Most executives expect remote work to continue at its current level—or increase—signaling that it will likely remain an integral aspect of the work landscape.

Remote work—in some form—appears to be here to stay. However, uncertainty hovers as employers and employees seek the ideal balance between productive in-person collaboration and accommodating employee flexibility.

Several studies indicate that many workplaces have embraced a hybrid model, with fewer people in the office and a growing number of employees working from home. “This is the new normal,” said Nick Bloom, Stanford scholar and remote work expert.

Associations are in line with the trend, with many executives saying they expect remote work to either increase or stay the same. In contrast, only 24% said it would decrease, according to an early November Avenue M text poll and LinkedIn poll with 85 executives.

But the big question is: how do we find that sweet spot between effective teamwork and giving employees flexibility?

Because remote work lets people work wherever they want, it brings up questions about how to best manage distributed teams. The tricky part for bosses is figuring out how to give their remote staff the right amount of help and freedom. Even though remote team members cherish their independence, they also crave some level of direction and a sense of belonging. Managers may feel out of their depth overseeing employees they rarely see in person. At the same time, micromanaging remote workers can torpedo productivity and morale. Therefore, you need to find the sweet spot between micromanaging and giving remote workers enough autonomy.

When asked how comfortable they are leading a remote team, one association leader, who expects an increase in remote work, said limited social connections with remote colleagues is a challenge, especially during peak or difficult periods. “Purely remote teams are more like collections of individual specialists rather than mutually connected colleagues.”

Another association panelist, who predicts no change in remote work’s evolution, said, “I think my team loves being remote and are very productive. I do make sure our weekly meeting has bonding time,” which includes questions about their weekend, what they do for fun, and how their families are.

Remote workers need managers who provide direction and resources while giving them space. With the right mix of support and freedom, remote teams can thrive even when working miles apart.

Get to Know Staff Better

Measuring who people know and how they interact in those relationships with social network analysis might be a better way to gauge potential employee success—especially in a remote work environment—instead of only analyzing their attributes.

Better People Analytics: People analytics, which uses employee data for talent management, often overlooks the impact of how people interact with each other. Relational analytics, based on social network patterns in internal communications data, helps predict success factors in a more comprehensive way.

Another CEO, who anticipates an increase in remote work, said, “My team has been fully remote and has been for four years. The only detriment to it is how it affects team culture and teambuilding. Creating that is significantly more work and effort than it would be if we were in an office together every day.”

One leader noted that organizations that don’t embrace flexibility may lose out on talent. “If you really think about a typical day in the office, you might discover that you are more available to your team in a remote setting, not to mention being less stressed from a commute and more available to your family.”

However, remote work is not the right solution for every organization. One CEO, who predicts a decrease, said they don’t want to lead a fully remote team because of the nature of their work on policy influence and persuasion. “We have too much internal collaboration that requires us to be together for at least a couple of days on a weekly basis.”

Remote work is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Some organizations and roles may still require a significant in-person presence for constructive collaboration. However, those who embrace remote work appreciate its advantages, including better productivity and work-life balance.

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For more insights on managing the challenges and advantages of remote work, read Avenue M’s quick summaries of the following resources, and click the links below.

How AI Can Help Stressed-Out Managers Be Better Coaches

Managers face greater demands to support employees, especially with remote work and changing generations. AI tools can help, but managers need to address trust issues. Five research-backed steps to make AI coaching beneficial for managers and employees are establishing trust, involving employees, empowering data control, customizing output, and training managers.

Here are the top tips from the recommended steps.

  • Establish psychological safety and trust in AI-assisted coaching.
  • Create an AI governance board for transparency and privacy safeguards.
  • Provide intensive coaching training for managers and teach them to use AI-generated data sensitively and effectively.

AI tools can improve coaching for managers and employees by providing more personalized and accurate guidance without adding more work for managers. However, to achieve this, it’s important to integrate AI technology to ensure a positive experience for everyone.

The Old Office Is Going Extinct. Here’s What the New Normal of Work Looks Like

The work landscape has undergone a significant transformation, and there is compelling evidence that the relentless, five-day-a-week office routine is the least favorable choice for knowledge-work schedules, according to a meta-analysis by a leading expert on flexible work models.

Hybrid work outpaces the traditional in-office model in productivity, employee satisfaction, and cost savings. Research suggests it can be 1 percent to 3 percent more productive. While fully remote work is less productive, it’s cost-effective for organizations that don’t need intense in-person collaboration.

The future of work is all about flexibility, and the traditional in-office model is on the decline.

What Great Remote Managers Do Differently

The sudden shift to remote work during the pandemic caught everyone off guard in 2020. An in-depth study delved into the experiences of both managers and employees within the context of remote work. One pivotal discovery revealed a nuanced yet notable shift in employee expectations regarding their interactions with managers. They now prefer managers who are engaged, hands-on, and closely attuned to their work without becoming overly controlling.

Rather than wanting managers to micromanage, employees are looking for “micro-understanding.” The article explains what this term means, offers practical examples, and underscores its importance in three specific situations: setting priorities, problem-solving, and demonstrating compassion during check-ins.

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Contributors: Sheri Jacobs, FASAE, CAE & Lisa Boylan
Image: Adobe Stock