Why the push back to the office?
(What managers should look at instead to foster remote work)
As places now start to open back up there is the decision to be made whether to go back to how things were — 9:00–5:00, Monday — Friday, or allow a more flexible work schedule, maybe even pushing to a fully remote team.
We are seeing some good news, such as in this poll of UK managers for the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) showed that about half expected staff to be in the office at least two to three days a week, allowing for greater flexibility of work (which is great). But many are also seeing executives desire for complete push back to being full time in an office.
Part of this is because managing a remote team is harder for those who have no experience doing it. It demands new skill sets and a lot of people were thrown into the deep end due to the lockdowns for which they weren’t fully prepared.
There is also the feeling from managers of wanting to stick to what they know. Managing people in an office will be preferable to those that are more familiar with working that way. The reasons for this can be numerous and will vary for each manager.
We will take a look at some of the biggest driving forces for the push back to the office, and if there is a solution to address the concerns about remote working.
Failure to utilise collaborative remote technologies
An online survey in August of 200 US executives found that that they didn’t have complete faith that a third of their staff could not use the tools to properly communicate and collborate to make remote working successful.
Problems with technologies were bound to be an issue when people are suddenly thrown into the deep end of working remotely. Depending on the way people worked together, will determine the tools they need to use, and going into this situation without clear thought can be problem enough, let alone making sure that the team can (and does) use them for working together.
To help with this, there are a few steps;
Decide on what tools you need
Explain what the tools are used for
Train your team on how to use them
Due to the pandemic and managers being thrust into a situation they are not familiar with, having to find tools to cover the communication with the team can be difficult. What they can do now instead, having likely used a few tools, decide on the ones they want and integrate what they are and how to use them as part of onboarding employees.
Sceptical about long term motivation for teleworkers
Research for Harvard Business Review showed that 41% of managers were sceptical about whether teleworkers could remain motivated in the long term.
People who have the choice of where to work are more motivated than those who have no choice. There is still a little bit more motivation for those who work in the office though.
The important factors of motivation come down to, as a study by HBR (Harvard Business Review);
Play — if it is harder to get things done when working from home, missing the interaction of working with your colleagues to get things done or making decisions easier as part of a whole, rather than separately.
Purpose — if people don’t feel like they are achieving anything, if they work remotely, they may lose connection to the big picture. If they don’t feel they are making a difference or working towards something, it can impact motivation.
Potential — if people can’t get access to their colleagues, who are part of their teaching and development.
The solution might not be simple when transferring these from an office based setting to a remote one, but they certainly can be achieved. It takes investing in the right tools that make it easy for people to communicate. Setting clear goals and let your team know what they are working towards, what the goal of a project or the company is and how they are contributing to it.
Loss of control
For some managers and HR experts, there is the feeling that having gone remote has lost them some control.
There are genuine concerns that admittedly are more likely to be spotted when you work in an office, such as it being “Easier to discern whether a team member might be struggling with a task when they’re sat in front of you”. Even some of the socialising such as ice-breaker chats by the water cooler, in-person inductions for new hires, team-building after-work drinks and spontaneous brainstorms, can be simpler when seeing people in person.
However, there is the larger concern that this need by managers for more ‘control’, is more to do with being able to keep an eye on you, make sure you are working. Even though we know, that simply being in the office doesn’t equate to more productivity or that the people are working at all (sitting at a desk, looking like you’re doing work > working from home actually doing work).
If managers feel they need more ‘control’ by being able to literally see you, there is a limited amount that can be done. There are tools that can help managers and executives see who is available and connect and collaborate with their team when they need it (like PukkaTeam).
There is more they could do to check in with the progress of projects and work their team is doing. Instead of the need to see employees at their desks, they could instead concentrate more on the results of their work. The people that have been hired are there to work, not to simply be sat at a desk and isn’t it more important that they are working than simply being sen?