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Managers ! How are you managing teleworking ?
Now that the “Great Lockdown” has given way to a gradual return to economic activity, we are only just becoming fully aware of the lasting scars that this period will leave on the management practices of organizations. Large-scale teleworking, or even offshoring of work, is the most obvious consequence of the pandemic on organizations.
For managers, who even before the health crisis used to juggle a multitude of obstacles and complicated situations on a daily basis, teleworking and social distancing simply add another layer of complexity to their demanding role.
In this article, I will share my initial observations on the impact of teleworking on my clients and the solutions we can offer to help them cope with this new reality.
Teleworking: Points for managers to consider
1. An increasing loss of information critical to decision-making
In organizations with ineffective communication mechanisms, informal chats are vital for sharing information. We rely on these moments for discussing important management issues. However, without conversations in the corridor, at the coffee machine or during a cigarette break, as I have noticed in France, there is a real risk of losing critical information.
2. The decreased engagement of our team members
One of the main roles of a manager is to ensure the engagement of their teams, both for the well-being of all participants and to ensure a positive impact on productivity. Yet social distancing measures are limiting meetings between colleagues and result in missed opportunities for valuable face-to-face meetings between a manager and his or her employee. Opportunities for worker recognition are limited and workers are lonely. Managers should give top priority to monitoring engagement.
3. The increased complexity of maintaining team spirit
As a famous African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,” reminding us of the importance of teamwork and helping each other to achieve our goals. Yet the realities of isolation are depriving workers of those moments of sharing, closeness and relaxation which are so vital for uniting a team and making it more efficient.
4. Lack of visibility of our teams’ workloads
Everything seems easier at the office… managing schedules, adjusting workloads according to observed progress, and the impact of family constraints on the work to be done. Without the proximity of the workplace, the risks for managers of falling into the trap of micromanagement or the stress of feeling out of control are major.
So how can managers continue overseeing our teams and our company’s performance when they are hampered by this new layer of constraints?
How can managers adapt their practices to teleworking?
Over the past few months, we have helped our clients make the most of this situation to rethink and continue structuring their work with their teams. Here are some key points:
What I see in companies when my teams carry out analyses are managers with random presence on the ground:
- Structure the flow of information with recurrent, regular meetings which are defined and organized to maximize information-sharing and the follow-up of decisions and actions to be taken. The idea is to be able to address any problems encountered and anticipate issues as much as possible, thus reducing the risk of future problems. Clear expectations help teams to minimize uncertainty, that famous gray area, and so maintain their level of engagement.
- Be aware of our teams’ engagement by planning direct contact where possible during visits to the office or by planning individual or personalized reviews. We should also consider how to improve engagement: namely by providing clear expectations and acknowledging work accomplished.
- Facilitate teamwork by using collaborative tools which enable the sharing of ideas and visions and which provide clarity on the team’s work and priorities. The digitalization of teamwork helps to cultivate a team spirit and is also instrumental in attracting new generations of workers. Whereas until recently these tools were a differentiating factor of more advanced companies, they have now become the expected norm for teams. A Daily Management System, such as UTrakk, can help to achieve this.
- Emphasizing goals and work processes while ensuring a regular and scheduled follow-up. To do this, it will be necessary to relax fixed working hours and define the “rules of the game” as a team in order to adapt to everyone’s reality while ensuring efficiency in the organization of the team as a whole.
Today, more than ever, we must rethink our organizations and our management in order to adapt to this new reality and meet our performance goals. And you, what kind of manager are you in teleworking mode?