Perhaps the biggest upheaval in our working lives began with the Covid-19 pandemic. As a nation, we had to take a huge leap and learn many new digital skills.
Now almost everyone is talking about a new normal. What does it mean?
According to a survey commissioned by Taloustutkimus, a Finnish economic research firm for the Finnish Public Broadcasting Corporation (Yleisradio), almost 35 percent of employees would like to do more remote work in the future, while almost as many do not want work remotely any longer. In my head, these results indicate that the managers must learn how to do hybrid/multi-site management. It’s good to remember that not all work can be done remotely (e.g., cleaning), so this “new normal” is unlikely to affect many employees in any way.
What do successful hybrid and virtual management require?
The “new normal” requires a lot more time and effort dedicated to leading people. Old leadership models do not work if and when a third of the staff is working remotely, a third is physically present etc. This is why the managers are required to have the desire and ability to build a system that suits their teams.
These times have demonstrated that those managers who have boldly set out to try different ways of working with their team have invariably succeeded in improving both performance and job satisfaction. The upcoming times will show the positions each team find itself in, but the required elements are starting to be clear.
What is needed:
- Hold regular physically present meetings to keep the team evolving. However, the number of these is significantly smaller compared to the past, and the need for them have to be carefully considered. From the teamwork point of view, physically present team meetings are important, even if the work could be done without team members physically seeing each other.
- Utilize various technical solutions, as they are needed to ensure the flow of information and effective collaboration. How do we keep each other in the loop of what is going on? How do we work together so that there is no duplication of work, etc.? You really need to think about these things and try different methods boldly.
- Break things down into smaller parts to maintain energies in virtual and hybrid meetings.
- Dedicate time to have personal conversations. Make sure that there is time for the free flow of conversation so that everyone can feel that they are important. “How is everything going” calls are much needed when people are not encountered in front of the coffee machine.
Why does leadership need to change?
Because there will be (if not already is) a severe shortage of experts. And if these experts do not like the management, they will change employers. Therefore you, as a good manager, should eagerly take matters in your own hands, and change your own leadership.
My main lessons about hybrid and virtual work are:
- Take the time to create a good atmosphere. The effect of this is further accentuated when workers are scattered. “How is everything going” calls are one great way. In addition, some sort of “warm-up” is needed at the beginning of each meeting to make people present at this time.
- Break things down into small enough entities. Have breaks! 45-60 min is the absolute maximum time in one sitting. If you must have a longer session, remember to have a break.
- Use small groups and different methods to help you. When the team is scattered, it is difficult to see how each of your requests/instructions were interpreted.
- Give all instructions both orally and in writing. Tip: divide the written instructions into small parts as well.
- Ensure a common understanding of what has been agreed. For example: record all the agreed things so that everyone can see them immediately, and at the same time a common understanding can be ensured: e.g., who does what, by when.
- Be patient and listen! Call back and make sure the other person feels that they have been listened to.
Why leading change just keeps getting more complicated
There are thousands of studies and books on managing change or leading change. The former tend to focus on ways to work with and overcome people’s resistance; the latter on creating a vision that people can sign up to and engage with. Of course, both these perspectives are important and indeed implementing change usually requires both.Read the article