How hybrid and flexible work plans are complicating work for managers

Flexible and hybrid working arrangements may be good for employees across the globe, but they are proving nearly impossible for most managers and business owners to cope with.

I have been working with managers, executives, business owners and board members all across the country and the globe for many years helping them to hone their leadership style and overcome career and workplace challenges, and I have never seen things so bad.

How is remote work complicating managers’ jobs?

I am being contacted daily by business executives wanting help to cope with difficult organisational issues and management challenges. Basically, managers are finding it nearly impossible to manage staff remotely and to maintain cohesion and workplace culture with staff straddling work from home and hybrid working arrangements. Regardless of what is being reported in the press, organisations are finding that their culture is decaying fast.

Targets are being hit, but they are not being exceeded and creativity and innovation is dying. Managing performance and having difficult performance conversations is also proving impossible for many managers across the globe. Organisations are going to lose good managers and leaders if organisations do not act to address the needs of executives.

Managers need more support and they also need help dealing with the increased complexities and challenges of managing a distributed and flexible workforce. While the work may not have changed, the way in which managers engage with people has changed significantly. Phone, email and on-screen conversations are not nearly as authentic as in-person talks. 

What are the key areas where managers are struggling?

This is leading to a rapid deterioration of healthy manager staff relations. It is also impacting the ability of managers to develop meaningful and important connections with staff. How can managers manage performance if they are not able to build authentic relationships with their people. The answer is you can’t. Here are the key areas where managers are struggling.

Company culture is eroding

When people work together in the same physical space, it is easy for them to absorb and embrace company culture. Culture is created through interactions, observations, communications, behaviours and actions. When working alone or remotely it is difficult to immerse yourself in an environment of culture. Culture is what sets organisations apart.

It is also what dictates how a firm operates and the values it embraces. Without culture, people are not connected by common values and principles. In short, they aren’t connected.

Work life balance

Staff are increasingly wanting to work different hours or take time out to deal with personal priorities. Managing priorities and deliverables in an environment where everyone wants to work different hours and in different ways is creating havoc for managers trying to meet targets and achieve deliverables. Work life balance has become an excuse to avoid responsibility and accountability. It is difficult to challenge and even harder to manage.

Single source of truth

Despite workplaces having systems in place, the challenge with staff working different hours and sending documents around for approval is that things become messy and challenging to keep track of. Unless everyone is working diligently to follow processes and procedures, using the required systems and undertaking work in a timely manner, obsolescence creeps in and version control is difficult. This causes all sorts of issues including mistakes and delays.

Managing productivity and performance

While many businesses across the globe have systems in place to manage productivity and performance, staff are blaming issues on technology, lack of appropriate systems and support and other organisational deficiencies. Managers are finding it very difficult to manage all aspects of performance across such a diversified workplace environment.

Christina Foxwell is the founder and CEO of Ignite Purpose, a human-centred performance improvement, coaching, training and consulting practice. Foxwell is the author of Glass Angel, a book which not only explores her difficult upbringing, it also provides readers with insight into how she turned her life around through employing the right mindset.