Findings from our Leader/Manager Survey on Working from Home and Returning to the Office
Thank you to everyone who participated in our Leader/Manager Survey. Your feedback has given us a valuable snapshot of what is happening in the world of work while you keep your business going, maintain productivity and manage your people in this very fluid environment.
The majority of leaders were comfortable managing their teams remotely.
Managers said that they regularly connected with their teams via phone or online platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Technology did not seem to be a barrier when keeping in touch with their teams and most managers had strategies in place to assist team members with keeping connected and working online while working from home.
Managers were divided about how well they were managing productivity.
Some managers wondered if they could trust employees to complete their required work and struggled with their own comfort level in not having oversight of this.
They believed that staff were clear about what was expected of them, having discussed objectives and targets with them both individually and as a team. However, managers were less disciplined when it came to follow up on individual and team progress and performance.
This gap in feedback could lead to a lack of clarity and uncertainty leaving employees to guess and make assumptions about such matters as: “Am I doing the right thing? Should I keep doing what I’m doing? How is the business going and will I still have a job next week or next month?”
Managers have adapted to working from home but not all have clear plans for returning to the workplace.
Nearly all managers had thought about their teams returning to the workplace but hadn’t put a clear plan in place. Important considerations were: rosters or staff rotations, number of staff allowed in the office at one time, cleaning, hygiene and distancing practices that meet Covid-19 government regulations.
Another factor that managers considered was, if working from home were to continue for an extended period of time, would they continue as they are? A number of managers said they would change the way they were currently operating and managing remotely. Now is a great opportunity to make those changes as current indications show, working from home is likely to be a significant part of ‘the new way’ of working post Covid-19.
Not all managers felt equipped to manage employee well-being.
While there were a number of managers who said they had appropriate structures in place to support employees who were not coping with working from home, there was also a number of managers who did not. Most managers were on top of the task orientated component of their role, yet some were less comfortable with managing the physical and emotional side, which is understandable.
During this period, research has shown that physical and emotional stress and harm to employees at home has increased by 25%. Given this, it is important to be able to identify and support employees remotely who find themselves under stress or not able to cope.
How people are feeling is just as important as what they are doing.
Responses were split in how Managers were addressing open two-way communication, particularly when going from discussing tasks and workload to sharing the challenges and difficulties everyone is facing. Some managers were happy to share their own challenges with their team and work through what they had done to address them. Others were less comfortable in communicating in this way and were potentially less likely to seek feedback from others about how they were going.
Flexibility is a work in progress.
Managing the sudden acceleration to more flexible working arrangements was another area in which there is not a common solution. Some managers are focusing more on output over hours worked, while other managers have maintained the structure of pre Covid-19 office hours for their teams at home. Issues of trust and making sure employees were doing what they were meant to be doing remained as challenges for some managers.
What can we Learn?
1. Regular open communication is key.
Without the face to face cues and not being able to visually ‘read’ and monitor your team’s level of engagement, more regular and frequent communication is key.
Employees need to be clear about tasks, objectives and timeframes, but they also need recognition from their manager that during this time of change, everyone is impacted (including you) e.g. you are just as worried about keeping your dog quiet while on a call as they are! Don’t forget it’s also important for everyone to see the great things that are happening too, so share the positives as well.
2. Trust is the foundation of flexible work
If trust is an issue, you need to ask “why”? Are your employees actually doing what they are supposed to be doing? If not, why not? Could the issue potentially be with you? Have you clarified what you need from your team and vice versa?
You might need to spend more time than normal clarifying hours and future work. Have employees send completed task lists to you at the end of each day, or book in regular, scheduled catch ups to maintain structure and discipline around the work to be done.
3. Things are going to be different for a while to come (or is this the new norm?)
Take this opportunity to continue to build and consolidate your business from the inside out. Covid-19 has changed the way we work. Now is the time to consider your organisation and whether you have the right structure, people and processes in place for the future. Be flexible and ask your team for their ideas on how to do things differently and better.
4. And finally, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
This is new for everyone. Talk to other managers and leaders and see what they are doing. Ask them what their challenges are and how they are addressing the good and the not so good. The team at Howardco are always here to guide and support. We are only a call, text, email or Zoom chat away. We have available a free resource ‘Leading from Home – A Managers Guide’ which may also be of help.
Ask us about AgileEQ. Helping managers adapt in times of change and uncertainty.