Lockdown makes people management more time consuming

21 April 2021 Consultancy.uk 4 min. read

While people management has become more time consuming for many managers during lockdown, most regard it as an improvement to their working lives. More than half said it was “a privilege” and the most important part of their job, while fewer than 2% said it got “in the way” of their duties.

Much has been made of the impacts the move of work into the home space has had on workers’ mental health and productivity, as well as their transforming expectations for after Covid-19. Now, a new study has highlighted the many ways that managers have also seen their job change over the last year.

According to data from performance management company Actus, as many as 95% of managers believe that remote management during the pandemic has been ‘entirely different’ to face-to-face management. Respondents to Actus’ poll also stated that a number of core activities have moved up and down their agenda in recent months.

How important are the following management behaviours in a remote working environment compared to face-to face

When asked what people management behaviours were more important within a remote environment, in contrast to face-to-face interactions, a vast majority of 82% said providing frequent check-ins and one-to-ones as significantly more important to their jobs than before. As workers were distributed away from other team members, these interactions served an important form of support – though they might have felt more cumbersome and formal than the ad-hoc engagements managers usually enjoyed with team members.

At the same time, while relatively few managers felt ‘disciplining or correcting’ performance issues was more important during lockdown, 58% rated providing recognition and praise as more important within the current landscape, as was taking a personal interest in an individual, at 57%. Again, as face-to-face interactions were removed, setting clear goals, recognising achievements and adopting an empathetic approach, proved more effective at ensuring employees were continually motivated and encouraged to work. This is something which seems to have paid dividends, when looking at the various reports finding productivity grew during lockdown.

Lucinda Carney, CEO of Actus Software, summarised, “These results demonstrate a clear shift in the people management style within a remote setting and the importance of creating a learning culture that is built on trust and support by empowering teams with the opportunity to enjoy greater autonomy… However, remote people management requires a level of collaboration in which teams are offered regular, informative feedback to ensure employees are coping well in this entirely new environment. It also means taking the additional time to recognise your team's achievements while taking a genuine interest in your employees within a workplace that is now defined by distance.”

How effective do you consider the following management styles when working remotely

This did see people management become more time consuming. When questioned on the most effective management style, a ‘collaborative’ approach, whereby clear objectives are discussed and agreed together, was voted the most effective style within a remote environment, while a ‘delegative’ hands-off style was voted the least effective. As a result, 55% of respondents reported spending more or much more time on people management activities, with only 16% reporting they spend less.

However, whether this is necessarily a problem depends on who you ask. When asked their views of people management, almost 40% said people management was a key responsibility they took very seriously, while a majority of more than 57% considered it “a privilege” as they enjoyed getting the best out of others. In contrast, fewer than 2% found its time consuming nature something that “gets in the way of your job.”

At a time where employees are dealing with uncertainty both at home and at work, being proactive and adopting a human-centric approach is clearly a defining trait for successful people management – but even if the Covid-19 crisis does finally end, the global economic instability and environmental uncertainty it has ushered in will remain. If this is the case, and if employees are broadly more productive when working in this way, it would surely seem that the lessons learned from lockdown regarding people-centric management should continue in the post-pandemic world.