Overnight the world of work changed because of Covid-19. The shift to remote working was amazing in many ways. Now that it’s routine, businesses are finding it’s not what it was cracked up to be. There’s a pressing need to adapt to the new world of work before performance slumps.

The challenges with remote working

One client I was working with last week in the tech world is coming to terms with the opportunity now to recruit developers and data scientists anywhere within a three-hour time difference of the UK. Before they had tended to choose people within a 50-mile radius of their HQ. But within that new land of opportunity they want advice on how to manage their distributed workforce.  They’ve recognised it needs different skills and a different approach.

Another client was trying to understand the discovery that the performance of their remote teams was now plummeting.  Their managers were struggling with not being located in the same place as their teams. They’d been thrust into remote management without any training or consideration of how different it is when they can’t see their direct reports. The teams are now struggling to perform, and anxiety and mistrust is growing. This new world has really exposed flaws that existed in the old world but remained hidden – leaders who micro-manage rather than empower; communication styles which fail to engage and motivate; low confidence and lack of training across the management group.  There needs to be a significant change in behaviour to shift from managing by “line of sight” to managing through trust and results. Part of this is the difference between checking in and checking up.

How to remedy

We recommend four remedies to help ensure remote working is effective and performance is high:

  1. Work with teams and managers to create new clear guidelines on how to work together remotely. Let the teams co-create this…..
  2. Help managers to change their behaviours to focus on managing on outputs and outcomes rather than command, control and presenteeism.
  3. Focus effectively on the wellbeing of the remote teams working in this new environment. Some people are struggling with anxiety and stress; never being able to switch off; blurring lines between home and work; juggling childcare and other home duties.  Tell them that you care and put in place support, systems and help.
  4. Encourage a coaching culture – not just between managers and their teams but through peer coaching, mentoring and support across the business.

Ignoring the problems that are fermenting in remote teams is extremely unwise. Leadership needs to intervene with energy or risk crashing the performance, morale and welfare of the people who drive the success of the business.

Talk to Black Isle

We are experts at professional behavioural change. Together we use coaching, innovative technology and science to help leaders conquer the challenges of this new environment, from delivering long term behavioural change to creating high performing remote teams.

Author: Atholl Duncan, Chairman, Black Isle Group

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