Leading and managing remote and hybrid teams is tricky. It requires a whole new set of skills and trust from both the management and the employees.
40% of supervisors and managers admit that they have low self-confidence in their ability to lead remotely, while others express their concerns about the lack of effective methods and approaches to influence remote teams to do their job well.
This often leads to undesirable behaviours and consequences, such as micromanagement, setting unreasonable expectations, and the erosion of trust-based culture.
So, to address these behaviours that leaders might be unconsciously slipping into, we need to understand better the key challenges they face.
Let’s take a look at them below.
1. No Adequate Skills or Support to Lead Remotely
When Covid-19 happened, and we were all forced to work from home, we didn’t really know what was happening.
It was a completely new experience for employees and managers alike. And while we thought that this state of affairs would only last for a couple of weeks, it ended up being long enough, so managers were caught off guard.
Having your entire workforce at home while trying to manage the day-to-day operations proved disruptive. In fact, even today, they are struggling to fulfil their roles, needing more support and training. Leading remotely comes with its unique obstacles, so even the most seasoned managers can struggle.
Solution: Before remote managers can be effective in their role, they need proper support themselves. This can take the form of regular meetings with HR or their own managers.
During such check-ins, remote leaders need to be offered an opportunity to express their concerns and access the help or information they need to do their jobs.
Besides, remote managers should be given appropriate training via company-wide or one-to-one sessions, so they can be better equipped to deal with common remote work issues while extracting the most value from employees without micromanaging them.
Remote leaders are also concerned about the productivity levels of work-from-home employees. If in the past, they could simply stop by a worker’s desk to check in on the progress or help out, managing people away from the office doesn’t allow this level of control.
Managers who lack trust in remote and hybrid teams tend to demonstrate certain behaviours or concerns:
- Uncertainty and worry if work will be completed on time;
- Excessive monitoring of staff to ensure they are working;
- Considering using employee monitoring software to track work hours;
- Ongoing difficulties to delegate tasks out of fear they won’t get done.
Chances are that most remote leaders resort to these behaviours because they simply don’t have the proper mechanisms to track the work without crossing the line. After all, micromanagement kills team spirit and productivity, leading to low employee morale. So, what can be done?
Solution: According to Gartner, leaders should follow the golden rule of leading remote teams by defaulting to trust and allowing them to work through challenges autonomously. You should only intervene if your input is necessary.
Secondly, rather than managing people based on their workflows or hours ‘online’, you should judge their performance based on results. Finally, offer support via regular check-ins while demonstrating patience and flexibility.
3. Lack of Visibility Into Remote Employee’s Well-being
Research demonstrates that work-from-home increases happiness and work satisfaction for most people. However, employees can also run into a new set of challenges, including:
- the inability to disconnect from work;
- worrying about the lack of visibility into their progress, and;
- being constantly distracted by other family members and non-work related responsibilities.
Remote leaders run into similar problems themselves, so they can see firsthand how a lack of direction and appropriate intervention can damage the work-life balance in a remote setting.
But unlike in the office environment, picking up on signals of isolation and burnout can be challenging. Ultimately, remote supervisors and managers want to foster a positive working environment and support employees to perform to the best of their abilities.
Solution: One of the best ways to address the well-being issue is to have regular one-on-one meetings where employees can share their feelings, chat about their struggles, or communicate additional support needs.
Another excellent idea to foster inclusive and supportive culture is to organise a virtual social event where colleagues can all join in and share their experiences. Check out some cool ideas for a virtual office party here.
4. Frustration With Collaboration and Communication Technology
Multiple Slack channels, Trello boards, emails, Zoom meetings, and other tools and software used daily in the remote setting can be frustrating. The lack of one tool for all different functions overcomplicates the communication and leads to information silos.
Using numerous collaboration tools and communication technologies also means managers lack insight into workers’ performance on day-to-day tasks and can’t keep an eye on project-wide progress.
Solution: Ditch disparate collaboration and messaging solutions for a fully digital office that provides access to all the tools that you need to support remote teams.
Our solution, My Digital Office, enables distributed teams and managers to be productive and work collaboratively in an online digital workspace without needing to jump from one software to another. Managers can easily see remote workers’ current status without needing to ask for one, allowing them to take the foot off the gas and trust that the work is getting done.
Want to experience My Digital benefits yourself? Try My Digital Office for free today! We promise that you won’t look back.
Managers, like their employees, were thrown into the deep end of the unfamiliar remote work world. They tried adapting to the new reality to the best of their abilities while organisations figured out the most efficient way forward and if any permanent solutions were even needed.
It’s clear now that remote work is going to stay. However, there is still much progress to be made in better supporting remote leaders, so they can enable remote teams to thrive.