7 Ways to Be a Better Virtual Leader of Your Remote Workers

7 Ways to Be a Better Virtual Leader of Your Remote Workers
Author Name: Joel Garfinkle
Date: Aug 06 2020
Category: Leadership

We are going through an unprecedented time of transition as organizations around the world respond to COVID-19 by working from home. You might be reeling with the demands of making a fast and unplanned transition to working remotely, the stress of job insecurity, and fears about the future. Things aren’t normal, and they won’t be again for some time.

You may also be faced with a team of employees who feel deeply insecure about the changes happening all around them, bombarded by the latest news about the coronavirus spread. They’re stressed out and overwhelmed, and they need strong leadership that can help them stay grounded during these turbulent times. I am privy to the current challenges that industries from biotech and healthcare to technology and financial services are up against. Across the board, I am noticing how they are faced with similar issues. Employees in all fields need a leader who can keep them effective amid all the fears and distractions they may encounter, bolstering morale and productivity.

I am on the front line with my clients, hearing their stories of struggle, stress, anxiety, and panic. As an executive coach, I am giving them guidance that helps them move through these challenges with confidence and grace. By mastering these seven key tactics for transitioning their whole team to working remotely, my clients are successfully navigating this major transition.

1. Set up an optimal home office Encourage your direct reports to find a quiet room in their house where they can be alone (or where they can co-work with their spouse). Tidying it up, adding a good desk lamp, and placing key essentials to help make it an ideal space. If co-working with a spouse, they should set norms on how to communicate within their shared space, such as leaving the room for a phone check-in with their boss.

2. Minimize distractions If your employee is working from home while caring for young children, there are bound to be distractions. Encourage your employees to find solutions such as splitting up childcare duties with a spouse, enlisting the help of an older child, or working outside while the kids play in the backyard. Be understanding about these challenges as your employees strive to find solutions that work for them.

3. Use the right tools Choose programs that maximize the effectiveness of your communications. Select video software that allows you to hold virtual meetings with as many staff members as needed. Employ project management software that will help keep everyone on the same page, ensuring a streamlined workflow.

4. Hold daily team check-ins Working remotely can feel very isolating, especially if the change happened swiftly. Stay connected and on the same page with coworkers by checking in as a team each morning. Creating this morning ritual will help you continue to feel like a cohesive unit and stay on top of any concerns. Use this opportunity to clarify priorities and workflow, so everyone knows what to focus on that day.

According to Harvard Business Review, figuring out who has the information you need can prove especially challenging for a remote team. Daily team check-ins can help everyone stay up-to-date on who to ask which questions about their current projects

As Gallup says, leave room for some socializing. Employees need to connect with one another as human beings, especially during times of dramatic change, so give them space to share about their daily lives.

5. Remain task-focused When working from home, people often feel a lack of structure. Set a routine for yourself, and talk with each of your direct reports about creating their own routine. Stick as closely to each person’s previous routine as possible.

As employees transition into working remotely, touch base with them one-on-one each day about their priorities and how they’re structuring their workload. Hold your one-on-ones by phone or video chat, at least until your team is fairly used to working remotely. As they grow more confident over time, you might check in by voice chat every several days and use a messaging app or email in between.

6. Over-communicate Remote teams need to communicate even more clearly than those working under the same roof. Be more explicit with your instructions than you think you need to be. Give important directives more than once, to make sure people understand you. You might fear coming across as micromanaging, but in this time of transition, they’ll probably appreciate how you go out of your way to provide clear instructions. 

7. Create boundaries around work When you work from home—especially if it’s a new experience—it can be hard to set work aside when it’s time to stop. Tell your people to determine what time their work ends, and to stop then. They need to learn to create boundaries around work. It’s vital to recharge and spend time with your loved ones. If you find yourself with extra time due to the skipped commute, try new recipes or start a gardening project with your kids.

Taking these steps will help you support your employees mentally and emotionally through this major shift. Make time to listen to their concerns and find solutions that work for each individual, to maximize success. By doing so, you’ll prove yourself to be exactly the type of leader who can guide them through times of great change and uncertainty. I’m witnessing my clients doing exactly that, and by taking these key steps, you’ll also prove yourself exactly the leader your people need in this critical moment.

Looking for an executive coach who can help you lead through the crisis? Joel is available for both virtual coaching and webinar trainings to keep your employees fully engaged and supported. He recently conducted a customized series of webinar classes for an international company looking to improve diversity and gender representation in its upper management ranks. Subscribe to his Fulfillment at Work Newsletter and receive the FREE e-book, 41 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now! Over 75 of Joel’s 2-minute inspiring video clips can be viewed at his YouTube channel.

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