Managing ‘Managers’ in this Era of Remote Working 0

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During the pandemic, most organisations, and their managers, in particular, have discovered that remote work can be exceptionally demanding, and remote managing requires an entirely different skill-set.

As organisations have scrambled to adjust, keep operations efficient, and productivity high, a lot of the weight has fallen on the shoulders of the managers. They have had to hit the ground running and find the most effective and resourceful way of doing things with no prior training or preparation. In fact, in many situations, they have been the glue that has held organisational operations together.

But unfortunately, they have also struggled to adapt to this rapidly changing situation. More than a year into the lockdown and the remote working situation, many managers still lack the support they need, but to understand how to support them, leaders must first be cognizant of the issues they face.

Very Real Challenges Faced by Managers in the Era of Remote Working

1. Manager Anxiety

Uncertainty is often a cause of anxiety, and COVID-19 has undoubtedly brought with it its fair share of uncertainty.

Managers have not been immune to the fears and stress caused by the pandemic. Like everyone else, they have also had to deal with their own fears and cope with rapidly changing situations at home.

Managers have not been immune to the fears and stress caused by the pandemic. Like everyone else, they have also had to deal with their own fears and cope with rapidly changing situations at home. Click To Tweet

But importantly, in addition to all of this, they have to adjust to a radically new way of managing their teams, for which there is no guide. For example, managers have had to lead their teams through uncharted waters while keeping performance levels high. They also have had to find new ways to keep their employees engaged and motivated. In addition, learn how to apply just the right amount of pressure without overstressing them in an already stressful time.

Surely this is a lot of pressure, and it can be overwhelming for anyone- even a senior and seasoned professional like a manager.

However, even in the most uncertain times, the role of a manager remains the same: to support their team members. But who is supporting the manager?

2. Pressure to deliver 

A lot has been said about large workloads, stressful deadlines, unrealistic expectations and the pressure of maintaining a healthy work-life balance for employees.

However, excessive pressure normally trickles down from the top; it is not always the middle manager to blame.

Typically, when top management has no clarity about objectives and strategies and communicates poorly it creates a stressful situation and unnecessary pressure for everyone involved.

In addition, when upper management does not understand the ground reality and challenges in practical implementation, it can leave the managers frustrated and utterly demotivated.

The right amount of pressure is required to motivate people. However, unrealistic standards, deliverables, timelines, an inadequate workforce, or ever-changing targets make it extremely difficult for managers to keep up. A situation like this can quickly lead to low morale and low productivity.

3. Burn out

During this era of remote working, burnout is a genuine issue.

Just as everyone else is susceptible to burnout, so are managers.

In fact, burnout is a more significant reality for managers because they have the added responsibilities of dealing with situations that exceed their current coping skills, abilities, and knowledge and often without the necessary support.

In addition, like everyone else, they also have to contend with long hours, work stretching into what was previously considered personal time, and heavy workloads that can cause mental fatigue and burnout.

4. Demotivation

Managers play a crucial role in achieving organisational goals and hence need to stay motivated. Unfortunately, like any other employee, managers too can struggle to stay driven in continued uncertainty. For example, many managers are contending with the uncertainty of their own jobs. Others have had to let team members go as their hands were tied by uncontrollable constraints. These are situations that can demotivate even the best of employees.

With no end in sight, managers too are likely to be demotivated.

These are just a few of the issues currently being faced by managers. But the bottom line is that organisations need to support their managers through this volatile period.

Also Read:  Why Employee Fulfilment is Key to Successful Retention

How Organisations Can Help Their Managers “Manage” Their Duties

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1. Support and guide managers 

In the same way that teams look to their managers for direction, guidance, and reassurance, managers also need support from their leaders when times are rough.

Therefore, it becomes crucial for leaders to take a more hands-on approach and be available to their managers. This way, they can show commitment and solidarity, which will ensure that their managers have the courage and motivation to tackle any situation thrown their way.

It becomes crucial for leaders to take a more hands-on approach and be available to their managers. This way, they can show commitment and solidarity, which will ensure that their managers have the courage and motivation to tackle any situation thrown their way.

The upper management also needs to take the time to understand the ground reality and the issues faced by teams and managers and help come up with practical and easily implementable solutions. This can go a long way in supporting managers in their roles.

Further, it is important for the upper management to give clear, specific, and well thought out instructions on how the company will move forward in the foreseeable future, keeping in mind the current remote working situation. Clarity in thought and action is crucial.

Company leaders who demonstrate resilience can improve manager engagement and retention in difficult times as well as in the long run.

2. Work as a team

No one person can have all the answers, and it is imperative that companies don’t expect all the answers from their managers.

The more minds at work, the better- especially in unfamiliar situations. This is when organisations have to garner all the help that they can get. Employees, managers, leaders/upper management, and all the ranks in an organisation need to work as a consolidated team to overcome the uncertainty and the crisis.

Engaging everyone in the organisation will increase ownership, foster a sense of belonging and confidence, and more importantly, decrease employee and manager uncertainty.

It is about turning the organisation into a community in which everyone has a role in supporting each other irrespective of their role or designation. This will help make the role of the manager easier as teamwork is one of the strongest driving factors for performance enhancement.

3. Be compassionate

An organisation may be extremely fortunate to have an efficient team of managers, but efficiency is only half the story. They may not be as emotionally tough and resilient as everyone thinks they are.

Hence it is crucial for them to have a chance to voice their concerns, struggles, and issues. Empathetic and compassionate leadership are essential at this time.

Leaders can also show empathy by granting managers time off or flexi-time to look after their personal needs.

Companies can also support and show compassion to managers who have to self-isolate or quarantine by creating paid time off policies or facilitating them in working remotely.

4. Be flexible

Disruption has been the name of the game from the start of the pandemic- and there have been no exceptions!

As mentioned earlier, most people are still trying to adjust to their new lifestyles. It seems an obvious thing to say, but managers are also people, and they have their fair share of personal adjustments to do.

Providing them with flexibility can help them achieve a better work-life balance, leading to increased satisfaction, improved morale, and lower turnover.

Importantly, managers who are permitted flexibility will also have higher levels of loyalty to the company and engagement in their jobs.

In addition, they will be willing to do whatever is necessary to get the task accomplished, whether it means taking on added responsibilities or doing tasks outside their job roles. In the current situation, having managers who are willing to step outside their job description is invaluable.

Hence, it makes sense for organisations to let managers decide what works best for them and create their own schedules.

5. Enable managers with the right technology

In this day and age, investment in technology has become crucial if companies are to gain an edge over their competitors. However, during the pandemic, the importance of technology has increased manifold.

Also Read:  How to Set Up Your Workplace for Hybrid Employees in 2021

Due to falling revenues, companies have been required to make steep budget cuts. However, cutting budgets for tech is not feasible.

To support their managers and teams in the rapid transition to a remote workforce, companies need to bolster their technology infrastructures and organise tools that can securely bring people together to collaborate virtually. Simply put, managers and their teams need to have the tech required to perform the tasks expected of them while working remotely.

For example, companies can enable their people with digital and fully virtual workspaces, a cloud foundation, and a secure network where teams can share and store files. They also need to ensure workflow management tools and efficient communications platforms are in place.

Importantly, companies need to make sure that their teams and managers have professional audio/video devices or any other hardware so that they can easily connect with each other.

6. Maintain regular, transparent, and consistent communication

Managers can feel disconnected and forsaken when working from home without the backing of their leaders. Therefore, effective communication is the key.

Like all other employees, they appreciate leaders who explain their decisions and clarify the rationale behind choices. They like to be kept in the loop about business plans, financial impact, decision-making, etc. Transparency also allows for discussion and dialogue instead of being dealt with unpleasant and unexpected decisions.

However, often managers are caught in the crossfire of conflicting messages from different leaders. Hence, HR, finance, legal, and operations leaders, should send a clear and unified message without which chaos will ensue.

7. Support has to come from the highest levels

Last but definitely not least, if anything is to be successful, it needs to be supported from the highest levels.

As we have seen, the current circumstances call for solidarity. An organisation can only survive if all of its members support each other and work as one to meet the organisational goals.

For example, if top management just issues orders but does not support its managers in their roles, it will effectively leave the managers to operate on their own. Working alone in the current unfamiliar situation is a daunting task. If managers are supported by their bosses, they are more likely to be motivated to find effective ways of doing things and solutions to problems.

Hence support has to come from the top, and leaders have to lead by example.

Conclusion

Facing the remote working challenges presented by COVID-19 is a tall task.

And many managers are out of their depth and struggling to stay afloat. So they do deserve support and ‘managing’ from their bosses too. In turn, supporting managers means that they will assist the teams under them and, consequently, everyone can lift each other.

Better leadership will improve both the managers’ well-being and their performance.

It is unclear when normalcy will return. As many say, perhaps this is the new normal. However, it is essential for companies to build a positive and supportive work culture even if it is remote work culture because if and when it is time for companies to emerge from this crisis, leaders, managers, and teams can emerge stronger and more connected to each other and their organisation than ever before.

It is unclear when normalcy will return. As many say, perhaps this is the new normal. However, it is essential for companies to build a positive and supportive work culture even if it is remote work culture because if and when it is time for companies to emerge from this crisis, leaders, managers, and teams can emerge stronger and more connected to each other and their organisation than ever before.

And now, it’s your turn! Are you a manager facing issues because of the current remote working situation? Tell us about these issues and how you dealt with them! Leave us a comment or get in touch with us- we would love to hear from you!

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