is if remote employees are more likely to get laid off. As I dove into this topic further and went through the limited data, I was a bit surprised at how this statement appears to be true. 

And not only that, but more remote workers are also fearful that they’ll be first to get laid off if their company starts making cutbacks. 

  • In a recent study, 89% of human resources leaders told us that their teams have recently voiced concerns about job security, leadership changes, or reorgs. 
  • In that same study, remote employees were 32% more likely to feel anxious in the wake of news about layoffs.
  • And in another recent survey, it was found that remote workers may be first to go. 3,000 managers were surveyed and 60% agree it’s likely remote employees would be laid off first where only 20% said that’s not very unlikely.

Why Might Remote Employees be in the Layoff Crosshairs First? 

From a manager’s perspective, there are common reasons why this bias toward remote workers can exist. 

Sometimes it may be subconscious or unintentional, but these are very real reasons why remote employees might get laid off first. 

  • Often the work of remote employees is less visible or noticed by others. 
  • Managers don’t feel the same professional connection when employees aren’t in person.
  • A person going to the office can often appear more invested in their work and career.

Of course, none of these should really dictate whether someone working remotely should be laid off.

But it’s unfortunately something that happens. And what remote workers may start to notice is they are not included in work projects, conversations, and may stop being top of mind as an important contributor. 

Does That Mean Remote Work Lowers Your Job Security!?

Yes and no.

In my opinion there is no clear cut answer quite yet. But it’s important to protect yourself in a remote environment. 

Yes, there is data that does show that pursuing a career where you work from home can sometimes negatively impact your career.

However, this is clearly happening more with hybrid companies. The ones where some employees are working in the office and others are remote. 

Additionally, while the data may lean a bit towards that job security could be impacted, the mega rise of remote work is still just a few years in. 

As of now, I think more time is needed to truly understand how it has impacted remote employees careers, whether getting promoted or that they would be first to get laid off during a tough economic climate. 

Personally speaking, being remote has greatly improved my career.

What is frustrating from my perspective is that in general productivity among remote workers went up or stayed the same, employees are happier when working remotely, and more people want to be remote. 

Yet, the bias continues to show that remote workers may be less likely to get promoted and potential to be first in layoffs, no matter if they are a top performer. 

But I also know (and hope) that smart employers will make decisions based on results and not how often someone shows their face in the office. 

The reality is being physically seen all day doesn’t mean a worker has a good job performance or is doing better work than someone that is remote. 

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What Can You Do Help Avoid A Layoff

I’ve been laid off in both an in-office setting and remote-first workplace. 

If the economy or business is struggling and you are a top performer, there is really no guarantee that you can safeguard yourself completely from being let go. 

But as the data is suggesting that remote workers could be the first to be laid off, you naturally may feel some anxiety and unease about your current role. 

And although you may still be impacted, there are ways to ensure as a remote employee you aren’t on the chopping block. 

  • Be present with your manager on a weekly basis. 1:1s, team meetings, Slack, etc. Be proactive and find a recurring communication cadence. Not only chatting about work, but getting on a personal level a bit too. Build that working relationship. 
  • Do your job and do it well. Deliver value, offer help to others, and be active in sharing ideas with co-workers, managers, and on general team meetings. 
  • Ask for feedback and how you can improve. Although there may be a review process in place, don’t wait for it to happen each year. Check in and figure out how you can best get feedback and improve as an employee. 

Your goal is being visible and ensuring to build that professional connect with your team.

This of course should not just be on you. Companies that offer remote jobs need to have good systems in place to ensure all employees are treated equally. And managers need to approach their management style with fairness and remove biases around remote teams. 

Easier said than done! But I think as new generations take over leadership roles, those misconceptions and biases will slowly disipate.

Hybrid companies should look at successful remote-first organizations and understand their systems and approach. That will help them better align remote employees and in-office workers. 

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About Todd Kunsman

Todd is the founder of Remote Work Junkie and has been featured in numerous publications like Business Insider, HuffPost, CNBC, and more. He’s been a remote work advocate for close to a decade and has been working remotely full-time for 5+ years. He’s also a marketing, personal finance, and music nerd 🤓

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