There has been a significant increase in remote working which has been caused by the pandemic. Despite the increase in remote working, the requirement for communication within a business has not reduced, and it is more important than ever to maintain communication primarily for the sake of team morale, as well as for business purposes.
The usage of applications such as Zoom, Teams and Skype has skyrocketed in the last year and a half. It is now more important than ever that leaders stand up and take ownership of their ability to lead teams through productive periods of time. However, in order to do that they need to fully understand the dynamics of a hybrid working environment.
When the pandemic hit and people were confined to their homes for remote working, many managers around the world became wary of the potential challenges of remote working. There were aspects they had not experienced before – a lack of supervision, lack of information transparency, and employee isolation.
Company culture became a big aspect of how leadership teams responded. Companies whose cultures dictated an attitude which lacked trust in employees meant that they were not willing to gauge performance through results alone. Many managers felt the need to schedule many meetings throughout the day in order to keep tabs on their employees.
Unsurprisingly this method of leadership does not work, and employees found management teams to be forceful and micromanaging.
In order to successfully lead remotely, trust is an incredibly important aspect of your role as a leader. There is an element of balance as well. Balancing connectivity, team building, mental health and management of people. They are all essential cogs within the wheel of hybrid working, and it is incredibly easy to have one cog out of balance with the others.
Empathy is an important skill as a leader. However, with employees working remotely, that requirement has become more difficult, as you lack the personability of being able to discuss problems and challenges with people in person. Employees can naturally become more closed up over the phone or a video call, rather than a discussion in person.
As a leader, you should acknowledge the challenges that your colleagues may be facing, and display empathy and support to them, and show that you are willing to help no matter what. The key in this day and age is to be able to display that level of support and empathy through virtual mediums.
Sometimes it is worth looking to an expert in leadership and team management, such as Lucy Escobar who is a certified John C Maxwell Coach. Lucy provides DISC assessments, which are the most popular behavioural assessment offering a simple solution with profound results. This allows you to identify behavioural styles of others and adapt your communication to develop yourself as a leader. Lucy has over 20 years of experience in this field, and has worked with many entrepreneurs and leaders in order to guide them down the path of leadership success.
There are many people who have ended up in a working from home scenario during the pandemic who are actually interested in continuing to have a flexible remote working setup in the future. Due to this interest, it is important that leadership teams understand the costs and benefits of a workforce which participates in remote working.
- Increased Productivity: Studies have shown again and again that working from home hasn’t had a negative impact on productivity as many managers had concerns about at the start of the pandemic. In fact, many companies around the world are reporting an increase in output and productivity from their staff while they continue to work remotely.
- Feeling of Empowerment: The flexibility and ability to ‘choose’ leads to employees feeling empowered. Due to the increase of control over the work and their career, it isn’t uncommon to find an increase in morale and productivity as a direct result of this feeling of empowerment.
- Improved Talent-Pool: Admittedly, this doesn’t apply to all types of businesses. However, if you continue to work remotely, then leadership teams are able to expand the pool of talent which they can hire. If you’re located in one area, there are no longer restrictions on hiring people from a specific location, and therefore you have the potential to hire better talent.
- Motivational Reductions: It can be easy for employees to feel as though their work isn’t being appreciated, and that they’re being overlooked while working from home. This is a natural reaction to the isolative effects of remote working. It is essential that a leadership team keeps an eye on this and aims to create remote social gatherings (team events via Zoom, etc.) in order to keep morale high. Make sure your employees feel appreciated!
- Employee Tracking: It is obviously easier for employees to avoid working while working remotely. This is going to apply to a minority of employees, but it may happen. There is tracking software which can monitor online activity throughout the day. However, approach this with caution, as it can be met with hostility by employees.
- Disconnect from the Team: It is difficult to maintain a bond with your colleagues when you are not seeing them every day. Zoom meetings are far easier to disengage from compared to an in-person meeting, and combined with the motivational reduction due to the isolation, it can cause colleagues to metaphorically drift further apart from one another over time.