Remote working 'will be the death of the middle manager'

Flexible working will be a boon for IT managers but the death knell for others, according to recent research

Middle managers are facing the chop because they lack the skills to manage teams of flexible and remote workers.

According to research from Henley Management College, managers must change the way they run their teams as more staff start working outside the office. It warns that if economic conditions tighten, then managers without the skills to manage these dispersed teams will be the first to go.

New forms of technology — such as cheap broadband and wireless — along with recent UK employment legislation have been drivers for increased flexible working.

Flexible working will mean managers will have to trust their staff more and move away from the traditional controlling style of management, the research said. And poor management techniques are likely to show up faster when the team is working remotely, the Managing Tomorrow's Worker report said.

"With more outsourcing and work being undertaken by people on different kinds of contract, managers will need the ability to motivate and inspire staff who are not core employees. At the same time management will become more about resourcing than about discipline," it said.

Peter Thompson, director of the Future Work Forum and author of the report said UK management is at a crossroads: "For years, managers have been used to managing people simply by watching over them. With the rise of flexible working, that style will have to completely change."

But the Microsoft-sponsored research predicts that the changing nature of work can give IT executives a chance to boost their role, since management change must go hand-in-hand with technology change.

As new technology is the key to flexible working, IT directors must work with human resources and business managers to understand the working culture and training issues that might impact on the use of technology, added the report.