Crucial webinar led by the ManpowerGroup looked at best practice when it comes to managing remote teams
The government has yet to lift its ‘work from home’ order. And despite suggestions that they’ll be encouraging workers back to the office big firms are slashing office floor space suggesting hybrid and remote working will be with us for some time to come.
That’s good news for working dads who want to work from home more so they can spend more time with their family. But it raises issues for line managers about how to manage a remote team.
ManpowerGroup recently looked at best practice on managing remote teams at a vital webinar. It was called Managing a Remote Workforce: One Year On. It drew on the experiences of the last 12 months. And looked at what lessons can be learned going forward into an era of hybrid working.
The main lesson was the need to focus on mental wellbeing. Leanne Winter, HR Manager at ManpowerGroup, said wellbeing is a top priority and managers need to model good behaviour. That means sticking to working times and doing regular check-ins. Walking meetings to get people moving could be a regular feature in future. She added that Acas has an e-learning section where they provide information about how to support remote workers.
James Levey, Compliance Director at ManpowerGroup, admitted it is harder for managers to spot if someone has wellbeing issues when they are working remotely than when they are sat all day in the same office with their team. They have to make a conscious effort to check in with people. “It requires active management such as one-to-ones and an ability to understand the context of a worker. Managers need to be appropriate, listen, actively make time and ask the right questions,” he said.
Leanne Winter said it was also important to ensure there is time for social interactions in the working day. “During a normal working day you have down time. The importance of that cannot be undervalued,” she said. She puts time in the diary for informal catch-ups and doing things such as celebrating birthdays.
Speakers expressed concern about digital presenteeism. “We know people are doing more and more work and that productivity has been soaring due to the longer hours people are putting in,” said James. Work and life had become more blurred without commutes to the office, he added. And he warned that longer hours were not sustainable. The inevitable result will be burnout and disengagement.
James endorsed the idea of regular focus hours when people can take a break. He said no-one in an office works eight hours with no social interaction and without moving from their desk. Managers also had to be disciplined when managing remote teams. For example, about sending emails and not setting expectations, even inadvertently, that people will answer at weekends or in the evening.
Manpower is to rewrite its remote working policy with an emphasis on wellbeing and engagement.
With increasing talk around ‘Zoom fatigue’ the idea of ‘no-Zoom Fridays’ was floated. However panellists expressed concern that would just lead to more Zooms and longer days in the rest of the week. They felt it was better to reduce the number of daily zoom calls generally. James said a colleague made sure that meetings only lasted 50 minutes so that there was a 10-minute break between meetings.
James said it was a time to “be brave”. That means embracing new ‘people first’ models of working which allow employees greater choice over where, how and when they work. Leaders needed to set the tone and model it.
He added that it was important to do the right planning and implementation for the return to work and said each company’s circumstances would be different. Leanne said managers needed to have one to one conversations with team members and listen to what they felt about coming back to work.