working from home

How to Lead Effectively in the New Remote Work Environment

Lockdown and social distancing protocols due to COVID-19 have ushered in a new working environment. Team members are no longer working side by side. Communication and workflows are entirely dependent on digital tools.

According to McKinsey, positive and capable leadership will be crucial in navigating this new remote work environment.

As a team leader or manager, how can you successfully steer your team towards success?

Exercise flexibility and adapt as needed

Prior to the pandemic, work was done mostly in the office. Established workflows and in-person communication channels could be relied upon to get work done. COVID-19 is upending the normal office dynamic.

In this new remote work environment, leaders must be flexible when adopting new systems.

Implementation will be wonky at the start. Some team members may not have fast internet speeds. Some may be struggling with setting up a work area in their homes. Other may be juggling parenting duties with work priorities.

Leaders must be aware of these initial setbacks and approach each issue from a position of understanding. Conscious leadership training, like the ones offered by miick.com, can help team leaders and managers improve awareness and empathy.

Then based on the team’s unique situation and resources available, leaders should create solutions which are designed with adapting to new norms.

Avoid micro-managing the team

It can be tempting for some team leaders or managers to micro-manage people in a remote work environment. Since they won’t necessarily see the work being done in front of their eyes, there may be a tendency to constantly ask for updates.

In this new environment, it can be very easy to overwhelm team members with instant online messages or emails. However, this will hurt productivity. Teams won’t be able to focus on tasks and projects if unnecessary updates take up their time.

Instead of focusing on the minute details and activities, leaders should focus on outcomes and results. First, leaders should agree on the key metrics that will determine success or failure for any project. Next, leaders should empower their team to carve their own path towards reaching those metrics.

More than ever, leaders need to be smart about managing the team. An effective approach is to encourage autonomy. Leaders who encourage everyone to develop self-managing behaviors and systems can become more effective.

Communicate to set expectations and socialize

It’s not enough to formally announce new remote working rules. Leaders must also conduct a team reset meeting to properly guide employees in this new environment. Leaders should discuss and set expectations on the following:

  • Potential work challenges for each team member
  • New norms and behaviors that must be adopted
  • New performance tracking systems and workflows

Woman using her laptopDepending on the outcome of that meeting, teams may agree to adopt daily or weekly check-ins to ensure timely delivery on projects. It’s important for these check-ins to be quick and straightforward so as not to overburden employees with overly frequent updates.

Aside from work-related meetings, leaders should also make it a point to carve out some time for socializing. The remote work setting and the relative isolation that comes with it may take a toll on several employees.

It’s important to carve out time for some casual conversation, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Doing so can help foster team cohesion and a sense of community despite working from a distance. There are many ways for leaders to inject some fun and humor in the workday, whether it’s through virtual happy hours, online coffee breaks or group lunch.

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