Study highlights role of good line management during Covid

A new study shows the importance of supporting line managers to deliver hybrid working.

A woman sits at her desk with hand sanitiser and face mask in the foreground


Line managers are crucial to how well employers are able to manage during lockdown and to employee wellbeing, but are often not given the support they need, a new study has found.

The report from the Institute for Employment Studies [IES] comes as another study shows the mental and physical health impact of remote working during the pandemic. The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) found that two-thirds of workers who shifted from the office to home during the pandemic felt less connected to their colleagues, with more than half saying they found it harder to switch off, almost two in five finding the change to remote working had disturbed their sleep patterns and 46 per cent doing less exercise. Only a third had been offered support with their mental health.

The IES’ Working under Covid-19 Lockdown: Transitions and Tensions, found frequent contact with a line manager is a key determinant of better mental health during the pandemic. It says a good line manager can also spot the early signs of anxiety, stress and loneliness.

Interviewees in the study shared stories of line managers going to extraordinary efforts to support their teams emotionally and practically, “my manager has been extremely supportive and I think that makes all the difference. We have very open one-to-ones and I say how I’m feeling about things. I feel really lucky.”

But the study found only a minority of line managers had received any guidance on how to manage these new complexities of different work patterns caused by lockdown and newly geographically dispersed teams. Line managers were also having to carry this extra burden without any adjustments being made to their workload, the report said.

The study also found lower self-investment in training during lockdown, with only one in three (33%) employees having engaged in any extra training or learning to enhance their skills.

The study also found working from home had exposed some line managers who lack any empathy and the necessary people skills needed to navigate managing teams in a new way.

It called on employers to look after their line managers and recognise the extra work they have been doing during the pandemic, develop standards for good line management, with a greater emphasis on the social and interpersonal skills needed to support, motivate and engage people through changing circumstances and offer training that strengthens the management skills and capabilities that a likely hybrid model of working demands.

Principal Investigator Dr Jane Parry University of Southampton, said: “For many employees, line managers are the face of their organisation. They go beyond their job description and paid hours to look after others and help them shine. But who looks after them?”

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