Post-crisis, many would either expect things to go back to how they were or change fundamentally.
With the global shift to working from home, employers are now faced with the unexpected challenge of managing remote teams. What used to work traditionally, may not anymore. As the coronavirus left little time for preparation, employers have had to roll out telework policies quickly.
Although technological tools are available, there is more to be done in a personal context to help bridge the gap between managers and employees.
Adapting your leadership style to a remote setting requires an understanding of the changes. Reduced face-to-face interaction, access to information, increased isolation, and different environmental challenges are some factors that affect management.
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1. Increase communication and its channels
When working remotely, employees can benefit from a more involved and personal management style. This starts with structured daily check-ins that help management keep in close contact with their teams. Leveraging different communication channels is key to this.
While emailing may cover communication, it cannot replace non-verbal cues that are essential to workplace relationships. Communication tools such as Slack and Skype decrease response time, so you can reach out to employees much quicker.
Video conferencing tools like Zoom, on the other hand, offer visual interaction, improving relationship management and decreasing feelings of isolation.
2. Plan for remote social interaction
Remote work removes the opportunity for water cooler conversations and team lunches, but it does not have to spell the end of workplace relationships.
Managers can do this in several ways. You can use the time before the commencement of a meeting to catch up with team members in an informal way. Planning for virtual team building over Zoom with registered vendors can also help remote teams feel more connected. Care packages can also make remote teams feel recognised and valued.
Adopting an empathetic leadership style is how managers can continue to care for the welfare of their remote teams, through inexpensive and small, but impactful ways.
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3. Invest resources into emotional support
“If you’re used to seeing your colleagues or customers every day, feelings of isolation can creep in remarkably quickly,” notes Jane Sparrow, founder and director of The Culture Builders.
On top of increased social interaction, managers also need to listen more actively to identify and support remote employees who are facing anxiety or stress. The abrupt transition to remote work can be unsettling, with many not communicating openly.
Taking the time to acknowledge feelings of stress through informal conversations and check-ins can nurture an open relationship between you and your remote teams. Aside from offering words of encouragement, you can also increase mental health support resources by offering leave benefits or subsidising therapy.
4. Learn to let go of your team
This is where managers need to resist the temptation to micromanage their employees. Not only is it unsustainable to do so, but keeping tabs on your employees can also diminish trust and respect.
Be wary of turning every check-in or meeting into a reporting session. Expecting your remote team to report on every mundane task adds on extra work, on top of reducing morale. Spending your time worrying about what your direct reports are doing does not equate to better products or results.
Understand the difference between accountability and micromanaging. Set clear expectations with your team on what needs to be shared and when, and trust that they will get the job done.
5. Celebrate milestones with your team
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Remote teams may not flourish from micromanaging, but they can benefit from recognition and appreciation. Keep the social activities alive by finding ways to observe and partake virtually.
Celebrate birthdays with a virtual dance party, send a token of appreciation or offer a shoutout on work communication channels to recognise a team member’s contribution.
Managing a remote team may be an unprecedented challenge for companies around the world these past two years. However, the objectives of good leadership hardly change.
Your team needs to feel supported, engaged, and productive. It matters less how you do it, and more importantly, whether you address the circumstantial needs of every employee.