Workers are adapting to remote working – but what about management?

The workforce has been quick to adapt to the new demands of remote working, but KPMG reveals that the growing pains may be lingering a little longer for management.
13 May 2020

Managers face unique challenges when working from home. Source: Unsplash

  • According to KPMG, 64 percent of US workers found their quality of work has improved
  • While employees may have adapted, managers are faced with new challenges
  • Flexibility is key to helping employees cope with responsibilities at home and work 

We are weeks, if not months, into our new remote working routines, with signs of economic activities kicking in gradually as schools and essential businesses in some parts of the world begin to reopen. 

With lockdown measures relaxing, Germany and France are reopening schools and bringing forward new regulations to public use of transport and facilities. Meanwhile, in the UK, workers in industries like construction and manufacturing are encouraged to return to work as the economy opens up.  

Even so, for most workforces, the coast is not completely clear for everyone to head back to their offices just yet. But for many, the change of approach is working. In fact, 94 percent of employees in the US have stated they are more committed to their company now – in the midst of remote working – than they were before the coronavirus outbreak. 

This is based on a survey conducted by KPMG in early April. The managed services giant collected responses from 1,000 full-time and part-time employees from various companies across industries, with 42 percent from non-management roles and 58 percent in managerial roles. 

Adapting to the remote working life

In the thick of the pandemic, about half (54 percent) cited their productivity levels have increased, and quality of work was also found to be improved as 64 percent claimed. Not only have employees cut out their commute (which takes up close to an hour each day on average), they have full control over their working conditions, and fewer logistical concerns to worry about.

In addition, 7 out of ten reported greater collaboration ever since transiting to a work-from-home setting. This is likely due to the adequate resources employees have to ensure their daily workflow faces minimal disruption with the new arrangement, as 59 percent of respondents indicated. A majority (87 percent) agreed that their teams are also efficient in using the technologies to communicate.  

Of course, for most employees, the shift to remote working won’t have come without some growing pains.

What about the management?

The findings revealed positive feedback from remote workers adjusting and striving under the unusual circumstances, but the findings were a little different for those in management. 

The KPMG American Worker pulse survey indicated that while many white-collar workers may be familiar with remote working, few managers have experience in overseeing a remote workforce. 

About 72 percent of upper management workers and 66 percent of middle managers stated their jobs are more demanding in this new work arrangement. Managers are also finding it more challenging to establish a work/life balance in the midst of the global pandemic (63 percent) as compared to employees (47 percent) in non-managerial positions.

The abrupt shift to a completely remote workforce does pose unique challenges for managers in ensuring daily workflow runs as smoothly as possible to meet tightening deadlines and keeping team spirits high. 

One of the stark differences in working remotely and in the office is the absence of face-to-face communication and support between managers and their teams. Carolyn Kopprasch, Chief of Special Projects at Buffer, indicated the COVID-19 induced work-from-home routine is unprecedented.

“Being remote in a pandemic is not the same as being remote before the pandemic,” Kopprasch said. 

From her experience, the most significant skill for a remote manager is to be able to “go with the flow,” especially under abnormal circumstances. This was a strategy employed by Activision Blizzard, a California-based video game company, which moved 99 percent of its 10,000 employees to remote working.

The company adapted its remote-work policy to support the mass transition to work from home by incorporating more flexibility for employees to juggle with work and life at home.