Remote and hybrid work is becoming more popular as companies realize the benefits of these working arrangements. Notably, Silicon Valley tech giant Google has adopted a flexible structure for its workforce, allowing them to choose where they want to work. With their new company policy, Google expects 80% of its workforce will adopt a hybrid work arrangement, while the rest can remain remote permanently.
With the recognition that a remote or hybrid setup results in a more engaged, productive, and innovative workforce, there is a need for industry leaders to lead in this new workplace development. How can leaders do their job effectively when they don't have the same access to their team that they used to? Today, we'll discuss four ways leaders should lead in a remote or hybrid setup:
1. Communicate effectively online and offline
With traditional work arrangements behind us, leaders must learn to communicate effectively online and offline. To this end, the MIT Sloan Management Review endorses a multimodal approach to leadership that involves a mix of virtual and face-to-face interactions. This approach advocates for administrative tasks to be done virtually because employees don't want to be micromanaged—they want autonomy and freedom regarding simple tasks. However, having a dialogue on complex issues, managing conflicts, and forming emotional connections must be done in person. Simply put, building effective relationships needs some way of touching base, whether through calls, Zoom meetings, or over coffee in the office.
2. Spend quality time with the team
A leader's job is to motivate and inspire the entire team, but this is not always easy when you're not in the same physical space as them. LHH states that proximity bias is the inherent human tendency to favor the people we can see in-person over those working remotely. Leaders must try to avoid the dangers of this bias by making time for personal and organic conversations with each team member to check on their workflow progress, career issues and goals, and overall well-being. Having an equal amount of face time will ensure that each member of a leader's team is heard and supported, regardless of their work arrangement.
3. Champion employee welfare
One of the biggest challenges of remote or hybrid work is maintaining employee morale. Without a constant physical presence in the office, it's easy for an employee to feel disconnected and isolated from the organization. This arrangement can make it challenging for their difficulties to be heard. These days, employees are more vocal about wanting to be part of decision-making processes on matters that directly affect their work arrangements. For instance, Apple employees published an open letter earlier this year listing the changes they wish to see in their workplace. For leaders to effectively champion employee welfare, they should bring these concerns to the proper persons and ensure that the employees feel valued and supported by the company.
4. Foster an inclusive workplace culture
Leaders must foster inclusion to build a team that can function well under remote or hybrid setups. Leaders must create a culture of openness and trust, as well as a space where people feel comfortable sharing their ideas. This could mean assuring everyone's voice is represented during meetings or having employees give feedback during discussions or surveys. Our "How To Master The 10 Most Important Minutes Of Every Meeting" post emphasized that active engagements require requesting insight from team members and communicating with those who could not attend. Although some tricky dynamics are at play when you're leading a team spread across multiple locations, an effective leader knows how to let everyone contribute and thrive regardless of their work arrangement.
Leadership is an art, not a science. There are no exact formulas that guarantee success. But there are certain principles that, when applied with the right intent, can help you develop into an effective leader for teams working on remote or hybrid setups.