Remote working is nothing new – it’s been present for most office-based workers for some time, but the reality is, it was something that was probably used on a Friday, or at a push on a Monday.
We were dipping our toes into this new way of working, but the pandemic forced us all to plunge headfirst and immerse ourselves fully into the world of truly remote, flexible working.
And while most of the public discourse to date has been around the practicalities of making that shift, the reality is that it’s going to have a huge impact on the way all of us manage our people.
“The more authoritarian organisations would have thought people working from home wouldn’t be as productive, but this experience has shown us that they are,” says Lucinda Carney, founder of performance management firm, Actus.
Indeed, a report from HR and workplace benefits firm Mercer, found that for 94% of the 800 firms they surveyed, productivity was the same or higher than it had been pre-pandemic.
This challenges the beliefs held by more traditional managers that their people will slack off if not being directly observed and managed. A management style based on trust, coaching and responsibility will soon become the dominant work culture.
“It’s about trying to get managers to be empowering and holding their people accountable,” says Lucinda.
“Managers should be agreeing outputs rather than inputs, holding people accountable against those outputs and being supportive in the delivery of them. It’s about coaching as opposed to instructing.”
She says there will be a period of pain as we adjust, not just to new working environments but to what will be new ways of managing people. The reality is, that with a hybrid working model becoming the norm, there will be no option but for businesses to shift to this coaching approach, but it has to be properly planned.
“It strikes me that we are going to have to be more organised to have more freedom - with freedom comes more responsibility for people and managers,” she says.
“It feels like the balance of power is shifting towards employees because they'll be able to vote with their feet about where to work and old-style controlling cultures won’t be able to keep people.”
She’s convinced that this wholesale shift to a new style of management is inevitable: “The pandemic may have accelerated it, but it was going to happen anyway. Some cultures will win while others simply won’t.”
And the challenge for brokers, as much as any other sector, is to ensure that the culture they create is one of the winning ones.