Let’s start with a fact.
56.8 percent, to be exact, are working remotely at least part of the time (Upwork, 2020). And the managers believe that 26.7 percent of the workforce will continue to remain fully remote in 2021. Whatever the future holds, as a leader or a manager, you need to take lessons from the past and make smarter decisions about remote work leadership to manage employees working from home.
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In March, the world was pushed into the unknown scenario which escalated the digital transformation plans of years into weeks! Since 2021 Q2 has already set its foot forth, here are a few leadership lessons learned from COVID-19 which will come in handy to manage employees in a remote work setting.
- Get mindful about your activities: When we worked at the office, we took coffee breaks, grabbed a sandwich, and some natural pauses to take physical and mental breaks. However, when it comes to working remotely, you miss these breaks and feel like you are working non-stop, yet you are not achieving maximum productivity. That is where you need to be intentional.
- Polish your communication skills: Being separated from your workplace sure wore out your communication skills. Working alone in a house is different from working surrounded by people. Communication is the key, and you need to use this key to unlock the barriers between you and your employees. Working on your communication skill will help you get those extra points in best leadership during COVID-19.
- Build processes for project management: COVID-19 has tested our ability to manage our work virtually and deliver them on time. While some projects quickly adapted remote work model, many took more time. It is necessary to implement a process for project management that can work effectively and efficiently.
- Focus on the need of employees: Employees are the base of any organization. The ones who keep your operations running even remotely! So it just makes sense to keep them motivated and more into the organization. Focusing more on their needs, encouraging and appreciating them gives them a boost to work more diligently.
- Build your relationship-building skills: By now, you may be comfortable working remotely, but although the tools like Zoom, MS Teams, Slack may help in establishing connection virtually, they cannot make you feel connected. To build your relationship with your colleagues, you have to take the initiative and bridge the gap between you and your employees.
- Be comfortable with your workspace: It is necessary to adapt and find peace with a new situation. You should discover a new normal spot to lead your team better. You can try by starting the day with some light-hearted chats which would have taken place before the work, in the office. Being comfortable with the setup will give you a sense of familiarity and will boost your efficiency as a leader.
Leaders from across industries are worried about all the other intangible factors affecting remote teams. How can you preserve the company values in a virtual environment? What is the impact on the mental health of the employees while working remotely? As the only difference between their life and work is whether they are using a company-provided laptop or their own.
These are some of the many factors that are harder to quantify. But few things are clear from this remote work experiment that we have embarked on.
Here are lessons learned from COVID-19 in the workplace;
- There isn’t a single version for the remote-work model: For most companies, working remotely means replicating the activities that usually happened in the office. Whereas, in some companies, leaders were able to construct a successful work model where the employees felt connected and empowered to do creative work. Since this pandemic is a “first” for all, organizations around the world are trying to implement work models that fit them best. Therefore, there isn’t any defined version for the remote-work model.
- Reconstruction and support are essential in creating a successful remote team: COVID-19 leadership style is different from the traditional style. Creating an environment in which holding more frequent check-ins with direct reports from employees will not solve the purpose of being connected virtually. Micromanaging is not the ideal method to boost the productivity of your remote employees. The management should prioritize results over hours logged. The support is needed the most, at the time working remotely.
- Flexibility is good, but up to an extent: One of the best things that came from remote work is flexibility in work. For employees, this has caused changes in their daily routines, both personally and professionally. While flexibility can be great, it comes with some not-so-great results as well, such as the laid-back attitude of employees, delay in completion of work, and mixing of personal and professional life.
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Leaders need to set some work cycle that would help the employees to differentiate between the two lives even by staying in the same place. Employees should also try to create a gap between their professional and personal space.
Moreover, COVID-19 has taught us many things about various leadership styles. Every organization has adopted its unique set of processes that would be suitable for it. You need to find your unique approach, what best for you and your employees. How you can support them and create a favorable environment for them to work? All these factors will determine how well you can manage your remote team.