As originally published on Forbes.com, May 10, 2020
 

Everyone Seems Okay With Remote Digital Collaboration, Except Maybe Managers

Joe McKendrick
 
Two-thirds of U.S. workers say their quality of worklife has improved amid the recent COVID-19 disruptions. However, managers and executives are having a tougher time with things.

That’s the word from a survey of 1,000 employees and managers, conducted in April by KPMG, based in New York, which finds that 64 percent of workers say their quality of work has actually improved amid the disruptive impact of COVID-19. They report greater collaboration (70 percent) and that their team has effectively adapted to working together (82 percent) during this time.

Fifty-nine percent indicate that they had adequate resources to do their job remotely, and they also reported that their team is effectively using technology to communicate (87 percent).

However, those in management reported having a harder time adapting in comparison to non-management respondents, the KPMG survey shows. Managers are more likely to state their jobs are more demanding now (67 percent of managers versus 50 percent of staff employees), work/life balance is more difficult (63 percent versus 47 percent), and work is overwhelming (55 percent versus 39 percent).

Not every executive is uncomfortable with collaborating virtually, of course. Heinan Landa, CEO and founder of Optimal Networks, based in Rockville, Maryland, and author of The Modern Law Firm: How to Thrive in an Era of Rapid Technological Changefinds “video can be more intimate than face-to-face meetings. If you think about it, video meetings can be one of the most intense and intimate forms of communication. There are no distracting stimuli beyond what happens to be in your home office. It’s just a close-up view of two faces where you’ll catch every subtle expression, and be too engrossed in focused back-and-forth to dare reaching for your phone. After being part of several virtual coffees and lunches over the past few weeks, I’ve found that I’m actually having more substantive conversations in a shorter amount of time.”

In today’s situation, it’s urgent that managers become more comfortable with managing remote workforces. “My research on innovation in virtual teams suggests that leaders are the glue that can keep teams together,” says Ravi Gajendran, associate professor of global leadership and management at Florida International University College of Business in Miami. “Leaders can foster member inclusion in remote teams through personalized leadership by reaching out to each member. Frequent communication and a personal connection are critical for members feeling part of the team. By creating proactive norms of member inclusion and psychological safety, remote teams can be just as innovative as teams working in-person.”
 
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