HR Management & Compliance

How to Assess Union Vulnerability in a Remote Workplace

One of the most significant ways the pandemic changed the modern workplace has been large-scale transition to remote work, which has cut across numerous industries, many of which had rejected the idea for years. What hasn’t changed, however, is the need to be attuned to the concerns and needs of your employees. In a traditional workplace, that could be a challenge, but in a remote work environment, it becomes all the more difficult. Supervisors can’t observe employees in person and assess morale throughout the course of a workday by simply walking around the office or workspace. Conversations between employees and supervisors that occurred routinely when employees gathered around the water cooler or when passing by each other’s work areas no longer take place.

Union concerns from remote work

But does it matter? Isn’t the common belief that employees are happier working from home or nontraditional offices and more satisfied with the work-life balance that comes with the flexibility of a remote work environment?

Maybe, but how is an employer truly to know one way or another? And how is an employer to know if its employees are dissatisfied and vulnerable to the appeals of union representatives when they no longer have the frequent face-to-face interaction a traditional work environment provided?

Rest assured, unions haven’t been deterred from organization efforts by the remote workplace. Rather, some unions have quickly adapted by reaching out to employees via social media platforms and campaigning via Zoom, all of which provide them with easier access to a company’s employees.

Gone are the days of union representatives having to visit employees’ homes in person and the challenges of trying to schedule a large scale in-person meeting with numerous employees to sell their message and promises. Now, union organizers can reach all of the same employees, with everyone participating from the comfort of their own homes, via Zoom and the like.

Simply put, the unique challenges that a remote work environment creates for employers attempting to say union free, along with increased union outreach via social media and other platforms, require you to change the way in which you assess employees’ needs and wants to provide a positive and mutually beneficial work environment in which employees are less susceptible to unionization efforts.

So how do you do that? Below are some suggestions for gauging employee satisfaction in a remote work environment and addressing concerns before a union gets a foothold.

Tips For Being Proactive

Conduct employee surveys. Absent the daily contact between employees and supervisors that might reveal employee engagement and morale, you should prepare surveys employees can complete and submit electronically. They should cover employee perceptions of the organization, upper management, direct supervisors, coworker relations, pay and benefits, opportunity for progression, and perceptions of day-to-day responsibilities. Consider making the surveys anonymous to encourage full and candid participation. From the survey results, you should identify areas of greatest concern to employees and areas with the most opportunity for improvement.

Pay attention to employee complaints. You also should take advantage of some information you already have by identifying the number and nature of any internal complaints filed over the last few months (or longer period), through whatever means employees can lodge them (reports to HR staff, anonymous corporate hotlines; etc.). From this data, you can determine if there has been an uptick in the frequency of such complaints compared to earlier periods. The complaints should be categorized by type (i.e., compensation, company policies, supervisory issues, access to necessary equipment) and rank the categories according to the number of complaints in each to identify areas of greatest concern.

Be aware of EEOC and other charges. Similarly, you should identify the number of complaints/charges or lawsuits filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or other agencies during the last few months (or longer period) and determine the root causes and whether there has been an increase in the frequency of such matters. Again, the complaints should be categorized by type (i.e., wage and hour, racial discrimination, age discrimination, medical leave, retaliation), and similarities should be identified (i.e., do they involve the same supervisor, department, etc.).

Identify reasons for turnover. Review turnover statistics over a specific period as compared to historical and/or industry trends. If possible, based on accessible data (exit interviews or other records), identify the most likely reasons for turnover.

Look at missed workdays. Assess the frequency of missed workdays and discern any patterns or trends (i.e., prior to or immediately following holidays, particular weeks or months during the year, etc.) to identify likely reasons.

Encourage supervisor interaction. Identify opportunities for supervisor contact/interaction during the course of a given day and/or week and set frequency expectations for supervisors for such contact to occur and the method of such contact (i.e., chat system, live voice or video call, etc.).

Stay in contact with supervisors. Conduct live, telephonic, or e-mail interviews of supervisors to get their point of view on potential employee issues or concerns. Identify any patterns in what supervisors are hearing from employees. If employees aren’t raising issues with the supervisors, identify possible reasons for the silence.

Monitor pay increases. Prepare a history of pay increases (or decreases), with dates and amounts and assess current pay levels in comparison with industry or area wage surveys.

More Tips

Additional steps you can take include the following:

  • Identify the union status of other employers in the area.
  • Identify the personal/socioeconomic issues common to your employees (i.e., are schools back to in-person learning in the area, or are remote employees also balancing school during the workday; etc.).
  • Identify external issues/influences that might be affecting employees’ perception of the work environment (i.e., current political environment; etc.).
  • Review your online reputation to see if it’s positively or negatively affected by employee feedback.


While not all of the suggestions above will fit every company’s circumstances or capabilities, they provide examples of the type of actions you can take in a remote work environment to determine employee engagement and satisfaction. This in turn will assist you in identifying what matters most to your remote workforce and in providing them what they need in remote work environments to be less susceptible to union organizing.

Martin J. Regimbal, a shareholder of The Kullman Firm, can be reached at

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