The unexpected shift to working from home in early 2020 forced executives to learn skills needed in remote leadership. But now that the restrictions are being gradually lifted, executives need to rethink their remote strategy and plan a more deliberate approach to remote work.
Working from home is an excellent opportunity for many employees. No longer restricted by their location when looking for their dream job, people worldwide are looking for new opportunities. As many as 74% of workers say they would be less inclined to leave their company if they could work remotely. (1) Another survey found that around 44% of workers would be willing to reduce their salary by 10% to work remotely forever. (2)
Challenges of remote leadership
At the same time, however, not all executives seem to have done their homework. A recent PWC survey of 133 U.S. executives found that nearly a third described their approach to remote leadership as “going with the flow.” (3) Yet the truth is that executives need to be proactive and carefully plan their remote work policies if they want to retain their top talent.
Let’s take a look at the challenges remote leaders may face and how they can address them.
Challenge: Your tone and intent can be distorted by online communication tools and lack of face-to-face interactions and body language.
- Personalize communication.
- Schedule regular check-ins, use video calls and face-to-face interactions for essential matters.
- Try not to create video fatigue. If you schedule a 14th call that day, it may be wise to send an email.
Challenge: In a hybrid work model, remote workers might find it difficult to consider themselves part of the team, and they could feel disconnected from the company culture.
- Spread the word about your company’s values and culture.
- Hold town halls, lunches, or virtual happy hours to build shared experiences and help people bond.
- Use pulse check surveys to see if your remote employees feel included in the company culture.
Challenge: In a remote work environment, employees might struggle with a lack of suitable workspace or conflicts between work and family commitments.
- Make sure your employees have everything they need to be productive. This may include providing them with a desk, an ergonomic chair, or a company laptop.
- If possible, allow them to work at optimal hours to find a better work-life balance.
- Encourage them to switch off after work or fake their commute by taking a walk or a bike ride if they need to.
Challenge: Remote workers may feel that their work is not as visible as that of their colleagues who work on-site. They may worry that they are less eligible for promotions and bonuses.
- Make sure your remote team has equal access to training materials, software, and resources.
- Set clear performance goals and measure the outcomes with data.
- Provide transparency and avoid micromanagement and excessive control.
- Recognize that a performance report for remote or hybrid work might differ from a similar report for work in a brick-and-mortar office.
Challenge: Remote employees may be less engaged in their work because they feel isolated and lack social interactions.
- Have open and honest conversations about key objectives and challenges remote employees may face.
- Encourage employees to connect socially by sharing songs, photos, or fun facts.
- Measure engagement by setting up surveys and soliciting feedback. Remote employees who receive regular feedback from their supervisors are three times more likely to be engaged.
Be aware that managing employees remotely has its pitfalls because you lack natural interaction with people. It will never be the same as being in the same physical space. Being a great manager in the office doesn’t automatically mean you’re a great remote manager. It is where companies should and will invest – in training and coaching future remote leaders. Now is the best time to put the lessons of 2020 into practice and develop a new strategy for the future workplace.
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