Leadership in a new age of working online

By Andrew Mawson

The pandemic has been a catalyst for inevitable organisational change. How should we lead in this new age?


One of the worst outcomes from the pandemic on work life has been its effect on our contact with one another. With many companies recognising that this cultural shift is here to stay, we may not have an office to return to, or we might have colleagues who live out of town, or even abroad.


Learning the soft skills that transcend distance is key, and is something that our levy-funded online management courses hope to instil. 


The following article is written by Andrew Mawson, founder of Advanced Workplace Associates, who considers how we might prepare for this seismic shift in work culture.


Flexible working will help boost performance

We are living through a fundamental transformation in the way we work. The pandemic has forced organisations to go virtual. There are indications that this will be the norm for the forseeable future.


But step back from the noise and it is easy to see how the current crisis is simply accelerating the inevitable. A confluence of forces, including advancements in technology and infrastructure, increasing globalisation, shifting demographics and COVID-19, has enabled greater connectivity and mobility, making obvious to both organisations and individuals the wisdom of adopting flexible work models. 


Hybrid work will be a 'must' rather than a 'nice to have'

All the signs point to a future of hybrid work — between the office, the home, co-working, coffee shops and other third spaces — in which employers give their people the choice, flexibility and support to work wherever they can perform at their best.


The most forward-thinking organisations are already on this journey to virtuality, adapting their processes, behaviours and ways of working to adjust to this new world. 


Leadership will change from physicality to virtuality

So, the direction of travel is clear: more virtuality, less physicality. The vast majority of business leaders expect flexible working to become more widespread beyond the pandemic. The conversations that we’ve had with HR, workplace and real estate leaders in the Advanced Workplace Institute (AWI), suggest much the same. 


To succeed in this change, however, leaders in both business and in government must now grasp the moment with both hands, envision the future and make the transition to a digital world as quickly and as smoothly as possible.


Traditional organisational models are under threat, too, as leaders see the benefits of direct communications with workers at the coal face, bypassing the middle management layers that have historically served as a filter on the C-suite’s direction. 


Middle managers will pivot from a supervisory to a more coaching, supportive role

As virtuality takes hold, the role of middle management must morph from a communications, supervisory and control mechanism to a coaching, support and directing one.


The AWI’s research into virtual teams, in partnership with Centre for Evidence-Based Management, suggests that virtualisation requires a shift from transactional management to transformational management, in which leaders ditch long-standing presentee-based methods and instead set outcomes and provide groups of highly skilled workers with the capability, support and tools to deliver.  


Navigate the present by making long-lasting changes for a virtual future 

It is these new demands of leadership that formed the basis of Workplace Week International 2020. Leaders from the worlds of HR, facilities management corporate real estate, design and IT had the opportunity to explore how science, innovation and new working practices are enhancing business performance. 


With the support of leading industry bodies, including the International Facility Management Association, Workplace Evolutionaries, the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the programme showcased the very best in work models and workstyles from some of the world’s most forward-thinking organisations. Delegates saw real-life corporate case studies, virtual panel sessions and fringe events from global brands such as PwC, Deloitte, Lloyds of London, Skyscanner and Innocent Drinks.


All proceeds were donated to the festival’s international charity partners: BBC Children in Need in the UK; Make a Wish in France, Brazil, Switzerland and India; and the I Have a Dream Foundation in the U.S.  – boosting the $100,000 total already raised to date in the UK and US throughout Workplace Week’s 10-year legacy.


We hope that the festival helped leaders not only navigate the current challenges but also make the transition to a virtual future.  

See recorded sessions from Workplace Week International.


Our levy-funded online management courses use mentoring and technology to develop your managers in a way that will tangibly benefit your organisation from day one.

See our online management courses


See how our levy-funded level 3/5 online management courses have a positive impact on your organisation from day one.

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