Due to the coronavirus pandemic, businesses around the world have had to adapt the way they work to facilitate home working where previously it might not have been on offer. As a result, leadership has also had to diversify at a time when it is more important than ever for teams to cooperate effectively. Remote working will likely continue to be more common in the future; thus, leaders must be competent in managing virtual work environments to ensure the ongoing success of their company secretarial team.
Leading a team in the office can have its challenges ordinarily, however leading from afar can present new obstacles. Interestingly, a 2012 study (Dutcher, 2012) found that dull considered tasks were performed better in a controlled office environment compared to a remote setting. As one might assume, this is attributed to less appealing distractions than those that we have at home (e.g. playing with the dog). In contrast, however, creativity thrived in people working remotely. Being aware of the different ways in which remote working has largely altered productivity can serve to inform where leadership is most required and therefore, aid in promoting productivity. Just as true as before the pandemic, leadership continues to be a pivotal predictor of success.
The value we can take from face to face human interaction is unrivalled; however, in these unprecedented times, virtual technology is a precious substitute that is imperative to utilise. While many may be faced with competing demands such as childcare and home-schooling alongside work responsibilities, it can become extremely isolating for team members to go about their work with the loss of the social interaction that you might find in the office usually. Virtual platforms enable employee interaction, fostering collaboration and embedding the idea that although we are geographically dispersed, the team is still united. In addition, while it is shown that people may excel at creative tasks when working remotely, sharing ideas is a key catalyst for enabling creativity to flourish, highlighting further one of the countless advantages that can be derived from discussions between colleagues.
It is simply impossible to maintain trusted working relationships without regular contact. While many may encounter feelings of insecurity at this time, speculation can circulate easily so there must be an emphasis on listening to concerns and communicating in no uncertainty what is true and what is not where it is appropriate. It is more important to give accurate replies to genuine concerns rather than delivering a message of support that you think the team want to hear. The focus of virtual meetings does not always have to be work-related, though. It can be beneficial to encourage virtual contact between employees to build trust and team bonding, e.g. coffee chats or team quizzes.
When virtual meetings are business focussed, it is not enough to have the face-to-face contact without effective dialogue. Meetings should actively encourage all members of the secretariat function to interact to ensure everyone is on the same page. Naturally, while working from home, people have more independence then they might have had in the office and the freedom to make decisions solo. While this can be an opportunity for individuals to shine, accountability for individual actions is vital, thus open communication, and regular virtual check-ins allow for each team members’ progress to be tracked. In response to individual performance, constructive virtual feedback should be given at the time and successes should be highlighted to and celebrated with the entire team. This unique time also presents an otherwise potentially overlooked opportunity to re-assess how meetings are run and how different areas of learning and development can be invested in the team.
As the news of the pandemic changes daily, so can people’s feelings. While these unprecedented times can be overwhelming, for some, it also brings added burdens of competing home – life demands and as such the novelty of remote working can soon wear off. Faced with this, it is the responsibility of leadership to motivate and empower team members from an empathic perspective. It is consistently reported that managerial empathy positively predicts job performance regardless of culture or country. Fortunately, while for some empathy may be innate, it can also be learned and is not a fixed trait (Shapiro, 2002). While managing your company secretarial function you should aim to show active listening and encourage genuine perspective-taking. One of the prominent benefits of remote working is flexibility, so as long as the work is still being completed to standards and on time, it is important to evaluate if it is imperative for team members to get the work done solely within core hours or if some breathing space can be given.
Rachel Whyte is a Recruitment Partner at The Core Partnership, who are specialists in the recruitment of Company Secretaries, Governance and Compliance people. The team provides market advice on relevant qualifications and experience, conducts salary and benchmarking exercises and works throughout the UK and overseas recruiting at all levels to this specific discipline.
If you need advice on staff retention, benchmarking, permanent or interim hiring or would like to have a confidential discussion about your job search, then please reach out to a member of the team on 020 3589 0333.
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