Home office buyers - do they need a different kind of leadership now?

From the office to the home office and back again, or not. Last year, the topic of home offices was on the agenda of every company. Thousands and thousands of articles and blogs showed managers what to do now, how leadership at a distance works and what you don't have to do. Ask me how you should lead your home office buyers, and I'm inclined to answer, "as always." I don't think there necessarily needs to be a big difference in leadership behaviour when it comes to leading home office buyers.

Why am I of this opinion? I myself have been working mainly in a home office since 2006, apart from project times. And I also lead my team exclusively virtually. I took this concept with me from my diverse and long-standing activities in the automotive industry. There, too, we were large, internationally functional teams that worked together all over the world. I already managed employees virtually there at the end of the 1990s. What I have been doing for years has now become the new normal on a large scale - home office and presence in the company alternate. As a leader, you should be able to manage your team from anywhere.


Keeping an eye on precise targets and deadlines

The tasks of the leader have not changed in the home office. The only difference is that the employee is not sitting next door in the office or I can't just shout something to the employee across the hall. A manager simply has to define his or her goals clearly, as he or she has done in the past. It is essential for managers to keep an eye on deadlines and to support their staff - today, this is easier than ever through the many different communication channels. In the office, it can quickly happen that managers run from one meeting to another and thus arrive later at the arranged appointment with the employee. Setting up a clear meeting structure for managers and teams helps them to keep their online appointments on time.


Trust, routines and appreciation

These three concepts are indispensable to good leadership, regardless of the home office. From my experience, I have come to the conclusion that leadership only works on the basis of trust, routines and appreciation. After all, your employees are adults and a constant pressure to control whether they are sitting at their PCs is, in my opinion, no longer in keeping with the times. Working in a home office, like working in an office, requires regular communication and structure. Video conferencing via Microsoft Teams, Zoom or other platforms make virtual communication easier than ever. Daily calls of 20 minutes in the team to start the working day are a good routine to clarify which items are scheduled for the day and what has priority. Of course, it is also up to the buyers themselves to organise their areas of responsibility. A modern, strategic buyer is a commodity manager and has a clear view of his goals and his company. He appreciates a manager who respectfully supports him as a leader and mentor.


Technical equipment and programmes for the home office

Of course, targeted work in a home office is only possible if the technical equipment and the necessary programmes are available. In my team, for example, we work via a Kanban board that everyone has access to. There are many possibilities to work via online tools in which measures and plans are recorded. The necessary hardware should be made available to each employee - and it may also be used. At the beginning of the home office phase, many were still reluctant to turn on their video camera. But I think it's enormously important so that the personal aspect doesn't get lost.


Arguments for more home office

Personally, I am an absolute fan of the home office. Of course, you have to weigh up which employee can work in a home office. That depends on many factors - for some, for example, social contact is enormously important, which is why a hybrid variant is recommended. At several of my clients, who are modern and well-structured, it is now a matter of course to allow home office phases. Especially in purchasing, there is a lot of public traffic. In large, functional departments, colleagues from other departments come directly to the office with their topics - and the telephone doesn't stand still either. Often there is not enough peace and quiet to concentrate on one job for a longer period of time - the home office is the ideal solution. And it's not just that we work in the home office, but "we work from anywhere", as my colleague Niels Brabandt put it the other day. After all, the brain also functions outside the "desk zone" - whether in the kitchen or on the balcony. We should free ourselves from thoughts that work is only possible in certain places and under "supervision". If everyone works on their projects in a goal- and solution-oriented way, it is less about the place and more about leadership at eye level, with respect and appreciation - challenging and encouraging.

Do you want to exchange ideas on the topic of buyers in the home office? Then take advantage of a pit stop with me.