Working from home has now become a way of life for about half of all UK employees, according to latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, and though lockdown restrictions are beginning to ease, it looks as though this will remain the norm for many for months or possibly years to come.

To be sure, factory, lab, construction and similar staff will be headed off to a designated central working site as they return from furlough and take up their tools. But for those employers who are able, the default position for now remains a preference for keeping workers at home.

This represents a massive shift in an extraordinarily short amount of time. In 2019, only 30% of UK employees had ever worked from home, even just as a one-off. A mere 5.1% worked mainly from home, an increase of less than a single percentage point from four year earlier.

Measures to control the Covid-19 pandemic forced this swift change on businesses, some of whom found themselves ill-equipped to deal with the sudden shift. But faced with the alternative of shutting down altogether, they have in the main managed to bolster technology infrastructure and adapt methods of communication to cope with the altered reality.

However, this new norm will require further adjustments in the medium term that will be harder to implement. Among them is the need for a pretty much wholesale overhaul of the relationship between employees and their managers.

A general formula for good management is to be clear about what needs to be done, but avoid dictating the minutiae of how to do it. This is often referred to as “input” versus “output” driven management, which has been a subject of discussion for many years but has taken on a whole new significance in light of current events.

At the risk of falling into what might seem like an anodyne discourse in management speak, it’s probably worth pausing at this point to talk about the difference between “outputs” and “outcomes”. Think of it like this: you go online to order a pizza, and it gets delivered to your front door. That’s an output.

But the outcome can still vary. If the pizza is late, cold or arrives with the wrong toppings, then that’s a pretty poor outcome. If it’s fresh, hot and made to order, that’s a good outcome for both the customer and the pizza company.

So let’s instead talk about inputs and outcomes. Managers driven by input pretty much rely on old-school metrics of what they can visibly observe: Did Sarah arrive 15 minutes late this morning? Did John take an extra 20 minutes on his lunch break?

Outcome managers look at results. They are clear about what they want to achieve and give staff the tools and leeway to meet those goals. They hold employees accountable to the organisation’s desired objectives but are less concerned – and waste less time and energy – about how they get there.

Research and anecdotal evidence have shown that employees respond better to the latter. But much of this relies on a level of trust that is largely missing in UK corporate culture. In a nutshell, many managers in Britain are reluctant to cede even a marginal level of control.

As things currently stand, there isn’t much of a choice in the matter, but old habits die hard and letting go of control goes against the grain for most supervisors. Managing on hours is a fairly effortless and easy way out, and when circumstances are difficult – as they most certainly are now – it’s easy to relapse into flawed modes of operation.

This focus on control is the kind of approach that laid the trap for “presenteeism”, the practice of being at one’s place of work for more hours than required, especially as a manifestation of job insecurity. With unemployment soaring as the impact of health restrictions takes its toll on the economy, job insecurity will further reinforce a backslide into poor managerial routines.

Input control portrays a picture where “managers know best”. The entire process is ready to go – staff need only to executive it, with no scope for questions such as who, how, where or when.

In other words, input-control management assumes that employees are incapable of adding value through any sort of creative thinking, operating as cogs in a machine of designed perfectly from the outset. A good result can only be achieved if the foot soldiers do exactly as they are told, when they are told to do it.

Outcome-driven management makes optimum use of the skills and talents that people were presumably hired for in the first place. The pizza delivery driver is best-placed to know the fastest routes, and is versed on where traffic congestion or temporary road works create blockages at certain times of the day. His understanding of the situation on the ground is a valuable source of information.

There are of course standards that apply in many lines of work that are necessary to meet legal and safety requirements, and these fundamentals should never be neglected. But given that more and more of what we do, create and sell to customers is about knowledge, the underlying need to unlock new ideas and release creativity existed long before the onset of novel coronavirus.

Savvy organisations were already headed down this avenue of commercial advantage before lockdown restrictions, but with what is set to become a substantial permanent shift towards remote working, outcome management is now fundamental. If supervisors are unable to execute, or workers truly incapable autonomous contributions, then it’s time to revisit your organisation’s hiring and promotional practices.

The world of work was evolving at a rapid clip before the onset of Covid-19, but is now accelerating at light speed. No one saw it coming before March, yet here the disease is in its terrible glory, like the meteor that pummelled Earth and brought an end to the dinosaurs. Business is not destined to extinction at the caprice of coronavirus, but bosses who fail to adapt to new ways of remote management will put their firms squarely in line for the cull of natural selection.