Managers across the board have been tasked with keeping up normal productivity levels, despite the aftermath of the pandemic and with a much-reduced team in the office.
The change in the workplace has necessitated a permanent change in management style. To ensure productivity levels do not dip, managers have had to be able to manage employees effectively across locations and by varied methods.
With restrictions around the world easing slightly, more and more people are returning to work. Yet, not all companies are insisting that their workforce returns to the office. In fact, many companies are wholeheartedly supporting flexible working despite the successful rollout of many vaccination programmes.
Our poll in real estate shows a split in current working patterns between those continuing to fully work from home and those now back in the office five days a week.
2nd - 9th June 2021 poll results from 770 votes
Despite any individual plans for organisations moving forward, what does that mean for the future of managers with teams following a hybrid working model? Here, we investigate how to manage such a team more effectively, as well as suggest some effective remote working management techniques.
Difficulties with remote working management
Remote working management is the practice of leading a team of remote employees effectively. With a workforce at home, or working remotely in some other space, managers have to totally rethink how they manage their team. They often encounter the following difficulties:.
No in-person supervision
The comfort of being able to access a team manager when you are an employee should not be underestimated. Equally, managers may feel like they have more control when they are in the same room as their staff. This does not always come down to micromanagement — in-person management is often a simpler way to positively influence employees. Seeing your boss in person can often make them appear more approachable and available for support.
Issues accessing data
Of course, one of the biggest problems that managers face when it comes to remote working is simple logistics. How do your employees access the applications, data, and information needed to do their job? While these problems are easily mitigated by ensuring robust IT and updated systems that support remote working, some employees can find accessing group work or files inefficient if they don't know where to look first.
In an office environment, an employee can simply ask a colleague. In a remote working situation, that requires reaching out to someone over an online chat, telephone call or email. While not onerous, it is still more effort than a traditional working model.
There are a couple of issues that make keeping an employee motivated at home that little bit harder. Firstly, working in isolation, day in day out, can impact a person's mental health. Social interaction is something that humans naturally crave, particularly those who thrive in a team environment. Additionally, it can start to impact how aligned an employee is to the company they work for. Considerable time away from a business can make the employer seem more like a remote entity than a ‘family’ of staff.
And there are always many more things to distract at home. This might not necessarily mean employees are off having fun, watching Netflix or sunbathing in the garden. It could be that they get distracted doing mundane chores instead.
With this new framework of distance working, you will find that different employees work remotely in different ways. This can create issues with alignment, so try to take a proactive approach by suggesting what is expected of everyone.
Managing a hybrid team
Given all the above issues, what can be done to circumnavigate them? Conversely, what can be done to make the most of the hybrid team model, as it does have its advantages.
Diarise regular catch-ups with each individual team member on a daily basis. It does not have to be long —five minutes will be enough to ensure that you have both checked in with one another. This time also gives your employee a chance to highlight any problems, while you can set some targets for them or simply provide encouragement. .
Promote several ways of contact
Email has undoubtedly changed the way that companies did business. However, there are now so many other methods of contacting team members. Try to promote the use of a number of them among you team. Group chat technology can be fantastic. Video calls are excellent for larger team meetings. Email and phone should still be utilised where appropriate.
Set boundaries and targets
With this new framework of distance working, you will find that different employees work remotely in different ways. This can create issues with alignment, so try to take a proactive approach by suggesting what is expected of everyone. For example, it can be hugely beneficial to request that only certain forms of communication are used for particular situations — video calls for big team meetings or one to ones, or group chat when there is something very critical that has suddenly come up and needs dealing with ASAP.
Finally, when water cooler chats can't occur or after-work team drinks are off the cards, scheduling informal meet-ups online can be a great idea. It can help strengthen teams by encouraging a good camaraderie and by simply letting employees get to know each other better — particularly when there are new starters. Don't overthink it, nothing innovative needs to be suggested. At worst, a quiz or taskmaster event can be a lot of fun, but even simply asking different team members to show everyone their favourite item in their house can be enjoyable.
Rethinking management in a hybrid working world
Make no mistake, managing a remote team can be tough — but it is far from impossible. In fact, it offers many advantages that should be promoted and encouraged. And, when you tackle the difficulties that hybrid working can create head-on, you will soon find your team's productivity is truly optimised.