4 Causes of Remote Employee Turnover (and How to Prevent Them)

By: Sierra Rogers on August 27, 2020

Let’s start with the bad news: Turnover is expensive. The Work Institute estimates that the cost of losing one U.S. worker is approximately $15,000. That’s a lot of dough.


Now for the good news: Voluntary turnover is at least somewhat preventable.

And because a high turnover rate can damage your bottom line and lower employee morale, improving employee retention is a worthwhile pursuit.

But in order to improve your retention rate, you have to understand why employees leave. We’ll dive into the four most common causes of remote employee turnover and how to avoid them. HR analytics software can also be helpful for uncovering causes specific to your organization.

4 causes of remote employee turnover

1. Burnout

Even before COVID-19, burnout was a reality, but now workers are dealing with the stress of a global pandemic on top of work-related worries. This May, Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) revealed that 41% of U.S. employees report feeling burnt out from work, while another 23% report feeling depressed.

Add to that the shift from working in the office to working remotely, and now your team is experiencing stressors they’ve never dealt with before. For example, remote work causes the line between home and office to blur. In many cases this is a positive thing, as employees can improve their work-life balance by dedicating more time to their personal responsibilities. But it can also become a problem as they struggle to set boundaries for themselves.

Ethan Taub, founder and CEO of Goalry and Loanry, told us about a problem he’s had to acknowledge since transitioning to remote work:

“The main challenge we have experienced is getting staff who work from home to switch off and put their computers away. As they’re not in view of team leaders or supervisors, they tend to overcompensate and do more work than is required to make sure they are trusted.”

Taub explained how his management team uses time tracking and project management software to keep track of tasks completed outside of regular working hours. Managers will intervene and encourage employees to step away from their computer if they observe this kind of behavior.

How to prevent burnout

Burnout happens, but a healthy company culture can help minimize it. Managers should set a good example by striving for work-life balance and encouraging their remote employees to set boundaries, take frequent breaks, and use paid time off to recharge.

2. Company culture

Workplace culture is one of the most common causes behind voluntary turnover. According to SHRM, 58% of employees that left their job due to culture say their managers are the main reason they ultimately left. As the saying goes, “People quit bosses, not jobs.”

For remote workers, company culture is almost exclusively conveyed through interactions with coworkers and managers, meaning it’s that much more pivotal to squash toxicity and create a supportive environment from the get go.

Many areas of company culture can be problematic, but some of the most common problems cited are:

  • Microaggressions towards people of color

  • Communication that is only delivered from management down

  • Structures and systems that silo employees

  • Departments that struggle to align on goals

  • Ineffective communication processes

  • A decision-making process that excludes the majority of employees

How to prevent toxic company culture

Creating a positive, healthy culture is an ongoing pursuit. Offering diversity and inclusion training, encouraging open communication, explaining the “why” behind decisions, and empowering employees to share their own opinions and ideas are a great place to start.

In order to really improve your company’s culture, you have to diagnose what’s wrong with it. The easiest way to do that is to ask your employees. Employee pulse survey tools are a great tool for this.

3. Lack of personal development opportunities

Many among us have left a job we once loved because the outlook of upward mobility at that organization seemed slim. In fact, the Work Institute reports that career development has been the number one reason for voluntary turnover since 2010. Employees are motivated by opportunities to develop new skills, and a new job title and raise to go with it doesn’t hurt either.

Remote work can be autonomous in nature, but that doesn’t exempt remote employees from wanting their employer to be invested in their future. If anything, remote work isolation may exacerbate any anxiety they have about whether or not they’re a valued team member with a future ahead of them at their company.

Investing in the success of your remote employees will improve your retention rate because your workers will want to stick around and explore their career path within your business.

How to support professional development

Much like other initiatives to improve retention, supporting the development of your employees requires commitment and ongoing effort. Employee development plans are a great tool for this and can be tailored to the interests of each employee. Along with development plans, offering training and opportunities to work on projects outside of their day-to-day responsibilities are great ways to provide development to your team.

Succession planning software can also help plan for the future by identifying and training employees to fill new roles.

4. Hiring the wrong person

Hiring the wrong person is never ideal, but it can be especially detrimental in a remote work situation where a high level of trust is needed—just imagine sensitive company information and expensive electronics in the wrong hands.

When recruiting remote workers, don’t just look for candidates with relevant hard skills. Consider the traits that will make remote employees successful in their role. David Cusick, Chief Strategy Officer at House Method, explains what he looks for when it comes to hiring for a remote role:

“The chief attribute you’re looking for is someone who’s eager to learn more. Curiosity and eagerness count for so much in remote work—these are the employees who are going to identify the lulls and areas for improvements, then inform you on them and eventually work on fixing the issues themselves. They’re the ones keeping your Slack channels active and seeking the best digital work experience possible.”

How to avoid hiring the wrong fit

Every role is different, but when it comes to recruiting for a remote role, it’s a good idea to look for candidates that can work autonomously and have prior experience with collaboration tools. We also recommend asking for employee referrals and checking in with former employers for an added level of confidence in your hiring choice.


Want to learn how software can help you find the best candidates for your remote work position?

Download this whitepaper to see the features you need in applicant tracking software to recruit remote employees.


The right digital tools will help you improve your retention rate

From recruiting to onboarding to succession planning and more, there is software out there to support your business with every step of the employee journey.

Head to our HR software directory to start building your HR tech stack.

For a more personalized experience, set up an appointment to talk to one of our HR software advisors, who can offer assistance based on your specific business needs.