Today has been named as ‘Blue Monday’, the most depressing day of the year, but research from leading office recruitment agency Office Angels suggests that the worst is yet to come, predicting a “less enjoyable” future for workers where employees never meet their colleagues and employee engagement drops to an all-time low.

The survey suggests that almost three quarters (71%) of workers believe that an increased number of people will work from home by 2036, thanks to a variety of new technologies improving flexibility and connectivity. While this may sound like a positive development to many employees, more than half
(54%) of current workers believe that they may never meet any other members of their team, and 39% think that employees are unlikely to meet their bosses before starting work.

This lack of integration may lead to a possible reduction in knowledge sharing between employees, according to 30% of those surveyed, while 43% of employers worry that it may lead to a lack of engagement and loyalty which may affect employee turnover. This concern does seem to have foundations, as almost half of employees (46%) felt that remote workers might experience a loss of identity with the organisation they work for, and a further third (31%) predicted low levels of engagement.

David Clubb, Managing Director at Office Angels, said: “Employers and employees alike are painting a very bleak picture of a future where workers are disconnected from their companies and morale is suffering greatly as a result. Remote working can be a great tool for a business, offering a flexible working model which benefits its employees and allows access to a greater pool of talent, as location is less of an issue. However, it’s essential that companies continue to support their staff and do not allow them to feel abandoned. Regardless of how advanced technology becomes, online conversation is no match for human interaction, and frequent face-to-face contact, as well as rewarding social events, will always be critical to engagement and good morale.”

Unsurprisingly, the research also predicts that social interaction with colleagues will become much more difficult, with all conversations needing forward planning. A third of employees (33%) even predict that chats around the coffee machine will take place in virtual cafes. Overall, 39% of those surveyed felt that work in 2036 will be less enjoyable.

On the back of this research, Office Angels is offering advice to businesses on the advantages, practicalities and challenges of achieving employee engagement across their organisations.

Office Angels suggests the following five steps to prepare businesses for a changing workforce whilst maximising employee engagement:

1. Measure the attitudes of your employees by conducting internal surveys on a regular basis. This will help you to identify how employees feel about their work on a range of issues including pay and benefits, learning and development, and work-life balance:
2. Make your employees feel valued by involving them in the decision making process: it’s important to give workers the freedom to voice ideas which you as a manager can listen to and potentially action;
3. Ensure your workforce understands your company’s vision and objectives: it’s vital that employees are made aware of how their work contributes to larger organizational outcomes if they are to recognise their own worth;
4. Congratulate the success and achievements of your employees: one of the main drivers of employee engagement is feeling well-informed about what’s happening in the organisation and celebrating when things are good;
5. Give your employees the opportunity to develop in their current roles: career progression is a major driver for many workers, and if you give your staff something to work towards and milestones to aim for, you’ll help to make their roles far more meaningful and engaging.