The Role of Managers in the Era of Remote Work

Gimena Aguerreberry
May 4, 2021

With the shift to remote work and the decline of face-to-face employment, everyone has had to get used to new ways of communicating. But managers have had it especially tough. They've had to adapt to remote work and remain responsible for several employees. They've even had to boost morale and keep productivity high while spirits were so low.

Knowing your employees feel disconnected in their work environment can be difficult. Communication and collaboration may still feel strained, even months after your company's remote work began. However, remote managers can still succeed and help remote employees feel the benefits of flexible work.

Read on for our in-depth analysis of the role of remote managers and discover how to set expectations and cultivate excellent remote teams without any need for face-to-face discussion. Whether you're looking for Harvard Business School-level solutions or just want to improve your work environment, there's something that will help you manage staff in a remote setting below.

Lead Technological Advances

One of the biggest challenges for managers is helping remote teams gel and continue collaboration from afar. As a remote manager, you should be leading the team members with the best grasp of your technology.

For example, video conferencing software downloads were up by 90% between March 14 and 21, 2020, compared with the same week in 2019. Understanding how to use these technologies efficiently will ensure employees feel they can rely on their managers.

You don't need to have high levels of expertise, but if employees feel they can rely on you to keep remote teams running smoothly, they can focus better on their jobs as everyone works from home.

If you work for a large corporation, you may have specialist team members to help, but it's still a good idea to be an expert in your company's IT.

If you're unsure how to find the best information on the technology you need to work remotely, publications like the Harvard Business Review highlight trends.

Provide Emotional Support

Managers need to set expectations to run an efficient team while the company works from home, but it's also important to be compassionate.

Your team may be struggling with mental health due to the high levels of stress and isolation that come with having to work remotely.

During the pandemic, 40% of individuals in the USA have reported struggling with symptoms of anxiety or depression. Therefore, managers must understand the impact increased working from home and turbulent conditions have on their employees.

Forbes reports that 68% of organizations have seen an increase in customer expectations since February 2020, so they may also feel more stress and pressure to perform with excellence.

It can be difficult to know how your employees feel when forced to work remotely. Video conferencing does not give you the same ability to provide emotional support that face-to-face communication does. However, regularly checking in with your team members and seeing how remote employees feel about their mental health and how they're coping with the shift to remote work will have major benefits:

  • Establish better relationships

  • Increase communication

  • Create an open work environment

  • Set realistic expectations for productivity

Set Performance Expectations

One of the most important roles of a manager is to set expectations for their staff. Whether these are types of behaviors they should emulate, goals in performance, or rules around staff conduct, this helps maintain a healthy company culture and performance level.

However, when everyone works from home, it can be hard to know what expectations you should be achieving as a new remote company.

The best way to understand what realistic expectations are for your staff is to speak to them about what they feel they can achieve. You might not be able to pull them into your office for a chat anymore, but take advantage of the wide range of video conferencing software available and chat through how they're finding the shift to working from home.

It's important to remember that performance levels may not be the same in this new work environment. Allowing your employees to have some flexible work conditions — whether this is choosing hours that suit them, reducing workload, or allowing more collaboration — is likely to benefit both of you. They will feel more fulfilled, and a happier, less stressed employee will likely produce better quality work.

Know Your Limits

Even though you're the manager, it's likely that you're just as stressed about all the rapid changes as your employees. It's natural to want to do everything you can to help your company and employees flourish, but it's just as important that you're taking care of your own mental health and wellbeing. If you're working under someone, make sure that you tell them if you're struggling and can't complete the workload you normally would — how you feel is important.

Although taking a break can feel like you're wasting time when you could be working, resting will help your brain and body cope with the issues more effectively — leading to better work from you and better relationships with your employees. 83% of office workers want to work remotely at least one day a week in the future, so join the club and take advantage of days when you don't have to commute to the office.

Conclusion: Strive to Make Working Easier for Employees

Understanding your role as a remote manager will help make the shift to remote work easier for you and your employees. It can be difficult to achieve the same levels of communication and collaboration that happened when working in a face-to-face environment was the norm. Still, by following our advice, you will cultivate a flexible work environment where all employees can thrive.

The most important thing to do is talk to your remote employees, learn how they're dealing with working from home, and keep up to date with trends in business — you don't need a Harvard Business School qualification to do that. By following this simple advice, you'll help your employees work more efficiently and make them feel supported and happy — a win for everyone.

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"The Role of Managers in the Era of Remote Work" by Gimena Aguerreberry is licensed under CC BY SA. Source code examples are licensed under MIT.

Photo by Yasmina H.

Categorized under people.