Do We Need Management Anymore? 3 Strategies for the Hybrid Workplace
Do you need a manager? That may sound odd, but the proliferation of new, efficient digital-centric project management and communication software products has accelerated the pace of work and transformed how it gets done. Much of that work is being done far from the eyes of a manager.
Research from freelance job site Upwork indicates that almost 28 percent of Americans will be working remotely come 2025. And as hybrid work options gain popularity, many workers say they no longer need the same type of oversight they had when they were in the office full time. More than 80 percent say they could do their jobs without their managers, according to a survey by GoodHire.
So, where does that leave managers? Here's a look at what that looks like in the hybrid workplace, starting with leadership principles and then management strategies.
Empowerment, Communication Top Hybrid Leadership Priorities
Some companies are choosing to adopt a hybrid workplace, having employees in the office two to three days with a remote option the remainder of the week. The arrangement is intended to provide employees with some of the flexibility and freedom they've come to expect from remote work while keeping a presence in the office.
But leading from a distance, even if it's only part time, requires a different approach. According to Christine Trodella, head of Americas at Workplace from Meta, leaders need to empower their employees and provide flexibility while trusting that they will get work done. The result is a better work-life balance that can enable employees to do their best work without fear of burning out.
“This might be stepping away for an afternoon workout class or a longer lunch with a friend and signing back online later in the evening,” Trodella said.
Another requirement for hybrid leaders is to prioritize communication to ensure that the intended corporate culture permeates throughout the organization. This could mean hosting town hall meetings, having regular video calls to gather feedback and providing opportunities for more face-to-face interaction.
“Executives should work to implement a communications program that’ll engage employees more frequently for social interactions,” said Brian Crotty, CEO at IT service management company Fusion Connect.
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What That Looks Like in Daily Management
Compared to senior leadership teams, managers tend to be more involved in the day-to-day workflow. The hybrid workplace poses an interesting challenge for them because they must adapt their approach to fit the new way of working. Nurturing adaptive and creative thinking across the organization can provide vast opportunities.
“Managers must transition beyond strategies to which they’re accustomed, like managing/controlling people or delegating tasks vs. developing and unleashing them,” said Michelle Hayward, CEO and founder of marketing agency Bluedog Design in Chicago.
Engagement is a good starting point for making that transition. With a growing shift to hybrid workplaces, managers must be the ones to foster engagement between in-office and remote employees so that everyone feels connected. Building a community and support system for employees can help managers achieve this effectively.
“Right now, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rewire not just how people work, but how they feel about work,” said Trodella.
Managers also need to give employees the tools to get their work done rather than micromanage whether they’re doing it. This includes supporting employees' well-being. “Mental health services are in high demand given the secluded nature of working remotely,” Crotty said.
Conducting regular check-ins to assess what employees need can be crucial to their success, as well. “[Managers] should also be working to understand their team’s workflow and process, as it will eventually lead to making recommendations that’ll improve efficiency and productivity," he said.
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3 Management Strategies for the Hybrid Workplace
Managers seeking to be more effective in the hybrid workplace can implement three strategies:
1. Be Empathetic
Successful hybrid managers place a great deal of importance on recognizing when a team member needs help, in or out of the office. Being understanding and flexible can help managers get more out of their hybrid workers.
“I lead a team of people in different countries and time zones, and coming from a place of empathy during this time has proven to help bring my team closer together while ensuring that we all remain motivated,” Trodella said.
2. Lead with Action
Rather than telling employees what to do, managers need to set the example and show them how it’s done. If communication is a problem, managers should be the first to follow any new guidelines put in place and set the standard for everyone. Similarly, if the team has been under pressure and needs a break, providing that atmosphere can be beneficial to employees and the overall team spirit.
3. Be Transparent About Goals
Micromanagement often occurs when employees are disengaged or unaware of the critical goals of the company. Managers who choose to be transparent about what is needed of the team to hit certain targets — and why that's important — can more easily motivate employees and achieve objectives. What's more, when everyone works toward the same goal, it builds engagement and culture, which in turn boosts productivity.
There are multiple and varied ways to adapt management styles to the hybrid workplace. The most successful managers recognize that the traditional approach no longer is sufficient for employees operating in an increasingly hybrid, remote and distributed digital workplace.