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Prioritizing work without a boss when working from home

Prioritizing Work When Working From Home

Have you heard the latest fad? The New York Post reports Corporate America disposing of middle management, ie bosses and supervisors.

Gutting of middle management by 30%: Does the unboss movement impact telecommuters ?

The article cites research showing layoffs in the middle management ranks have increased by 30 % from the pre-pandemic era. It is generally thought that the movement to rid middle managers may impact employees. Detrimentally so.   In this article we discuss whether telecommuting hybrid staff are greater or lesser impacted than their traditional in office colleagues when middle managers are fired.  

Here’s a few more posts of interest:

Benefits to middle management: connectedness and relatedness

We can’t say if wholesale firing of an entire layer of managers is the right strategic move or not. Why? Because Harvard Business Review (HBR) raised valid points. Middle managers are instrumental in helping staff employed by large conglomerates run smoothly across hierarchies, business lines and functions. That’s not to overlook some of the well-known weaknesses of middle management. Namely, many holding middle management positions are thought to be ineffective and weak supervisors.

One thing is certain, however. Some employees tend to provide higher quality, are more productive and more likely to be loyal to a company when their middle management boss or supervisor is visibly present. Breathing down their back? No. But, just sitting in the corner office, readily available at the drop of the hat to answer a question, reflect upon corporate culture, provide guidance on next career moves, give a listening ear concerning a family matter, or provide suggestions based on life experience during an ad hoc brainstorming session. They help employees feel connected to the company. Middle managers, it is believed, help staff feel a sense of belonging and relatedness.

Telecommuters enjoy autonomy and flexibility

So as a remote worker, telecommuting, working from home, or from anywhere, we have the best intentions when we pursue a remote career or when we seek to be a successful online entrepreneur.  We are happy to finally gain the freedom and flexibility when working from home that we need. Our family needs. This too, along with the financial opportunities that come with having greater autonomy in setting your own work location, defining your preferred work schedule, and having a stake in making many of the work-related decisions that will impact our remote career from years to come. We’re also so grateful in having the opportunity to set a course toward a personally and professionally rewarding path for which to pursue.

Another HBR article titled, “Don’t eliminate your middle managers,” stresses supervisors influence their subordinates by making work “more meaningful, interesting, and productive.” In essence, mid-level managers help to usher in “organizational transformation can occur only with their involvement.”   

Staff and freelance independent contractors working virtually aren’t new to the concept of working effectively and efficiently with little hands on guidance. However, what we may not have expected is that we would end up overworked, underpaid, and devalued. Our virtual presence of mid-management motivated us to gain more personal and professional satisfaction from our jobs. A virtual pat on the back, recognition at virtual retreats, chat box messages just to check in meant a lot. Now, we have to figure out just how to  re-gain that sense of pride for a job well done, a project completed before deadline, under budget and meeting the high quality standards our customers and clients deserve. 

Remote workers can be prone to distractions without supervision: myth ?

We need to stand firm and draw upon the pride that we are internally driven and determined enough to work independently from home or build a business from the ground floor up. Working from home as a remote worker or as an independent contractor and entrepreneur means you are gifted the ability to work when and most likely the work schedule of your choosing. Certainly, there is a lot to be proud of in that regard. Very few individuals have what it takes to succeed in isolation because they get sidetracked by self-doubt, procrastination and distractions.

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But maybe you’ve noticed an imbalance in your work and home life. Have you experienced too much relaxation and giving in to interruptions and distractions? If so, it may mean that you have forgotten your work priorities, or failed to analyze them in the first place. This is why many argue there is great value in making capital investments in middle management. 

For some staff, without much direct supervision from middle managers can mean they slack off and enjoy (a little too much) their free time. In fact, more time is spent enjoying life or simply not working than committing to do great work for their employer or building their independent business. Why? In the absence of a middle manager, physically and/or virtually unavailable to supervise (police and monitor) their every move, it is easy to see why some virtual staff may take advantage of the ruthless corporate cost cutting measures. 

13 tips for remote workers to prioritize work in absence of supervision

If your boss was let go, what do you do? What tips can we offer to help you self-manage and keep your work projects prioritized in the midst of corporate layoffs, recessions, inflation and intense competition at  home and abroad?

Forbes offers just a few suggestions. We’ve taken the time, based upon our telecommuting expertise to add several helpful hints of our  own:

  • Remind family and friends to respect your work boundaries,
  • Control impulses to give in to needless interruptions and distractions,
  • Set aside and use a dedicated work area,
  • Rid your work area of items that causes you to lose your concentration and focus,
  • Remove clutter and maintain work materials (files, important documents, data) in an organized fashion, 
  • Maintain a dedicated work calendar equipped with sound alert features and prioritized color categories (urgent, important, routine),
  • Set time schedules in advance of deadlines,
  • Stop, give praise, and reward yourself in timed intervals,
  • Check your own work product and review for mistakes prior to submission,
  • Rate your own work product after completion (bad, good, or best),
  • Post positive affirmation stickers, posters and magnets in your work area, 
  • Listen to calming and or high energy background music, and
  • Recruit mentors and friends to give you constructive criticism, helpful insight or participate in brainstorming sessions.

Here’s a few helpful posts:

Fact: Telecommuters not dependent upon supervisors for competence 

But, have we jumped the gun? Have we falsely assumed that tele-workers and telecommuters working from home have the same reliance upon the physical or virtual presence of their mid-level supervisors than employees reporting to a traditional in office setting five days per week? Research from Brunelle and Fortin suggests work from home employees experience higher levels of satisfaction related to work competence and autonomy than traditional office workers do. They also found staff working virtually did not suffer greatly from isolation as their hypothesis generally assumed. After additional analysis of their data, the researchers found some intriguing information that can be extrapolated here in this instance.

When forward-thinking corporations embed methods and tools for maintaining social connectedness for their workers in the absence of physical presence of colleagues (and albeit the gutted middle management layer), remote workers can still feel connected in their absence.

4 Tips for remote employers to promote connections without mid-managers

Here’s the optional best practices remote employers can use to promote social connectedness among remote workers when supervisors are no longer the bridge linking hierarchies, disparate functions, and divergent revenue streams:

  • Provide ample resources for remote workers wishing to meet their peers (virtually or in person),
  • Organize informal socialization opportunities and activities
  • Reimburse telecommuter and in office staff travel costs to meet with work colleagues
  • Employ innovative technologies to enable remote workers to feel connected to their peers in real time (SMS, chat, forums, discussion boards)

Fact: Remote employers use effective connectedness tactics in absence of managers

According to the researchers, these remote employer best practices are effective in helping remote workers feel a greater sense of social connectedness. These human resources best practices also counteract the negative effects of isolation. Further, these research and evidence-based practices contribute to employees’ need for relatedness. In fact, Brunelle and Fortin noted, these specific tactics give telecommuters the opportunity to personalize interactions with colleagues such that they experience greater control in the “frequency of interactions and and intensity of social bonds, [much more so] than the office workers.”

We can conclude therefore that the absence of middle managers may be less felt by remote workers than their traditional report to the office colleagues.



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