Once upon a time, when bosses could not see their teams doing their work, they might have worried that they were not working! And there was sometimes a view that these individuals would have chosen to go down the pub or scroll through social media feeds if someone wasn’t looking over their shoulders, when working from home.
Obviously, we would all like to think that such outdated attitudes have changed today. In fact, numerous studies, including this Stanford University research, indicate that increased flexibility over your work location leads to improved productivity. At the very least, access to remote working results in maintaining the same levels of productivity, as this Great Place to Work survey confirms.
Nonetheless, the acceleration of hybrid working since the pandemic has left some business leaders concerned about losing meaningful contact with their own staff.
Gareth Evans, HSQE Director of Yondr, agrees that there’s a danger of leaders feeling disconnected from how the work is actually done. “The possible differences [are] between how the process is planned and how work is carried out,” he explains. “Being physically present will enable operational understanding and empathy for how work needs to be executed. The perks of being physically present are being able to see oneself rather than only being given verbal assurance or descriptions.”
The loss of real-life camaraderie, friendship, and meaningful connection at work cuts both ways too. Is the ‘Great Disconnection’ another element of the so-called ‘Great Resignation’ because workers themselves are saying they feel less connected less connected to their co-workers as well as their bosses?
There needs to be acceptance that more than two years of Covid disruption has fundamentally changed working relationships for good. This ‘new normal’ has set new expectations about how people work and challenged old hierarchies.
The main challenge in implementing a hybrid model include providing the necessary tools for home working, ensuring security is managed, and co-ordinating working times.
But business leaders also need to develop their own capabilities to foster creativity, innovation, and collaboration within their own teams. And, when doing so, they would need to ensure they are not falling into the trap of micromanaging – as research indicates that it negatively impacts employee engagement, motivation, and productivity.
Communication skills, always essential, are now even more so in a hybrid world. Organisations need to up-skill their leaders to communicate and manage in different environments. Conversations with teams should be focused on clear purpose of activities, what ‘good’ looks like, what the team need to focus on and ensure they have all the resources to achieve this.
Finally, leaders can be more open and personable. Virtual meetings enable them to share more aspects of themselves and this can break down barriers. Gaining greater empathy with their team could be one of the unforeseen benefits of the Covid disruption.
After all, we’ve already come a long way in terms of mutual trust and respect. As you can read in our Disruption report below the role of the leader is changing!
Discover more about the challenges and opportunities of the new world of work by downloading the full Curium report here.