Working from home became a necessity for many during 2020, and can have benefits for both employees and businesses. Managers might also be working from home, or might be working at business premises but managing staff who are working remotely. How does a manager provide effective leadership remotely? What are the implications of working from home for team dynamics?
The issues which Associate Professor Lesley Gill and student Alicia Lierman have identified include:
- Don't assume that working from home will result in a healthy work-life balance for staff. In fact it can become harder to switch off and unwind when work is finished for the day. Isolation can also be detrimental to wellbeing.
- There is a greater risk of misunderstanding when communication is not face-to-face.
- Access to technology may be less than ideal for staff at home, for example inadequate virus protection (of the IT kind).
For remote leadership to be effective Alicia and Lesley recommend that managers be proactive and adaptable to keep employees engaged. Communication about what work is being done is crucial to ensure that both high and low productivity are recognised, while avoiding micro-management. Guidelines on the flexibility of working hours might also be useful for employees as well as organisations. Use of video calls and online social events help to maintain a sense of togetherness. The highest priority in leading a remote workforce is to ensure staff are included actively throughout the transitioning process as well as during everyday routines, thereby addressing issues of isolation with inclusiveness.