In this article we discuss the challenges faced by leaders and managers keeping their teams motivated, productive and on track whilst they have been working remotely from home. Those that have done this well have demonstrated resilience and developed their skills in communication, emotional intelligence and problem solving.
There has been a lot of commentary over the last 18 months about the pros and cons of flexible and remote working with a focus on front line staff as opposed to managers.
Every day we hear about the challenges leaders and managers are facing through flexible and remote working including, but not limited to, the key points below:
Lack of face-to-face in person time: Almost without exception, managers are finding this challenging. Typical comments include, ‘it is so much better to be able to see people in the flesh as it’s difficult to read body language and unspoken messages when communicating with someone via a video link-up’. Really good people managers rely on their intuition to know when further exploration is required of what someone in their team is saying and it’s been difficult for managers to navigate this.
More planning: Managers have needed to put more effort into planning how they are going to communicate with team members, both on an individual basis and as a member of the team. This has taken up the manager’s time that would usually have been spent on other things and has typically involved managers having to plan further to follow up post meeting.
More emails: When working in the same location, it has been easier for managers (and team members) to share information verbally, as people can physically see where someone is and whether they are free. To compensate for this lack of in-person contact, many more emails are sent and received to ensure that everyone is ‘in the loop.’ This results in a heavier workload for everyone, including managers.
Inductions: This has been particularly challenging for both managers and new employees during the pandemic. We have drawn the conclusion from feedback that we have received that no matter how well-organised an induction programme is, there is nothing like being able to physically shadow an experienced member of staff. Best practice inductions have people on hand to answer questions quickly and in real time. For managers in particular, this has been a struggle and they have worried about not being on hand for new employees, particularly if they are lacking in experience.
Social Events: Last, but by no means least, managers have missed being able to get together socially with their teams. Social interaction gives team members an opportunity to get to know each other on a more personal level which can make working together more fluid and natural. As one manager has said to us, ‘I have missed not being able to let my team get to know me as a person and not just their manager – video calls are not even close to drinks after work!’
In summary, managing remote teams has been tough. Well done to all the managers out there who have put in a huge amount of extra effort to try and adapt things as best they could to keep the work environment positive and efficient. It has been a true test of leadership talent and one that should be considered as an inclusion in your achievements on your resume.
If you are considering a new management or leadership role in 2022 then reach out to Samanth.Smith@parkhousebell.com.au Parkhouse Bell is an executive search and recruitment company specialising in the employment services, vocational education, community and disability services sectors.