The future of hybrid working

Why we should be optimistic about the future of the hybrid workplace – and how the pandemic will expose the mediocre managers

This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Management Today.

For all the negatives that have come from the pandemic, there are certainly positives for leadership and management; let’s look at three.  

Three ways management has improved

Firstly, we showed our adaptability. We discovered how well we can change when we have to. The pandemic also tamed the commanding nature of many workplaces – it’s difficult to control people when you don’t even know what they’re wearing below the waist!

Most importantly, we found out that remote management is harder than managing in the office. Weirdly, this is a positive development – it has forced managers to improve, and make it work. In the office, if you miscommunicate it is obvious very quickly and it is easy to rectify the mistake; on a Zoom call, this may mean your team member has 24 hours to ruminate on what was or was not said.

While technology has made communication better than ever, we still understand each other as little as ever. Office-based communication is easy for mediocre managers, but remote communication is unforgiving of errors.

Goal setting and motivation

In the office setting goals is easy for everyone, even mediocre managers – remotely, not so much. We now know how to explain more – not only the ‘What’ but the ‘Why’. We’ve also built more ownership of goals. Communication has to be more purposeful, and managers more deliberate and patient, in setting goals to their employees at home.  

Motivation is always hard. Research shows that just 67% of leaders think they do a good job of motivating their teams. On the other side of the coin, only 32% of team members rated their boss’s motivational skills.

The shift to hybrid work is not a temporary, but permanent; about 80% of employees welcome this and companies are adapting to these demands. Firms that insist on a full return to work will lose out in the long-term; they can force staff back but this will effect morale and overall performance.

To manage this change, companies have to raise their game and invest more in developing managers who can manage remotely. For those leaders who can adapt, and rise to the challenge, it might be the start of an exciting new era!

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