They may regret it. But for them, there's no use crying about the "good old days". Remote work is here to stay. Managers, who are experiencing a real existential crisis, have no choice but to reinvent themselves.
It is an understatement to say that the coronavirus pandemic has radically transformed the relationship between managers and their employees. With the generalization of remote jobs, both have been led to redefine their place within the company, but not only. The very meaning of the word "hierarchy" is now being questioned. To the point of provoking a real existential crisis among managers? In any case, it looks like it.
When remote work is a concern
"Without the presence of our troops on site, what good are we? It's not surprising, then, that managers are now calling for their employees to return to the company premises. The proof is in the survey of 3,500 American managers conducted by the employment background check company Good Hire. And the results leave no room for doubt. Seventy-seven percent of respondents said they were willing to fire or take a pay cut for employees who refused to return to their desks.
In support of their demands, managers cite three main concerns: lack of focus from employees distracted by other tasks at home, difficulty in keeping the company culture intact and productivity issues related to remote work.
Perhaps, but it remains a problem. In the same survey, they acknowledged that employee productivity and engagement had remained the same or even improved. This glaring contradiction is probably indicative of a deep-seated problem. What is the real fear of managers, given that the performance of the company is not affected by remote working?
For Stéphanie Tigor, head of data science and insights at Humu, a technology start-up specializing in human resources, the cause is clear: " We have data showing that managers' jobs have become more difficult in the remote setting, and many of them are not adjusting well"1.
In short, an existential crisis, we said. But can we really respond by applying the old patterns? Certainly not, and managers are deluding themselves if they think a return to the old world is possible. According to the Good Hire survey, a majority (51%) of managers believe that their employees want to return to working full time on site. This is a rather odd opinion when all the studies conducted on the subject show, on the contrary, that employees are, at the very least, in favor of a hybrid model (i.e., a mix of remote work and a few days in the office). This is particularly true among 18-34 year olds, as revealed by an IWG survey.
Making the right choices
Interviewed by BFMTV, Rose Marie Aires, associate director of Akor Consulting, a management consulting firm, confirms that the relationship between managers and employees is changing radically. "In companies, employees are more than ever in search of meaning, autonomy and individual freedom. They are increasingly attentive to their life balance, and more than ever want to feel like actors in the world. The word hierarchy no longer has a good press (...). Our society's ways of thinking are evolving towards a "greener" world, i.e. more oriented towards non-hierarchical collaborative modes of operation where each person can be a real contributor to the company's strategy, to the team's ambition and be useful to a mission that makes sense to them. "
A way of saying that there will be no turning back. For managers, there is no point in dreaming "of the good old days". On the contrary, they need to work on the modalities of a brand new organization with a strong vision and values shared by all, a culture of feedback and transparency, and benevolence at all levels.
Managers, remote work is here to stay. Don't fight the wrong battle!
1 Quoted by the Sfgate website (04/13/2022)