Leadership During Remote Work

Leadership During Remote Work

Talyaa Vardar, MA, FCPC, MCC
Talyaa Vardar, MA, FCPC, MCC
Executive Coach, Psychologist & Art Therapist

The COVID-19 crisis has taken the world by the storm. Conventional ways of working of individuals and teams don’t work as effectively anymore. However, considering the challenges many organizations have very quickly and successfully adapted to remote working with little time to prepare.

The lockdowns changes everything. Many people travelled to their home towns in remote locations, preferring to be close to their friends and family during these times. Many of them were very new to this arrangement of working from home for an extended period of time. 

Remote working is not going anywhere anytime soon. The flexibility that the remote working offers is set to impact future career and lifestyle changes. 

However, to maintain the synergy as a team during and after the crisis is critical to the organization’s success. The shift to remote working requires that employees stay connected, collaborative and interactive while being in remote teams.  

Even after the pandemic has subsided many employees will continue remote working. Based on a study three quarters of financial executives plan to shift at least some of their employees to fill time remote work after the crisis has ended. 

With the slightest of the disconnect in communication leading to disengagement, it is important to stay connected virtually and hence there is a strong need for robust leadership during these times to keep everyone together. Tough times call for effective leadership and this blog we will talk about a few ways of effective leadership during remote work. 

Based on research the following methods are found to work for better leadership during remote working.

1. Maintain continuous and effective communication: 

When employees are away from their office, working from home it is easy to feel disconnected from the organization. A good leader must implement frequent, clear, dialogue-based communication. These are basic communication skills however they are very crucial when the workforce is scattered. Some examples of such communication could be:

  • Daily or weekly updates to and from the manager
  • Leaders explaining the rationale behind their decision/choices 
  • Giving value to the opinions of employees making it a two-way communication

2. Provide resources and care for physical and mental health:

It is not surprising that based on a research, employees appreciated company-sponsored COVID-19 tests and masks. But what is surprising is that twice the number of employees appreciated steps taken by the company/leader to foster mental wellness and support them during the times of social isolation. Some examples of these steps are:

  • Regular check-ins by managers to see how the employee is doing personally and professionally.
  • Virtual meet ups and activities like online exercise classes, lunch break and yoga classes.
  • Reaching out to positively tested employees with kind gestures. 
  • Coaching employees on how to manage stress and mental wellbeing.

3. Making sure remote employees stay engaged and useful:

Remote work can increase productivity when employees are working on stand-alone tasks and when they don’t require help of others however when employees are needed to collaborate with other teams, working from home can have a negative impact. Some important steps to avoid this negative impact is:

  • Reevaluating performance evaluations to ensure insufficient time in the office is not penalized.
  • Consistent and concise meetings are said to increase productivity.

4. Creating boundaries between work-life balance:

Working remotely may blur boundaries between work-life balance. On one hand it reduces the need for transportation and allows people to spend time with their family, on the other hand employees may have to spend extra time on tasks and building work. A study found remote workers logged on 2-3 more hours per day than usual. Especially when schools are closed and dare care facilities are in lock down it becomes even harder to maintain work and professional life.  Some of the best ways to help employees manage work-life balance are below:

  • Making the option of adjusting their schedules and completing personal tasks available.
  • Adjusting workload among employees to accommodate personal responsibilities. 

5. Don’t lose track of strategic goals:

Common strategic goals include, new products and designs, encouraging innovation, efficient operations, digital transformation and so on.  Its understandable that a global crisis can distract leaders however this is a mistake not to be made. Shifting to remote working creates new challenges in achieving strategic goals for example gaining market share is not easy when the market itself is collapsing. Leaders must keep in mind to build a budding corporate culture during working from home. 

Working from home has also provided different opportunities to progress on strategic goals. According to a study employees appreciated remote learning opportunities provided to them as most useful to build exceptional skills during lockdown. Shift in working from home provides an opportunity to organization to rethink and revaluate existing business processes to boost efficiency and effectiveness. 

Remote work is increasingly becoming the new way of working. It brings new opportunities and challenges. Organizations around the world are experimenting with novel management practices to manage the transition to a more distributed workforce. We are still in the early days, and it’s not yet clear which of these approaches will endure. Leaders cannot afford to wait for long— they need to act now to help their employees and organizations shift to remote work. We hope that our blog will help leaders as they navigate into an uncertain future.

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