Will Home Working Reduce or Increase the Need for Managers? Navigating the Managerial Maze in the Age of Home Working

In the great chessboard of work, the home working Rook has moved centre stage. Leaving the King of the Cubical office and the Queen of the hip tech with their noses out of joining. The question at hand is a puzzling one: does the rise of home working mean that organizations will need more or fewer managers? 

It's an interesting and very relevant discussion as home working has shifted the way a large number of employees operate on a daily. This change is bound to have as yet-understood consequences on the way that teams and businesses operate into the future.

The New Normal

Organisations with home workers have been adapting and changing to reflect the “new normal” of home working, as we have moved out of the pandemic and are coming out of the remote working wars (that have mainly raged in the press) we have now reached a place that will likely be the shape of home working.

So will, home working affect the number of middle managers moving forward, or will the shift to more home working lead to less need for managers.

Why Manager levels may increase:

Increased Communication and Coordination: In a remote work environment, effective communication and coordination can be challenging. Middle managers play a crucial role in facilitating communication between remote team members, ensuring that information flows smoothly, and helping teams stay aligned with organizational goals. 

With more middle managers, there are more individuals dedicated to keeping remote teams connected and productive.

Support for Employee Well-being: Remote work can be isolating and may lead to burnout or reduced job satisfaction if employees feel disconnected. Middle managers can provide valuable emotional support, mentorship, and feedback to remote workers, helping them navigate challenges and maintain a healthy work-life balance. 

By having more middle managers, organizations can better attend to the well-being of their remote workforce.

If you are looking for more information on managing and helping virtual teams, this book by Hassan Osman could be a great place to start and explore new ideas.

Performance Monitoring and Accountability: Accountability is essential for remote teams to stay on track and meet their objectives. Middle managers can help monitor performance, set expectations, and hold remote employees accountable for their work. 

With more middle managers, organizations can ensure that performance standards are consistently upheld, even in a remote work setting.

Why Manager's levels may decrease:

Cost Efficiency: Reducing the number of middle managers can lead to cost savings for organizations. Middle management positions often come with relatively high salaries and benefits. 

By streamlining the hierarchy, organizations can allocate resources more efficiently and reduce overhead expenses, especially in times when remote work reduces the need for physical office space.

Empowerment of Remote Workers: Fewer middle managers can empower remote workers by granting them more autonomy and decision-making authority. 

Remote employees may thrive in an environment where they have greater control over their work processes and can directly communicate with higher-level executives when needed, rather than having multiple layers of management between them.

Simplified Decision-Making: Reducing middle management layers can streamline decision-making processes. In a remote work environment, quick and efficient decision-making is crucial to address changing circumstances. 

Fewer middle managers can result in faster responses to challenges and opportunities, as decisions may not need to pass through as many layers of approval.

The decision regarding the number of middle managers in a remote work environment depends on various factors, including the organization's size, industry, culture, and specific goals. 

Striking the right balance between having enough middle managers to support remote teams and minimizing overhead costs is essential for success.

Final Thoughts

Time will ultimately tell whether the shift to home working will create the need for more or less middle managers. My gut tells me that organisations will have a divergence of managers with some specialising in person management and others in home worker. 

However, it will in my estimation not change the numbers overall, just change the shape and styles of management.

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