Leading from a distance: the rules of the game have been set

The job market isn’t, at a global level, prepared for teleworking. At home, most people have children, family and other duties which hold their whole attention and make them lose focus on their work activities. Distance inevitably presents barriers for collaborative communication and successful supervision.  

Given the new expectations and requirements, even the most experienced employees may need more guidance or correction than in the past. As a result, leaders will have to take the initiative with well-defined instructions and rules.  

Things for leaders to consider:   

1 – Action plan:  

Design a plan that explains in a structured way how employees can work effectively from home. Include sections about how to manage their time and responsibilities with execution times. You can even make a video with the plan for it to have a stronger impact.  

2 – Clearly define the expected results: 

Specific expectations with regards to results, deadlines and collaboration should be communicated in a clear manner. With fewer opportunities for regular communication, people can inadvertently take actions which were not agreed on. And, unless they are specifically told to do so, it’s possible they won’t participate in teleworking in the right way. 

3 – Communicate, communicate a lot: 

We naturally pay more attention to the people closest to us, which is why leaders should make a special effort to keep in touch with remote team members. Send emails with regular updates and ask employees to make questions. Open a work space at the work place (for example) where you can have several groups divided by topics, teams and their members. 

Set specific times for individual sessions and have a list of topics to discuss. Encourage your team to do the same. 

4 – Invest time in knowing your employees:  

Try to have a brief online meeting with all every employee, even if it consumes an important chunk of your time. A simple online conversation can make the difference in helping employees feel more connected. 

5 – Identify when it’s best to talk: 

One of the biggest potential difficulties for virtual relations is the excessive use of written communication. Email is a great tool, but it can also create misunderstandings and conflicts. If a topic is sensitive, complicated or potentially controversial, chat through Skype, Whatsapp or on the phone. 

6 – Learn how to manage virtual meetings: 

Give your team the right tools to have online meetings and make sure everyone can use them effectively, especially you! If any employee is physically with you during these meetings, check that remote team members have the same opportunities to participate. Platforms such as a Zoom are excellent for virtual meetings.  

7 – Don’t postpone, don’t be late: 

For employees who work remotely, waiting for the leader to provide information or make a decision can be extremely frustrating. As they won’t be able to find their leader in the hallway or office, their only option is to wait, send emails or texts asking what they should do. And that, besides being boring, is something no employee likes doing.  

So make sure you follow up and pay attention! 

8 – Understand the cultural differences: 

If you’re working with people from different countries and cultures, take the time to learn about their expectations and work practices. These patterns may differ from yours in unexpected ways, which may lead to serious misunderstandings, especially when you’re in different places.  

9 – Keep your team close to your heart: 

 Remember that old saying, “out of sight, out of mind”? If you’re working remotely, take the initiative to keep in touch with your whole team, setting progress updates and comment sessions.  Otherwise, you can miss important information which might be necessary for your team. 

10 – Make smart decisions in the recruiting process: 

If teleworking is a permanent or long term work requirement, remember not everyone is suitable for remote working. 

Studies have found that success in teleworking requires the following characteristics: excellent communication skills, good time management, being comfortable with autonomy and ability to respond to your supervisors.  

11 – Rewards for achieved goals: 

If you don’t have a performance assessment plan, create a simple one which rewards those who fulfil their tasks. 

12 – Team games: 

Nowadays, we have access to different customisable games which allow team members to participate in a fun way, from their computers or mobiles, in the company vision. 

Are you ready to put these recommendations into practice?