The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) began the change for workplaces but Covid-19 has accelerated its implementation. In a situation where employees are now scattered (remote) and expected to work independently, management skills and styles require immediate adjustment.

Recent surveys indicate that almost all employees polled indicated they’d like to maintain remote working, at least in some form, post Covid-19, however more than a third are concerned that their Managers will not see (or appreciate) the full extent of their contribution if they’re not in the office. Conversely, 82% of Managers fear that remote working will reduce employees’ focus and productivity, having a negative impact on organisational results.

Finding the Balance

Whilst Managers tend to focus on the perceived lack of productivity, reality is that many employees have reported working longer hours under lockdown conditions with many citing 14-hour days as the norm. The ease of access to laptop, time saving from no commute, and simplicity of scheduling multiple back-to-back virtual meetings, means that many people start working earlier and find it difficult to switch off.

The temptation is great to work longer, but there is ample evidence to suggest that lack of balance is unhealthy, for body and mind and that excessive working results in burnout and reduced creativity, productivity, and output. Interestingly, in a survey conducted by OWL Labs, 67% of Managers were concerned about their employees overworking resulting from their remote office set-ups.

Majority of employees who indicated a desire to continue working remotely after the Covid-19 enforced social distancing, were parents who recognised the value to spending more time with their children as a result of losing the many hours spent on the road to and from workplaces.

The challenge is realising that work-life balance is a fallacy and that technology and remote working rather offer the opportunity for work-life integration. Of course, to make this work for all parties, performance management and expectations need to change.

Rather than managing people on time, employers need to set goals and reward performance based on results. In addition to making it simpler to contract and manage remote workers, with varying personal responsibilities, output-based engagement provides opportunities to pay for work delivered, and to enable individuals to determine how best to achieve these results in their unique circumstances.

Re-aligning Management for 4IR

Managers need to accept that work is “something you do, not somewhere you go” and re-align their management styles. To be more effective, managers need to boost their EQ and embrace transformational leadership, shifting their communication styles, managing expectations, and clearly defining deliverables to manage their teams to achieve the required productivity.

Practical considerations that do need to be taken include:

  • How remote teams will be established?
  • Aligning accountability and authority
  • Clearly establishing and quantifying performance requirements
  • Establishing communication channels that enable effective collaboration but avoid the dreaded “cc the world” duplication and perceived micro-management
  • Maintaining team cohesiveness and personal relationships, and
  • Setting boundaries to manage fair work-life integration within diverse teams

If you’re interested in learning more about becoming an empowered Remote Manager, then join our online workshop on 9 July 2020 between 11am and 2pm.

With more than 12 years of experience in talent management, having run her own recruitment business and headed up the staffing professional body APSO from 2007-2014, including representing Africa on the World Employment Board, Natalie is expertly positioned to empower organisations to better understand and adapt to the 21st century world of work. She continues to be actively involved at an industry level and is therefore familiar with the ever-changing legal and regulatory labour landscape. Natalie prides herself on her ability to take complex theory and turn it into pragmatic and easily implementable business-focused solutions


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