Out of sight, not out of mind

The importance of line management in the virtual world for employee wellbeing and performance

Bajorek Z | HR Network paper 148 | Institute for Employment Studies | Mar 2021

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The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in a significant and rapid shift in how and where work is done. The mandated lockdown, and the government enforcing working from home where possible to reduce the virus transmission (Belzunegui-Eraso and Erro-Garcés, 2020), had an impact on everyday organisational operations, but also changed relationships between line managers and their employees. This change has a number of implications for management skills and practices with potential knock-on effects for employee wellbeing and productivity. How managers adapt to these remote conditions is important for organisations to consider (Contreras et al, 2020).

Evidence suggests that even before the pandemic line managers were ‘squeezed’ as a result of the expansion of tasks they undertake beyond traditional supervisory roles (Bajorek, 2020). A line manager’s role is pivotal for both employee wellbeing and organisational performance, but if ‘squeezed’ too much it can also be detrimental for their own wellbeing.

The purpose of this paper is to discuss the implications of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdown for management practices, the employment relationship and wellbeing, and provide evidence-based recommendations for line managers and HR.