The pandemic has accelerated the need for remote working. And while a reliable digital workplace, complete with all the software, apps and hardware, is a must, significant changes in management must also be made to lead remote teams more effectively. 

Admittedly, remote working presents several areas of concern such as productivity and engagement. But if we prioritise leadership above location, we can be more proactive with the fast changes happening right now. 

First, due to the distance, we must be more deliberate and careful in directing our teams. This entails increasing communication and alignment possibilities. You must engage in detailed discussions with your team to ensure complete alignment. Otherwise, vague expectations result in vague accountability. 

So, to prevent this from happening, prepare a list of all your expectations prior to discussing them with your team. You see, at a time where there’s a distance factor to be considered, it’s important that you’re communicating effectively with your team. Writing and talking about your views clarifies them. It will help you get things clearer and more straight to the point. Then, schedule time for your team to discuss your list. However, avoid simply reading from your list. Hardly anybody listens when the person speaking is just reading out loud. Allow your team members to engage with you and provide feedback instead. Additionally, if you are a team member, be proactive and inquire about your manager’s expectations.

Second, concentrate on your team’s achievements, not on their activities. They might be scrolling through Facebook or Instagram for all you know but it shouldn’t matter. Focus on the results that they give you. Leaders should not be overly concerned with what their team members do but what they accomplish. Focus on the output. Allow your staff to work at their own pace by giving them the freedom to do so. After all, you’ve set your expectations. Now, you just need to trust them with your expectations. By setting clear expectations, you can ensure that your team completes work on time and at a high standard.

Third, schedule one-on-one coaching sessions for more thorough instruction and interaction. Often, your staff will avoid contacting you since they are unaware of your availability. As a result, the onus is on you to initiate contact. Schedule a weekly one-on-one session at a regular time. Encourage them to speak first so that you can ensure that your sessions are two-way interactions, rather than one-way information dumps. It will also be a great time to check up on them since we’re in an economic downturn and things are not good for everyone. 

Fourth, choose your communication tools carefully and familiarise yourself with their capabilities. It doesn’t matter which tools you use as long as you use them efficiently. Agree on which platforms you will use for which purposes. For example, email is appropriate for non-urgent, lengthy conversations. However, for an immediate, brief conversation, use instant messaging platforms such as Slack or Microsoft Teams.

Lastly, during meetings, leave the webcam and microphone on. While it may seem contradictory, muting your microphone effectively discourages you from speaking up. Keep your microphone on unless you’re in a particularly noisy environment to eliminate friction. Having both the webcam and microphone turned on at the same time precludes multitasking. As a result, you’re more likely to maintain an alert and connected state of mind during the meeting.

In this day and age of so many digital possibilities at our disposal, advocate the use of technology to enable community while working remotely. There’s always Microsoft Teams or Zoom to help you communicate and manage your team. Maximise these apps’ potential. 

Moreover, in times of uncertainty, I believe that a whole lot of empathy and occasionally even a touch of humour can go a long way to boost others when they are feeling apprehensive and nervous about the future. Always remember that your employees are also human. They also need you to be human to them.