Trust is fundamental. Companies must assess their work culture and, where necessary, assist their managers through training and the exchange of best practice techniques.

With the unforeseen increase of telework during the pandemic, team managers in our sectors have faced a dual challenge: fulfilling their responsibility for team members’ well-being and ensuring undisrupted performance.

Teleworking has reportedly often led to increased workloads for managerial staff: more “checking in” with individual team members, more virtual co-ordination meetings, etc. Trade unions belonging to industriAll Europe’s White-Collar Working Group have voiced their concerns about the impact of increased teleworking on managerial staff. They report that many managers have found a higher level of psychological stress as they have felt pressured to ensure and prove to their own superiors the same level of performance of their teams as in pre-pandemic times. Others felt mostly responsible for subordinates’ well-being, making a much greater effort to accommodate unusual working times or fewer working hours if team members were, for example, faced with childcare responsibilities due to closed schools.

The impact of pandemic telework on managers differs across countries, sectors and between companies. Where a certain level of experience with remote working and a culture of trust already exists, the effects are perceived less strongly. Where there was little or no experience, managers have felt the pressure much more strongly. They were not prepared for entirely new ways of working. Many used to assess their team members’ performance by checking their presence in a physical office and have found it difficult to switch to assessing actual output.

However, even where a culture of trust and experience with telework already existed and performance was measured by output, managers have reported some difficulties after switching to full-time telework, including giving feedback, “onboarding new employees”, spotting and resolving misunderstandings*, and a certain loss of creativity as brain storming sessions and spontaneous coordination have become impossible.

Isabelle Barthès, Deputy General Secretary, industriAll Europe:

“We can learn a lot from this experience. Firstly, trust. This is fundamental, and social dialogue at every level is a must. Companies must assess their work culture and, where necessary, assist their managers through training and the exchange of best practice techniques.”

“A post-pandemic world should offer a mix of telework and in-person meetings. This is essential for sharing knowledge, learning through interactions with colleagues, for working creatively and for establishing and maintaining good working relations. Social dialogue and collective agreements can create the right conditions for everyone. It is essential that we also keep the specific needs of managers in mind.”

Our campaign ‘Telework: my right, my decision’ sheds light on the advantages, but also the dangers of imposed telework for workers.

Our detailed demands on telework are laid out in our position paper EN, FR, DE  and summarised in our campaign leaflet. 

* IDA “Det fleksible arbejdsliv –det bæredygtige arbejdsliv” survey among members, 2020

Contact: Andrea Husen-Bradley (press and communication), Maike Niggemann (policy adviser)