The impact of COVID-19 has been far reaching. Amid a wave of uncertainty, economic turmoil and job insecurity, employees are looking to their leaders for direction and reassurance.
The speed at which the virus spread left many businesses, large and small, unprepared for the ensuing disruption and forced a hasty adoption of new working practices. But where there is challenge, there is opportunity.
The transition to remote working has accelerated the use of digital technology, the adoption of new communication channels and sparked new forms of creativity amongst fragmented teams.
So how does the modern-day, remote business leader steer the ship through rough seas to new horizons?
A demonstration of resilience and inspiration is a prerequisite. And so too a commitment to understand the needs of individuals in key areas such as the work environment, communication, relationships, and wellbeing.
While many employees flourish with the independence of home working, others feel isolated and anxious. This is compounded by a lack of physical separation between work and non-workspaces.
Leaders must familiarise themselves with their employees work environments to make sense of their behaviour. Feelings of disconnection are common and impact negatively on both the leader and team. It is therefore imperative that personal interactions are maximised and maintained to positively affect morale, engagement and productivity.
Relationships remain pivotal to any team, but arguably even more critical for those in remote work environments. Leadership should therefore be the forerunner to facilitation of open dialogue with employees to encourage creative thinking, feedback and cross fertilisation of ideas. Autonomy should also be encouraged, so individuals feel comfortable to try new things.
One of the biggest challenges facing leaders in the current climate is the wellbeing of their teams. With anxiety heightened at a personal and professional level, strategies should be implemented to encourage disciplined work habits, social interaction, exercise, and a good work-life balance, among others.
So, it is a leader’s level of empathy, transparency, and action in the above-mentioned areas that will shape employee engagement and positively impact on performance. Put simply, leadership style and purpose can turn a disengaged team into an engaged one.
And aligned to this purpose, there must be a blueprint for success – a remote working plan. This sets out a clear strategy with consideration given to processes, roles, responsibilities and key priorities. At this point, explaining to everyone why they are working together and the resulting benefits, goes a long way to achieving positive outcomes at an organisational, team and individual level.
Leading a remote team is not without its challenges, particularly in these unprecedented times. It does, however, present an opportunity to embrace a new way of working, gain greater insight into the needs of employees, nurture engagement and enhance collaboration for the greater good of the business.
Photo credit: Lucas Clara on Unsplash