Have you ever thought about how working from home can influence team management? Many companies adopted remote work in 2020 and, with the passage of time, returned to in person or adhered to the hybrid model (some days from home, some days in the office). Whatever your case, the truth is that we have never talked about the subject as much as now, especially with regard to the efficiency of teams and its good management.
If you think you are free from having to think about the theme, know that, in recent years, the exponential increase of people working remotely caused great changes in the structure of companies and management of hybrid teams or distance is a fundamental ability for leaders today.
Although remote work has already been accepted as efficient and valid, face-to-face meetings are deeply missed in companies. With the internet, we have become able to communicate at any time and from anywhere, creating complex virtual ecosystems. Even so, digital communication still has severe disadvantages in relation to a face-to-face coexistence and this has also affected the work environment.
Thinking about it, we interviewed Dante Mantovani, professor of the MBA USP/Esalq, about the challenges of team management when working from home and how to overcome them. Check out the full interview!
Question: What are the biggest difficulties that leaders face in team management when working from home?
Answer: “Over these two years of pandemic, management of remote teams has evolved in the sense that the leader can follow up on and develop the team. At the beginning, there was the concern of knowing how to keep control without smothering and at the same time creating moments of development. Today, the taboo that this was not possible has been dismissed. If you thought that remote work was a benefit or that people used this to not work, today you can see it working. Leaders already manage remote teams with less difficulty than at the start of the pandemic. Still there are challenges related to engagement and feeling of belonging. Another great challenge is to recover the speed with which routine issues are resolved in remote environments.”
Question: What impacts do these difficulties cause in companies?
Answer: “In person, problems were solved just by turning to the person who was there by your side, or going to the desk of the person who could help. The leader, sometimes gathered there, on the spot, two or three people quickly and solved the problem in a participative way. Remotely, everything became a meeting.
Some leaders of the companies I support as a consultant question the myth of remote’s productivity: if, on the one hand, we feel an increase of personal productivity because I don’t loose two hours of commute, on the other hand, some decisions got slower due to the difficulty of interaction. How to be so productive when people feel the weight of fatigue from looking at a screen eight hours a day, from the lack of being there, together, to speed up problem solving? We are compensating for the loss of agility by working more, using the hours that were previously spent on transportation. This generates an overload, and neither companies nor people are prepared to deal with it well.”
Is there a solution?
Question: How can leaders overcome these difficulties?
Answer: “The return to the physical environment, even if a few days a month, is important for both belonging and engagement and agility to solve routine problems. Sharing time at the coffee table, having casual meetings, all of this helps and can be better used in the hybrid model. In these moments, people interact more, being physically close and quickly solving the problems, without having to set a meeting for everything.”
Question: Do you have some tips for leaders?
Answer: “For the time you are in the remote setting, a practical tip is to agree with the team on eliminating the protocol request of messaging ‘Can I call you?’ in the hope that the other is online. Most people will see this request hours later and when they respond “Yes”, timing has been lost. Agree, then, to ask the person to call you without asking. If you can, you answer at the time, if you can’t, send a message to set a time when you can talk.
Another basic tip is to dose well the moments of monitoring the routine management : weekly doing the meeting of team alignment for everyone to be on the same page and ensure that everyone is aware of the same issues, and doing 1:1 weekly or fortnightly to follow projects, with a schedule, topics to be accompanied by and moments of feedback or learning.”
The future of work
Question: What do you see for the future of team management when working from home?
Answer: “There was an enchantment with the remote work. Many companies reduced physical space, closed entire floors due to the remote work. Now companies are creating the enchantment in ‘returning to the office’. There will be a need to have more physical jobs and if companies think that the in-person will bring a lot more agility than hybrid/remote, we have the culture of in-person again.
There is a game of forces, because part of the people prefer to stay at home, because they live away from the office, being able to go to the gym at lunch time or stay with their children, especially the people who have moved to the countryside and redesigned life in this period of pandemic. For these, it would be a disorder to make a return to the in-person. There are other people who prefer and even need to live alongside with people at work. How will it be? Nobody even knows what will prevail.”
Question: How this scenario influences the mental health of professionals?
Answer: “The pandemic brought a lot of pain and losses and the remote brought a lot of overload. This all started to weigh more and provoke questions of the type: “Is this what I want for my life?”, ‘What is the logic behind staying my entire life killing myself in front of the screen of the computer?’. Those who question and seek alternatives, end up asking to go out in search of something that makes more sense for their lives, even if they earn less.
I believe that companies that continue to invest in mental health and open spaces of dialogue to better configure the balance between in-person and the remote work will be ahead in the creation of an environment in which professionals most disputed by the market want to stay.”
Have you also been thinking about the difficulties in team management? Want to discover other solutions to optimize work? Then learn about the MBA USP/Esalq in Project Management! Don’t miss this opportunity!