Last updated: 15 March 2023
The COVID-19 pandemic was hard for everyone, including many business owners around the world. Because of health concerns and the need to socially distance, many companies were forced to either shut their doors or transition to a remote workforce. Although the virus is making less of an impact as the years go by, many companies are likely going to stick with their remote workforce.
There are many benefits to this arrangement, including reduced utility costs and a better work-life balance for the employees. However, while remote employees may enjoy time at home, they also need their managers to provide a certain type of leadership to help them thrive. Let’s talk about five things leaders can do today to help their teams succeed.
1. Consistent and Clear Communication
While there are many perks to working from home, one of the most significant issues is the lack of proper communication. When we all work in an office, we can poke our heads over a cubicle wall and ask a question, but it is not so easy when everyone is on their own.
These in-person interactions are very important for employees because seeing teammates face-to-face helps to create a stronger bond. Plus, there is more to proper communication than just typing words in an email. Body language and non-verbal cues also make a big difference.
A good leader will communicate with their team in different ways, including via email, instant messenger, over the phone, and via camera with video conferences. You should have meetings in the morning to go over the tasks for the day and have them when you are providing feedback and annual reviews. Ensure that your team can reach you when they have questions or concerns, and make it a point to always provide a solution.
2. Team-Building Activities
Managers can try to mimic those important in-person interactions by hosting video gatherings where the team can see each other in person. Among the many surprising risks of working from home is the extreme isolation that many employees can feel, especially if they live alone. That isolation can lead to feelings of sadness and depression in addition to physical ailments like stroke and heart disease.
Even if you try to email and instant message your team throughout the day, it is simply not the same as seeing the team in person. One way to remedy this issue is to have video conferences every week where the whole team can log on and see each other during a meeting or while discussing their plans for the weekend.
You can also help to further secure that bond between employees by engaging in some remote team-building activities. One idea is to have a scavenger hunt where employees run around their houses to find random items. If you have a musical team, then you might also try virtual karaoke. Just make sure that everyone on the team is comfortable with singing. These remote activities can do wonders for employee morale.
Many leaders are afraid of managing in a remote environment because they believe that their employees won’t work and stay busy if they aren’t in the same room. However, if you micromanage your team and check on their every move, they may feel like they aren’t trusted or that their manager doesn’t believe in them. If they feel that way, their concerns might be reflected in their work.
Instead, you need to allow autonomy and let your employees figure out the best way to manage their own work at home. Of course, you should always be available for questions, but you should also let each worker flourish and find their style. If you find that they are struggling, then reach out and try to assist, but give them a chance first and let them do the job they were hired to do.
Along with autonomy, a good leader will also be flexible when necessary. Of course, you should not let the team walk all over you, but you should try to understand how a remote lifestyle affects their lives. For instance, during the pandemic, many working parents had students who were taking virtual classes instead of going to school, so the remote arrangement helped them to take care of their children in the mornings.
Many parents may still have those responsibilities, and they may ask to start later in the day. If their work is not urgent and it can be done a few hours later, then consider allowing that employee to have the revised schedule. It is also important to be flexible about time off. A good work-life balance is essential for our mental well-being, so if more than one person requests vacation time on any given day and business needs allow some flexibility, consider permitting the requests. When an employee can tell that their manager values their time, they will show their appreciation through their work.
5. Mental Health Support
Another potential downside of a remote workforce is that there is a possibility that some of your employees may feel singled out and start to have negative thoughts about themselves and their job. If leadership does not make an effort to help their workers feel happy and included, then their negative feelings could increase, and they could start to suffer from poor mental health.
In addition to the desire for our employees to be happy, it is important to provide positive mental health support because an employee in this situation may negatively affect your business. For instance, it is not uncommon for an employee to call in sick more often because they feel overwhelmed, and some may come to work while feeling unwell and make their condition worse.
If you have an environment where your employees feel isolated, then you may also see increased employee turnover, so it is important to be there for your employees every day. Also, have an open-door policy so your team can come to you whenever they are stressed or anxious.
In the end, if you try to add these five tools to your leadership toolbelt, you will find that you have a happier and more productive team.