Remote Leadership: How to Manage Remote Employees

The world is a different place now. Ever since our lives were turned upside down by the global pandemic, virtually every aspect of our lives was impacted and continues to be as we adapt and cope the best we can. This includes our work and professional lives, which is looking quite different with many of us working remotely. 

Working from home and telework have many benefits, especially for introverts. The most significant benefits include increased work flexibility and work-life balance, and possibly greater productivity. However, working from home also has its challenges in that the manager may experience difficulties with remote leadership and managing teleworkers. 

Thankfully, as you’ll read further, there are a number of simple steps that can be taken to improve remote leadership. A successful remote leader can manage remote employees while keeping them engaged and productive. 

What is remote leadership and remote management? 

First, we need to ask: What is remote leadership and remote management? Are they the same thing? No, while often used in similar ways, remote leadership and remote management are two separate areas. However, they are areas that complement the other and are integral to each other’s success. 

Remote leadership, for the most part, is leading people working remotely towards a common goal or task. But it is more than that, as good remote leadership also inspires team members, drawing out the passion that results in quality work. A solid leader stays calm under pressure, surrounding themselves with good people, even if it’s remotely 

According to an article on Forbes.com, remote leadership can be successful if you follow the five steps to support team members: 

  1. “Exercise strong time management muscles.”
  2. “Stay connected.”
  3. “Be OK with letting go.”
  4. “Spend time in nature.”
  5. “Overcommunicate.”

On the other hand, remote management is a little more technical, relying more on planning, technology, as well as structured interactions with team members. To effectively manage a remote team, leaders have a growing number of remote management platforms (like Splashtop) as well as reliable instant and video messaging tools such as Microsoft Teams. (Solutions such as MS Teams, usually also include features such as document storage, project management and online calendars.)

How is remote leadership different from traditional leadership? 

Virtual or remote leadership is much more challenging than traditional leadership in that it does not have the luxury of popping its head over the cubicle wall for a quick work chat or calling a team huddle in a physical office. Instead, virtual and remote leadership requires managers and employers to be creative in how they connect with and lead their team of employees who are all in different locations.

remote leadership in the workplace

 

What are the main benefits of remote leadership? 

While there are some challenges to remote leadership, there are definitely some benefits as well.  

First of all, you are able to lead team members potentially working remotely all over the world. This allows you to have more global and different skillsets within the team, resulting in quality work. Second of all, with the many technologies mentioned above, you can communicate quicker and arguably more efficiently from your laptop or smartphone. And thirdly, micro-managing amongst remote leaders will decrease because remote work is based more on results than the amount of time spent a desk. 

Unsurprisingly, employees are happier and perform better when they are not being micromanaged by leaders and managers. A major concern of remote leadership is that employees will procrastinate at home. However, some employees are even more productive working remotely and they have found that procrastination has more to with emotions than laziness. 

Want to learn how to conduct virtual meetings? Take our course on Meetings and Communication! 

What are the main challenges of managing remote teams? 

As alluded to earlier, management remote teams can be very challenging because of the lack of physical interaction and connection. Even with advances in communication technology, details can get lost during virtual communication. This can cause all kinds of issues from frustration with employees to mistakes in work itself.

When looking for a suitable communications platform, first look at what your communications needs are and go from there. It can be overwhelming with so many options, but there is also something for every unique need and budget. Some things to consider are: 

  • How many people will use it? 
  • How often will they use it? 
  • What are the primary reasons for this platform? 
  • What problems will this platform help solve? 
  • What devices can it be used on? 

Tips for effective remote management 

In order to effectively manage your remote team, there are several steps you can take – some that overlap with remote leadership strategies: 

  • Find a remote management platform that meets your unique needs. 
  • Hold those regular meetings and opportunities to touch base and connect. 
  • Make any deadlines early and clear – and have them available on an online calendar. 
  • Monitor progress but do not micromanage and be flexible. 
  • Regularly ask team members for feedback in group or one-on-one settings. 

Overall, make any expectations clear and trust in your team’s abilities and skills to perform good work without you looking over their shoulder. Effective remote management may be more flexible than traditional management, but it is more detailed and planned. 

Remote leadership by example 

So now you see how remote management complements remote leadership and helps address its novel challenges. Effective remote leadership is effective remote management and vice versa. Because we are no longer in the same physical spaces, online, managers must lead by example whenever they can, initiating the strategies mentioned earlier. 

By focusing on remote leadership, managers can not only promote great work, but they can also create a work culture where people are happy. Work cultures like this are positive, professional environments where skilled employees want to stay.

RELATED READINGS 

Getting People Right (GPR) is an educational website providing professionals from all types of businesses with practical education in human resources and leadership. To keep evolving your leadership toolkit, additional GPR resources below will be useful: 

https://www.plutora.com/blog/remote-management-detailed-guide-8-best-practices 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2021/02/18/five-ways-to-be-a-successful-remote-leader

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