COVID-19 pandemic caused a profound change in all areas of life, not only in work life. To prevent the spread of disease, companies around the world are sending their employees to work from home. Although the pandemic in Europe seems to be in retreat, some businesses decided to switch to a remote work model in the long term or opted for a tactic consisting of teams changing in the office and being the most of the workweek at home. Particularly people in leadership positions should accept these changes and adapt to them.
Even though working from home brought benefits to some employees, as savings in commuting time, it is a change posing major changes for many companies. Leading remote teams is one of them. Remote leadership had become essential for many companies owing to the increasing globalization, teams are formed within various teams in different countries.
However, pandemics diffused this practice even to the companies, in which the leaders had not had to contend with remote leadership before.
We can identify several principal areas, which the manager must consider when leading remote workers, as structure and technologies.
Leaders should help employees determine the direction and work efficiently. Setting a clear vision and defining the requirements applicable to personnel is crucial. Furthermore, they should focus on ensuring that everyone feels safe in a team, energize them, and propose informal videoconferencing where team relationships could be deepened. Research of 2019 suggests that employees value communication via informal channels of communication over obtaining information via the official corporate website. Leaders should also bear in mind that their employees may face various difficulties at home. In particular, they should be empathetic and offer enough opportunities both for team interaction and one-to-one communication.
Staff member self-isolation may lead to uncertainties. They can feel helpless not knowing where to turn for answers to various problems they have been recently struggling with in an online environment. This may lead to slower work and delays. In addition, remote leadership highlights existing unclarities in the organization. Thus, setting the structure for effective communication and problem solving is crucial. Clearly arranged and regular appointments on a daily and weekly basis will help achieve it. Relinquishing large teams and building smaller teams with clear and result-oriented goals may be the solution as well. Smaller teams can be more easily managed. It is appropriate to support employees in setting a working structure at home and help them define boundaries between the time when they are online and work online and the time when they are offline. Being offline, personnel can rest effectively and do not have to be occupied with work. On that account, working hours become more productive for them.
Technology-related issue concerns the practical area of working from home. The employees should have Internet access and enough working tools. These tools include various file-sharing platforms, video calling devices, access to communication via chats and others. All these tools must be adequately secured to create a safe online environment. Selecting proper channels of communication as the main ones is fundamental for working from home. Enabling to discuss and debate topics in real-time, videoconferencing is fundamental.
However, it is important to have a discussion moderator and act upon the set agenda so the communication is effective, and problems can be solved by their priority. Furthermore, video calls foster a sense of community and may reduce the feeling of loneliness. Chats may help answer quick questions or in a simple organization and employee work synchronization. Emails should be used for more formal communication. Persistent notifications may distract employees from their work and their leaders should define channels of communication to be used in emergencies when employees need to get in touch immediately and receive and answer as soon as possible. To unite channels of communication as far as possible is vital so that employees do not have meetings on multiple platforms and do not have to lose their time switching from one system to another.
Article written by Dominika Štejdířová, CFR Global Executive Search Czech Republic
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