The abrupt transition to remote work has the potential to put unforeseen strain on employees and team members. From personal to work-related matters, much has changed in a short period of time. Having a strong leadership presence in the office can help the workforce become more accustomed to the remote work lifestyle, and help get the best performance and attitude out of your teams. Here are some critical leadership qualities that everyone should keep in mind while working remotely:
Communication becomes more complex with a rapid transition to remote work, but it’s still important to emphasize conversation and the exchange of information. When remote, it can be much easier to become isolated and begin to communicate less with your team, which can have a negative impact on everyone involved.
Encourage communication at every level, whether it be in a working environment or a more casual and relaxed environment. Small talk can be incredibly beneficial to employees; a study by the Academy of Management shows that, “small talk enhanced employees’ daily positive social emotions at work, which translated into heightened organizational citizenship behaviors (OCB) and well-being at the end of the workday.”
It’s important to make sure that you’re finding the right balance between under or over-communicating, as either end of the spectrum can hold your team back. Too little communication can leave people confused and guessing as to their specific tasks and the overall focus of the team, whereas too much communication can often get in the way of people completing tasks or can simply just become an overwhelming amount of information.
Encouraging flexibility is a strong quality in a leader, especially seeing as different people work better at different times of the day. For example, some people are more productive in the morning, while others tend to work better later in the day. Working remotely is a great time to lean into those windows of flexibility and encourage people to work during the times of day they like, while, of course, being present for meetings and other group activities.
In a report by the International Workplace Group, “85% of respondents [confirmed] that productivity has increased in their businesses as a result of great flexibility.” Encouraging more flexibility as a leader can not only lead to more engaged and happy employees, but also to a greater level of productivity.
This is potentially a difficult time for many employees, and it’s important to be able to understand what they might be going through. People may have kids at home who are learning remotely now or may know family members or friends who have lost jobs, so it’s crucial to be supportive and empathetic. Without bringing an unwanted level of personal information into the workplace, make sure your employees know that you are supporting them or are available should they need anything.
Not only is empathy essential to keep team members engaged and productive, it’s an important factor that employees are actively looking for in their leadership. According to Businessolver, 93% of, “employees overwhelmingly respond that they’re more likely to stay with an empathetic employer.” As a leader, understanding the issues and problems that your team members are facing, and empathizing with those can help create a stronger and more well-knit team.
When working from home, it’s natural to have more distractions and disturbances than you might have experienced when in the office, and this goes for both you and your employees. At the office, distractions were typically limited, however, when working from home, there are an almost infinite number of interruptions that employees can encounter. When leading in a remote working environment, understand that attempting to increase your availability can help reduce the stress that many employees may be feeling.
Being available to answer questions or help with smaller projects outside of working hours can help your employees feel more comfortable when they have less time due to remote work factors. There are several apps that can help manage and display your availability to others; Google Calendar has several helpful tools such as time-off reminders or the ability to display your “working hours” to help people better communicate and schedule meetings.
While remote, visualizing different aspects of your work can be more difficult than in a traditional office setting, so it’s important to take into consideration how you can provide this aspect to your employees. Many employees are more visual learners, and thus understand and retain information better with a visual component. Although it might be more difficult than in person, aim to offer a visual aspect of any presentation or project that you may be working on.
Use a combination of tools and technologies to help add a visual component to your projects, whether it be through face-to-face meetings with a video conferencing tool or by using a digital workspace for visual collaboration. Having the right combination of visual elements along with text can help you reach a wider audience, and ensure that your team is engaged and understanding along with you.
Showing strong leadership qualities involves a plethora of different skill sets, but while remote, some should be emphasized more than others. Many employees handle the challenges of remote work differently, and it’s important to adapt and adjust your leadership style to not only the newer needs of the organization, but also to the newer needs of your employees. Using and growing some of these skills can help you provide the support and leadership that your employees need, and aid in all of the uncertainties that remote work brings.