To Lead Not to Manage

We’ve all met them. Those elusive unicorns of the business world: good leaders. Charismatic, energetic, There’s a difference between managers and leaders. Leaders are individuals who inspire and encourage those around them. They seek out collective wins, they celebrate the successes of their hires. Leaders focus on the big picture and don’t get bogged down in the minutiae. That is, however, where managers thrive. Managers are the hawk circling their prey – keeping an eye on every detail and deadline. Second guessing their staff, unashamedly taking praise for successes and quickly attributing blame for failures.

Okay – that’s a bit of a harsh over generalization. But, it does serve the point we’re about to make about working remotely.

Wait, what? (Read on, we promise it’ll be worth it.)

For years, management has bought in and propagated the belief that staff can only be effective somewhere between the hours of 8 or so am until up to about 6 pm. That this effectiveness is at its peak when sitting at a desk in the office. That lunches can be no more than an hour (unless you make up those minutes) and should happen between noon and two. Breaks, though not prescribed, should be brief – to encourage this coffee and water coolers are made available. It is not only acceptable but advisable for managers to come in, often unannounced, and ask for project updates. Managers should feel empowered to check work and question their staff’s decisions. And, under no circumstance, should employees be trusted to work from home. First, how would a manager know what they were doing? Which leads to point two: it would cost the company too much money.

Thankfully, these beliefs are being challenged. Increasingly, leaders are recognizing the value of remote work – aka telecommuting or working from home – both in terms of employee happiness and retention, as well as in company profitability. Managers, however, still haven’t read the memo.

In 2014, PGi released a report on telecommuting – and leaders took note:

82% of remote workers reported reduced stress

80% of remote workers reported improved morale

70% of remote workers reported improved productivity

69% of remote workers reported improved absenteeism rates

A 2018 Medium article echoed PGi’s results, proclaiming that remote work not only saves company overhead costs, but it also makes money thanks to increased productivity. In the span of just four years between studies, a 21% rise in productivity of remote workers was reported.

Extrapolating from these numbers, one can easily see the benefits – both for employees and for the bottom line – of equipping a team to work remotely. Studies continue regarding keeping remote workers engaged, maintaining a sense of team, building a work culture and project management. Back in 2014, managers celebrated PGi’s reporting that telecommuting decreased collaboration, weakened meetings, and limited career growth. But, a lot has changed in the four years since this study. Technology continues to find novel solutions to these concerns. There are apps and tools available to ensure that your team can stay connected regardless of the geographic boundaries, which bring up another point for remote working for those of you playing along and keeping score at home: it enables you to source the best talent for your team from, quite literally, anywhere in the world.

For team members, working remotely provides a number of benefits: zero commute time, more flexibility in your day, and increased productivity by eliminating distractions. This isn’t to say there isn’t a time or a place for an office – sometimes meeting face to face is needed. But by seeing remote work as a part of your workplace culture – just yet another tool to help your team do great work – is a great way for leaders to attract and retain amazing talent. Sorry managers, until you change your ways you’ll just have to settle for a little less from your staff.

At BarnRaising Associates we can’t imagine what a 9-5 office job would look like. Our team all works remotely – meaning clients aren’t paying for a flashy office or other overhead. The result? Clients have access to industry professionals for less of an investment than they’d expect. Our team collaborates together to find creative solutions to all your challenges. And because our success relies on understanding what’s new and next, we’re able to pass this knowledge onto you.

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