Mangers Start To Rethink Remote Work

Managers are starting to discover the limitations of remote work
Managers are starting to discover the limitations of remote work
Image Credit: Wesley Fryer

So if I understand how this story has unfolded, we were all going into the office and working when the Covid-19 virus struck. The next day we found ourselves at home using Zoom to video conference with the people that we had been working side-by-side with. This was a massive upheaval for everyone especially managers. There has never been any manager training for how to deal with something like this. However, we all seemed to get over it and we’ve all adjusted to the new world order. Is this the way that things are going to be going forward?

The New World Order

When we all went home to work something incredible happened: we got our work done, seemingly without missing a beat. Managers have been amazed at how well their workers performed remotely, even while juggling child care and the distractions of home. Some companies have even vowed to give up their physical office spaces entirely. However, as the work-from-home experiment stretches on, some problems are starting to emerge. Projects take longer. Training is tougher. Hiring and integrating new employees, more complicated. Some managers say their workers appear less connected and managers fear that younger professionals aren’t developing at the same rate as they would in offices, sitting next to colleagues and absorbing how they do their jobs.

Months into a pandemic that rapidly reshaped how companies operate, an increasing number of managers now say that remote work, while necessary for safety much of this year, is not their preferred long-term solution once the coronavirus crisis passes. There’s sort of an emerging sense behind the scenes of managers saying, “This is not going to be sustainable”. No manager should be surprised that the early productivity gains companies witnessed as remote work took hold have peaked and leveled off because workers left offices in March armed with laptops and a sense of doom. It was people being terrified of losing their jobs, and that fear-driven productivity is simply not sustainable.

Few companies expect remote work to go away in the near term, though the evolving thinking among many managers reflects a significant shift from the early days of the pandemic. You can tell people are getting fatigued. When workers do come back to the office it may be voluntary. If they do come it will probably require answering a series of health questions on an app, before getting approval to drive come to work. Each company will have to block off desks to allow for greater distancing, step up cleaning and create a rotating schedule so that staffers come in on alternating weeks.

The New Reality Of Office Work

The nature of what some companies do makes it tough, if not impossible, to function remotely. Problems that take an hour to solve in the office can stretch out for a day when workers are remote. It becomes a logistical nightmare.

What managers need to realize is that in some cases it’s important to have people in a room and see body language and read signals that don’t come through on a screen while doing team building. One benefit of working together in person is the potential for spontaneous interactions. What team members will realize is that in an office they will be having conversations with peers that wouldn’t have happened in a remote set up—a discussion sparked by a passing question in the hall, for instance.

More managers now envision a hybrid future, with more time spent working remote, yet with opportunities to regularly convene teams. Managers are using their manager skills to institute “core hours” for its employees, similar to office hours that professors hold on college campuses. The idea under consideration is that teams would agree to come together for a limited time on certain days of the week to bounce ideas off each other, collaborate and strategize. The toll of extended work-from-home arrangements is likely to affect career development, particularly for younger workers.

What All Of This Means For You

The arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic transformed all of our lives. One of the biggest changes for everyone is that instead of going into the office, we are now all working from home. The good news is that most of us have adjusted to this new way of working quite well. However, managers are now starting to see some downsides to this new way of conducting work and are starting to plan for the future.

There are a number of tasks that we just don’t seem to be able to do as efficiently when we are all working from home. Good examples of this are projects that take longer, training that is tougher, and challenges associated with hiring and integrating new employees. Additionally, people are getting fatigued working from home. Everyone is not going to be able to come back to the office all at once. When they do start to come back, managers are going to have to take steps to make sure that it is done safely. When we are working from home, it can take much longer to solve some sorts of problems. When people are together, they have the ability to read each other’s body language. The future will probably consist of a hybrid work environment where we work from home some days and come into the office on other days.

As though they don’t already have enough on their plates, managers are now having to deal with the after effects of the Covid-19 virus. All of those workers who were sent home when the virus struck will eventually have to come back into the office. The big question that managers have to deal with is just exactly how they are going to accomplish this considering that the pandemic is not yet over. The good news is that it can be done and done safely. However, care is going to have to be taken in making sure that in order to get the benefits of having people work together, we are able to find ways to allow them to do it safely.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that different people should come into the office on different days?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental IT Leader Blog is updated.
P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental IT Leader Newsletter are now available. Learn what you need to know to do the job. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

So here’s a bit of a stumper for you. A manager had run into a problem. His company conducted those ubiquitous “how are things going” surveys of their employees and the results for his team were awful. Everyone on his team was miserable. This was in comparison to everyone else who was working at the company. The people who worked on his team had talents that the company desperately needed and losing them would be a big blow. He needed to find a way to use his manager skills to keep them from leaving. What he had to do was to find out why his team was unhappier than everyone else.