Remote staff 'still value the human touch'

The rise in remote management, which has inevitably accompanied the shift to home working during the pandemic, could be damaging both staff morale and output, according to a new survey.

Office and home based team chat
The survey by global recruiters Robert Walters found that 60% of professionals felt "‘disengaged" because of the lack of face-to-face contact with their managerial leaders.Some 48% of respondents said that fewer meetings (less than one a week) and less interaction with their managers had led to a dip in their output."Both output and morale steadily increased for professionals who spent more days in the office with their manager," reported Robert Walters."
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Communication and productivity

In fact, when asked how often professionals speak to their line manager when working from home, 22% stated that they "don’t really communicate with a manager when working from home" – up from just 3% who stated the same at the beginning of the pandemic.The survey found that a third of managers had permanently adopted new management styles since the arrival of the pandemic and now favoured holding catch-ups with their staff over the phone or via video calls, rather than in person.Many professionals, said the report, believed that this increasing lack of contact with their line managers had resulted in their being overlooked for new opportunities (44%), career progression (37%) and training (26%).

Remote leadership

Toby Fowlston, CEO of Robert Walters and Walters People, said: “As the concrete solidifies on hybrid working schemes, the long-term impact of remote leadership is yet to be assessed, but it cannot be ignored.“Professionals vying for progression want to show initiative, adaptability, and the ability to handle responsibility by themselves – and so by nature they won’t necessarily ask for more face time with their manager as they feel it works against the point they are trying to prove.“Outside of effective delegation and general team management, a line manager must act as a leader – guiding and supporting each individual and helping to finesse and bring out star qualities and skills.“This leadership skill is not simply an ‘add-on’ to a line managers duty but critical – and central to that is high levels of engagement, face time and shadowing. Businesses must understand that if they are to have a solid future talent pipeline, they should take a look at the current management style of their leadership team and make adjustments to ensure there is face to face interaction, where possible.”

Onboarding and hybrid working 

The survey also found that 62% of professionals would be put off by a job offer that was not delivered in person, with more than three-quarters feeling such an offer should be made by a line manager, rather than someone from HR.Additionally, 45% regarded it important that they be invited to a team lunch or other social gathering within the first week of starting a new job.“Job satisfaction takes many forms, but these survey results highlight how companies need to be acutely aware of the potentially negative effects of impersonal processes for hiring or managing employees," said Mr Fowlston. “Where in many instances technology and the virtual world can aid proficiency, it is no replacement for human interaction when trying to engage a prospective employee or onboard a new hire.”

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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