As the world moves from a COVID-induced remote workforce to a mix of remote, hybrid, and in-person workspaces, skills developed by effective remote leaders remain a necessity for many. Two recently published research studies have identified 6 skills of effective remote leaders (George, et al., 2022; Straus, et al., 2022). Many of these skills are also exercised by successful in-person leaders. From the research, these leadership strategies and skills have proven to promote, or at least maintain, employee productivity.
- Focus on what employees accomplish and not on when they are doing it. Trying to maintain the control a leader has in the workplace regarding hours or how time is spent is neither feasible nor advised in a remote environment. Flexibility and self-regulation are significant productivity factors for those who work remotely.
- Encourage team member support. Investments in communications technology that facilitate contact with coworkers help both the organization and the remote team member. And just like in-person workers, those working remotely need times and activities that support informal, non-work-related, socializing with their team members. Leaders can create opportunities for their team to periodically meet face-to-face to maintain bonds and deepen connections that support their work relationships.
- Assist those who work remotely to set boundaries. This could include providing funds or resources to set up a proper home office, computing equipment, and separate communications devices for work and personal lives. Boundaries between work and home are critical for productivity. Research finds that remote productivity is enhanced by separating work from activities constituting life outside of work.
- Clearly communicate the organization’s higher purpose. Too often a team works without a clear understanding of why their work matters. Because their leader understands the purpose behind the activity does not necessarily mean team members understand it. Consequently, leaders must clearly and regularly communicate the organization’s purpose, particularly when supervising remote workers who are not in the workplace to “absorb” this easily. Feeling that what you are doing makes a difference provides a significant boost to productivity.
- Ensure your people have the right tools. The latest research has found that improvements in remote workers’ equipment at home and increased remote work experiences were both associated with a reduced decline in productivity. Specifically, providing your direct reports with access to materials, higher ergonomic standards, quality computers, and good internet connections will, if not bolster productivity, reduce its decline.
- Lastly, remember that because you do not see your remote workers every day or even every month, they are still on the front lines keeping your business running. To keep them productive, they need steady doses of encouragement, support, appreciation, and care.
George, T. J., Atwater, L. E., Maneethai, D., & Madera, J. M. (2022). Supporting the productivity and wellbeing of remote workers: Lessons from COVID-19. Organizational Dynamics, 51(2), N.PAG. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.orgdyn.2021.100869
Straus, E., Uhlig, L., Kühnel, J., & Korunka, C. (2022). Remote workers’ well-being, perceived productivity, and engagement: which resources should HRM improve during COVID-19? A longitudinal diary study. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 1– 31.