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ATD Blog

The Important Role of Managers in the Hybrid-Work Era

Friday, July 22, 2022

As we find ourselves in a new era, in which many employees have the option to choose where, when, and how they work, one obvious question arises: Has the role of managers shifted? Do we need them anymore? In short, the answer is yes.

On the one hand, hybrid working has offered people the opportunity to have more ownership over their professional lives. On the other hand, it has come with an array of challenges, including increased uncertainty, pressure, pace, and stress. In fact, many people find it difficult to set up boundaries between their work and private routines. After all, virtual working follows us wherever we go, making it tricky to unplug completely at the end of a shift. How can this be stopped? Human-centred management, in this respect, can play a crucial role.

The need for managerial figures remains intact, but the toolbox for leadership development has changed. Now, supporting employees includes empathy, dialogue, and inquiry. A “modern” manager needs to know their team on a personal level to help people identify their boundaries and their definition of work-life balance.

How can this be achieved? Below are ways in which a manager can actively empower their employees in the current hybrid-work era.

Help Make Wise Decisions

As mentioned, hybrid working allows people to deal with their occupational duties wherever and whenever they prefer. Sitting at an office desk to carry out tasks is no longer a prerogative. Nowadays, you can take care of work assignments from the kitchen table, the beach, the park, or even from a ski resort in the Alps. However, this means that the distinction between professional and personal life is fading, tempting employees to often handle more things at once.

This is where human-centered management comes in, as it can help people pinpoint their limits and make more purposeful decisions about their working lives. Of course, they can still choose where and when to work. But do they really want to think about work while at the beach? And are they able to focus properly in the evenings?

Human-centered managers should encourage employees to reflect on what places and what timeframes help them concentrate and perform better.


Safeguard People’s Energy

Connecting with your team members on a personal level helps you get the best out of them. Moreover, this means that you can negotiate an individual contract tailored to their needs, allowing them to function efficiently and successfully.

The reality is that we are not clones, and we all tick and work in different ways. By knowing someone well, you can set out specific targets and objectives for them to work towards. Also, on the back of one-to-one meetings, ask yourself a few questions about your employee: What do they enjoy doing? What are their passions and hidden talents? How much work is too much for them? How productive can they be in the space of a few hours?

As a human-centered manager, you should always strive to protect your people’s drive and energy. If you preserve it adequately, the results will be extremely beneficial. For instance, you actions will help prevent burnout and create empowered individuals.

Set Happiness as a Priority

Human-centered managers have at heart the overall well-being of their team members. Not only should they encourage employees to be honest about their feelings, but they should also set happiness as a priority.

Has work become less joyful in recent times? Take action and help your employees find ways to lift their spirits, whether through family time, hobbies, sports, or volunteer work. If these activities collide with your colleague’s working hours, you should consider drafting up a new individual contract that makes space for both professional duties and unwinding pastimes.


Human-centered managers want their employees to be happy and energized, as a good mood can work wonders on their productivity.

Give Permission

How do you let your people understand how much work is enough? Give them permission to delegate tasks, turn down an assignment, and speak transparently. Creating an environment in which employees can share their thoughts and raise their concerns is essential. This way, as a manager, you will be able to learn when your team members have reached their limit.

Also, it is fundamental to recognize that the isolation of virtual working—despite its many benefits—can be hard to cope with. After all, humans are social creatures, and they crave some face-to-face interaction from time to time. What’s more, working remotely on a regular basis can hinder people’s sense of belonging.

Managers should permit their team to share their emotions. Are they feeling down and demotivated? Do they miss interacting with their colleagues? This will show them that you care about them on an individual level.

Ultimately, as hybrid working is here to stay, managers need to assume the role of guides and gatekeepers. By adopting an approach that focuses on safeguarding people’s energy, giving permission, and setting joy as a priority, you can tackle the detrimental side effects of virtual working and protect the well-being of your employees.

About the Author

Dom Fitch is a senior consultant and head of creative change at Impact International.

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