Flexible workers will need engagement from their organisation to prevent isolation

Technology is encouraging remote working, but lack of social interaction could impact employee wellbeing

Companies with a remote workforce are finding it difficult to retain staff as workers battle with isolation.

In a panel discussion at the UC Expo in London, Michael Affronti, vice president of Fuze, said that this posed a challenge to companies.

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"There is a lack of connection to the mothership, a lack of engagement between remote employees," he said. Adding that organisations "need to make sure there is a culture of reaching out to employees"

At the same panel discussion, Richard Ellis, Office business group lead UK at Microsoft, said there were simple ways to overcome such issues of isolation. He said that companies "need to find ways of connecting with staff. [Microsoft CEO] Satya Nadella does a monthly question and answer session to reach out to staff."

Ellis said that the modern office was now a "place to meet other people rather than going there just to work".

"It's not healthy to be 100 per cent at the office, nor is it healthy to be 100 per cent remote, there has to be a balance," he added.

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Philip Fumey, business solution design and innovation manager at Vodafone, said that "mental health issues should be taken into consideration when formulating flexible working policies for workers."

The panel members said that collaboration tools don't have to be solely about work. It was also important that these tools could be used in the social aspects of working, such as discussing lunch. Affronti said that one colleague who worked at his form's New York office was upset that after he had moved to a different location, he was left off of a chat with colleagues about buying lunch from a local deli. He added that the colleague was much happier when he was allowed back on the chat despite not being in a position to dine with colleagues. "The social interaction via these chats are important to wellbeing," said Affronti.

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