Leadership In Our New Remote Working World

Posted by Albers School of Business and Economics on Tuesday, November 16, 2021 at 9:16 PM PST


An empty office

In the last year, the modern workplace has been completely turned on its head as an unprecedented number of employees were encouraged, or indeed required, to work from a home office. Suddenly, people were no longer traveling for or commuting to work. Workplace connections, such as coffee-maker chats and meetings, were held virtually. New obstacles to time management have arisen for professionals, such as juggling caregiving with work responsibilities in a new way.

An estimated 7 percent of US employees already had the option to work from home prior to the pandemic’s arrival. And this trend seems to have been given a boost. Global Workplace Analytics, a research and consulting service, reports that “surveys showed 80 percent of employees want to work from home at least some of the time.” The same report estimates that, by the end of 2021, up to 30 percent of the global workforce will be working from home several days a week.

So what does this mean for professionals finding themselves managing their own work from home schedules or supervising remote employees? Individual contributors and managers alike need to be clear about the challenges they may meet and equip themselves with the leadership and management skills needed to be successful.

Leadership Skills You Need As A Remote Worker

With this clear trend towards remote work adoption, whether fully or in part, companies will be looking for employees who not only have the desired expertise for a given job position, but also the core competencies to succeed in a remote setting. These skills can be developed and applied regardless of department or job function to be an effective and productive remote worker.

Here are a few of the integral leadership attributes you should understand and possess.

1: Communication

While communication is clearly an important leadership trait regardless of work setting, remote workers may need additional skills simply due to the fact that they aren’t working side-by-side with their coworkers anymore.

Virtual communication is more than just a video chat, an instant message, or an email. It’s a mix of listening, visibility, and authenticity.

It is crucial for remote employees to provide thoughtful responses and feedback so colleagues know they are heard, to let others know that your virtual door is always open, and to be honest and sincere to improve camaraderie and teamwork. It’s also important to be as clear, succinct, and direct as possible in order to be effective, improve productivity, and save everyone’s time.

2: Organization and Planning

When you work from home, many of the traditional methods of task accountability and management no longer work. You have to maintain self-discipline through continuous organizing, planning, and scheduling to ensure all of your work is completed on time and your goals and metrics are tracked accordingly for proper work from home management.

You must be able to identify your priorities, create a task list for all the work currently at hand, estimate the total time needed to finish those tasks, and then execute them. This helps provide clarity and transparency around your workload, not only to your manager, but also to any other colleague who may make a request of your time.

3: Adaptability

This is an essential skill when working from home to manage the constantly changing remote work environment.

Remote employees must exercise flexibility and understanding in order to:

  • Learn to work with new team members (or existing team members in a new way);
  • Collaborate with a geographically dispersed team, adapt to new technologies and tools,
  • Manage work amongst unforeseen obstacles when outside of the office environment (such as internet connectivity issues or hardware malfunctions); and
  • Maintain the all-important work-life balance (which can be more difficult for some when working from their homes).
  • While this may seem like a skill that is naturally bestowed, it can be honed by employing the clear communication, organization, and planning tactics outlined above.

4: Coaching

Leadership or business coaching doesn’t have to mean that you know every answer to every problem (we can’t all be Gary Vaynerchuk, can we?). It’s really a much more subtle skill. A great coach identifies the strengths of others and determines the best way to stimulate that strength and realize that person’s full potential. This can help unleash the best of colleagues and employees, but can also help to reinforce a coach’s own skills and abilities.

In the remote world, this coaching can be done via video conference or other collaboration tools where a leader can provide helpful advice and real-time feedback to improve while building trust for a more collaborative and productive environment.
No single path exists for developing leadership skills as a remote worker, and what works for someone else may not work for you or vice versa. Additionally, different professionals may be at different stages in their own leadership development and have certain skill sets developed at more heightened levels. As these skills grow and evolve, so too does your sense of self and your ability to enhance your personal competencies, values, and vision as a leader.

Managing Remote Teams

With more employees working remotely, the job of the manager is evolving alongside the changing work environment. When managing people you rarely see in person, you cannot just continue with your company’s traditional process or “business as usual.” Developing these leadership skills as a remote manager enables you to to build the best possible team, create cohesiveness, achieve departmental and company goals, and foster an engaging company culture.

As companies implement their remote policies, at first by necessity, now driven by popularity, having leaders who can effectively manage virtual teams will help to reap the rewards of remote work. Bad management habits such as weak communication or lack of trust/micromanaging don’t work even in an office setting, but their effects can be compounded when applied to a remote work experience.

And this can wind up costing business. In keeping with the adage, “people don’t leave their jobs, they leave their managers,” ineffective or problematic remote team management can result in decreased employee engagement, lowered employee satisfaction, and eventually, turnover.

The competencies required for successfully managing remote employees don’t have to feel illusive; there are plenty of tools, training, or academic programs that are designed to hone your skills and develop the confidence, insight, and self-awareness necessary to influence and inspire others through your management.

And while the transition might take some adjusting to, it’s necessary to be fully prepared for the workspace of the future.

What Does The Future Look Like For Work-From-Home Management?

Work is going to be a lot different in the post-pandemic world. While employees might not be strictly working from home, many will still end up spending more and more of their time working outside the office.

This will require many shifts, including that managers understand the changing digital culture and develop the skills necessary to connect and engage in order to realize the benefits that can be afforded from a remote or hybrid model.

It will become increasingly critical for managers to set up virtual spaces and a unified digital workplace to minimize disruptions, have regular one-on-ones via video conferencing to build closer working relationships, create working processes that protects time and prioritizes tasks, and even encourage virtual socialization to improve team communication and rapport.

Leading teams remotely takes a great deal of intentional planning, strategic thinking, and practice.

But that’s where we can help.

Albers Is Launching Tomorrow’s Leaders

Albers School of Business and Economics’ intense emphasis on personal leadership is woven into every aspect of our curriculum in order to prepare students to use their vision and skills to make a profound impact on both their companies and their communities.

For over 20 years, we’ve drawn savvy business professionals from across the country to enroll in our rigorous, academic leadership programs. These programs go beyond the simple application of tactical managerial tools, becoming the go-to training ground for future leaders in many of the region’s largest companies.

Our aim is to cultivate a deeper knowledge of leadership through greater self-awareness, a keen understanding of how ethics and values guide executive decisions, a stronger sense of how one’s actions can affect positive change, and an increased appreciation of the complex needs of the greater community.

We firmly believe business education can transform not only the course of your career, but also transform you as a person. We hope you’ll consider joining our cohort of wise and thoughtful leadership and insightful, well-informed, discerning leaders who are ready to tackle whatever working environment challenges the future may bring.