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Evolve Your Management Style for Remote Work

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Even with two years of remote work under your belt, it takes some work to fine-tune your management style to better support your distributed team.

After all, employee expectations keep shifting. Workers now expect more flexibility and freedom regarding location and working hours—and they’re willing to leave their current jobs to get it. 

Employees are also asking their companies to take health and wellbeing more seriously. They’re on the hunt for organizations that will invest in their care and overall career growth.

As your organization’s definition of employee experience continues to change, your management style will have to change, too. Here are five ways you can evolve your management strategies to support remote work better—and the people on your team.

1. Focus on Outcomes

The shift to remote work has given employees a lot of latitude: more flexibility and work-life balance. 

Most employees will tell you that flexibility is a huge perk. But employee freedom has been difficult for leaders and direct managers to get used to. Many leaders still struggle with trusting their team to get work done remotely, leading to high quit rates and battles over return-to-office plans.

If this challenge sounds familiar, consider how you might shift your focus away from how work is getting done. Instead, consider what work is getting done—and how well. This isn’t to say you should throw your hands up and forget about the process altogether. A well-organized, clearly delineated workflow eliminates confusion and keeps your team on track.

But data also shows that distributed workforces are inundated with more emails, Slack notifications, and meetings about work than ever. When you free up your team’s time to work deeply on meeting clear goals and hitting their deadlines, you’ll get focused, outcome-driven work from your team.

Need more convincing? Giving your team more freedom also helps build trust and boost recruitment efforts. According to recent data from LinkedIn, employees satisfied with their company’s flex work policies are 2.6x more likely to report being happy. And they’re 2.1x more likely to recommend their workplace to others.

So stop worrying so much about how your distributed team spends their days. Instead, focus on who’s hitting deadlines, how solid their efforts are, and what you can do to support team members who seem to be struggling. They’ll be happier—and you will be, too.


2. Offer an Authentic Support System

The pandemic not only accelerated our culture’s move toward distributed work, it also changed what kinds of support employees expect from their managers. As workers balance deadlines, unpredictable family care schedules, commutes, and other logistics, they expect managers to communicate in more authentic, human ways. 

Consider beginning your daily or weekly touch base with a wellness check. For example, you might ask your team members to rank their work and life stress levels from 1 to 10. They might also share one thing they’re excited about from their personal life.

This is a strategy Tameeka Smith, CEO of VA Community and State for United Healthcare, uses with her leadership team to significant effect. “We are all happier to hear those stories because we want to share the joy,” said Smith during Welcome’s recent event about leading with empathy.

When someone’s not doing so well? “It gives us an opportunity to be empathetic as an entire leadership team,” Smith added. After all, when you’re aware of the challenges someone is facing outside of work, it’s easier for the entire team to step in and offer support.
 

3. Coach and Provide Feedback

You already have a lot on your plate, from overseeing team members and product deadlines to building relationships within your remote team. It’s easy for other areas of employee development to fall by the wayside.

But recent surveys of employees show that it’s dangerous to put meaningful feedback and coaching on the back burner. 59% of respondents to LinkedIn’s Global Talent Report selected professional development as the area for organizations to invest in to improve company culture.

In addition to developing new skills or upskilling your employees, don’t underestimate the power of providing regular, meaningful feedback. Tyler Muse, CEO of the professional coaching start-up LingoLive, recommends using a feedback structure like “Behavior, Impact, Question” to deliver more thoughtful feedback. 

Begin by sharing a specific behavior from a recent meeting or interaction with your report, then suggest a potential impact of their behavior. Finally, ask your report a question about their behavior to open up the conversation.

“It's my job as your manager to give you feedback,” Muse explained during a recent Welcome event on coaching. “But, at the same time, I'm open to hearing your reaction and your thoughts on this. I think questions are really important so that you make the other person feel free to share how they feel.”

When managers deliver meaningful real-time feedback, their reports have more opportunities to learn soft skills and grow as leaders. They will also appreciate your investment—and be more likely to stick around.

4. Find the Right Tools

Technology for distributed teams keeps getting better, and investing in the right tools makes a huge difference. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, Future Forum discovered that companies investing in technology to support remote work have employees who are 2x more likely to report a greater sense of belonging and 5x more likely to handle stress and anxiety at work.

With team communication standards like Slack to collaboration tools like GSuite, you can make it easier for your team to work together—without adding to the numbers in their growing inboxes.

And while Zoom might be a great tool for meetings or one-on-ones, Welcome is the perfect alternative for jaw-dropping employee events that improve engagement and create meaningful team-building moments.

A good manager does more than just communicate with their team in an open Slack channel. They actively find ways to help their team connect, collaborate, and share—no matter where they’re located. The right remote tech stack can help you do just that.

5. Keep Working on Your Skills

Direct reports aren’t the only employees who benefit from coaching and feedback. Most managers find themselves in leadership roles without any direct management experience.

Because soft skills like listening and handling difficult conversations are learned, it’s also a good idea to invest in your own training. It can take a lifetime to learn how to manage well, and there’s no shame in practicing key skills, receiving additional coaching, and asking for feedback from your team.

Just think of it as a proactive retention strategy. Recent data from MIT shows that workers who reported a toxic workplace culture were 10.4x more likely to quit during the pandemic. Yikes!

When it comes down to it, good managers make or break entire companies. Why not be the manager who makes a difference?

Final Thoughts

From flex work to wellbeing, we’re all learning how to manage distributed teams as we go. Thankfully, there are strategies you can use to build trust, improve company culture, and keep evolving your management style as needs shift.

Welcome is employee event software that supports your entire employee lifecycle. This includes the onboarding events and team-building exercises at the heart of manager support. Collect employee feedback, check for understanding, and track EQ scores over time, all within Welcome’s easy-to-use dashboard.

Find out how Welcome can support your managers’ tech stack and book a demo today!

Potential sources:

https://fortune.com/2022/05/23/pandemic-redefined-leadership-new-hybrid-leader-remote-work-covid-workplace-betsy-leatherman/

https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/9-tips-for-managing-remote-employees

https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/people-managers/pages/managing-during-pandemic-.aspx

https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/the-vanishing-middle-manager

https://leadershipcircle.com/en/how-has-covid-influenced-leadership/

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