New statistics keep emerging about the mental health issues arising from the pandemic. Many businesses have put health and wellbeing high on their agenda. A particular source of stress that I feel businesses must be alert to comes from the higher level of trust that is required of managers who manage remote or hybrid workers and that, for many goes against their habits and, in some cases, possibly also their personality.

How you exercise control as a manager is changing not just because distance working means you lose close personal supervision and controlling the detail of what and how people do things. It is also because the combination of hybrid working and technological development is changing organisation structures from hierarchies to relationships and relational networks.

In this new context, people must be trusted to do the work, and represent the business without control or supervision. None of which means that people are unsupervised or unsupported, but it calls for a lighter touch, within clear boundaries. People are then empowered to act and take responsibility and decisions within them and are clear about the standards of performance required.

Control is exercised through a mixture of discussion and metrics. Discussion sets boundaries, offers support and deals with issues, rather than being a mere set of instructions. Metrics focus on outcomes and outputs rather than on the process. They enable deeper analysis, which leads to better decisions.

This new model doesn’t diminish managers’ responsibilities. However, it does require different behavioural capabilities from those demanded of the ‘command and control’ model. From the many coaching and focus group conversations I have been having, it is clear to me that the lack of mastery of the trust – control dilemma is a cause of considerable stress to many managers. Support to develop these new behavioural capabilities and adjust to the new ways of working should be prioritised.

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©Janice Caplan 2020