The Blinkered Boss: Management changed for good and bad with the shift to virtual work
New research looks at how the pandemic's shift to virtual work impacted managers and presents five recommendations for the approaching hybrid workplace
With the pandemic receding, we are starting to see the first wave of research about how the crisis affected workplaces. There is, naturally, a tendency to focus that research on the experience of workers, and this focus has already produced excellent analyses, including productivity calculations and documentation of employee burnout. A new paper from Julian Birkinshaw (London Business School), Maya Gudka, and Vittorio D’Amato (LIUC Cattaneo) focuses on the less common topic of how managers fared during the pandemic, and it sheds an interesting first light on the experiences of the people tasked with coordinating and managing work during the pandemic.
To understand the manager experience during the pandemic, the researchers conducted three studies with various groups of middle managers, the results of which they compared with similar findings gathered pre-crisis. The first study looked at the effectiveness of managers during 2020. In this phase, the team surveyed 82 managers in various industries (education, marketing, media, accounting, technology, science, finance, and the public sector) — all college graduates — in the fall of 2020. The survey “asked respondents how effective they were in a wide range of managerial activities, such as analyzing the task environment, motivating employees, and decision making.”
The second study examined how 40 similar managers allocated their time after transferring their work from offices to homes, “with an emphasis on why particular tasks or activities were chosen and how important they were.” The third study focused on the learning and development activities of managers in 2020. This survey built on a previous survey on the same topic completed in late 2019 with 497 managers (all alumni from a leading business school) who answered questions on how effective they were in managing their own professional development. 38 members of this original group were interviewed again. Lastly, in addition to the three surveys, the authors also conducted 20 personal interviews to “gain qualitative insights into how their work had changed since March 2020.”
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