Today’s workplace is changing fast with flexible and remote working becoming an increasing reality for more employees each year. However, scratch the surface and managers remain deeply unhappy about letting employees out of their sight, much preferring to manage a team that they can physically see.
Using an extensive survey of nearly 200 managers, consultants and training specialists, the Tomorrow’s Leaders report by the UK’s City & Guilds and Institute of Leadership & Management paints a powerful picture of how managers are responding to remote and flexible working.
Many are torn between giving in to the growing demands from employees to be allowed to work at least part of the time from home and still feeling that if workers are not physically at their desks, they are up to no good.
If you’re visible, you’re accountable. In reality, this means we reward people who take a long time to get the job done, rather than those who do it most effectively
The survey found that, while nine out of 10 managers said they trusted remote workers and three quarters recognised they were more productive, a significant minority admitted they were still unable to break their old-fashioned presenteeism management style. This was despite the fact that new technology was making remote working a much more viable option.
Despite strong managerial support for new ways of working, managers admitted that they felt ill-equipped to deal with the day-to-day reality of managing remote teams. Almost half of respondents said that managers were unprepared for supervising flexible teams, and only a quarter had undergone specific training for managing remotely.
In particular, anxiety around communication skills was singled out and more support identified for developing better ways of binding teams together. Long distance, virtual relationships with staff members can be demanding and a third of the managers polled confessed that they needed to improve the way they communicated with their teams.
In addition, while six out of 10 managers said their IT systems supported remote working, half believed they were not exploiting the networking technology to the full. Fewer than a fifth used audio conferencing and instant messaging, and only 10 per cent use video conferencing.
Businesses will begin to look for leaders rather than micro-managers, inspiring from a distance rather than giving hands-on direction.
Managers may be aware of the advantages associated with employees that are more flexible, but they are struggling to turn theory into practice and clearly need support to adapt their supervision styles.