By: Swathi West, healthcare and privacy manager
Our work lives have changed drastically over the last two years. Instead of spending mornings getting ready for work, sitting in traffic, and going about our day within an office space, the new normal often looks like working in casual wear from the comfort of our own homes.
Research has proven that remote work increases productivity, but even with all its benefits, there are some drawbacks. For instance, we often miss out on real-life human connections with our colleagues. Or we might lack a distinct boundary between our workspace and home life. After all, we have kids to feed, loved ones to care for, and pets who need our attention, and the balance between work and personal life is getting increasingly blurry.
The concept of human leadership is not new, but within a growing remote world, human leaders are more essential than ever. At BARR Advisory, we take our human-first approach to cybersecurity seriously. It’s what makes us unique. After all, at the end of the day, it’s not about technology—it’s about how technology helps people.
As humans, it’s natural to desire leaders who help us grow, and in a remote work environment, we need leaders who not only guide us but also understand our strengths and motivations, have empathy and compassion, and challenge us to be better versions of ourselves—all from a distance.
Here are some tips for leaders who want to build human connections and foster trust within the digital workspace:
Start With a Segue
If you’re like me, you’re always trying to get right to the point. I like to jump head-first into the problem in front of me, discussing possible solutions, and ensuring everyone is immediately dialed in when we’re in meetings. However, that approach isn’t always ideal for remote teams.
In the virtual workplace, we don’t have the opportunity to share donuts in the kitchen or fun stories about our weekend plans at the water cooler. To help encourage connection in a remote environment, block out some time at the beginning of your meetings and 1:1s to talk about some recent wins, share weekend plans, or even simply asking your team members how they’re feeling today. Learning about one another helps build connections, compassion, and trust, which are all vital for any team or leader to succeed.
Ask the Right Questions
The oldest definition in the book for a leader might simply be, “one who leads.” And when you’re in a leadership role, you might be inclined to do just that. But I learned more in my career when my boss asked me—What would you do in this scenario? or What do you think we should do to solve this issue?—rather than simply telling me what to do. I’ve also benefited more when my boss asked, How can I help you? instead of assuming support which I may or may not need.
To develop human leaders on your team, take a step back; when someone comes to you with a problem, understand they might have a solution too—they just haven’t considered it or been given the opportunity to express their ideas yet. As leaders, it’s up to us to help our team members solve problems and figure out solutions by asking the right questions.
Prioritize Face-to-Face Feedback
Remote work doesn’t provide us the luxury of eating lunch together or grabbing a quick drink at the end of the day. The same goes for feedback. In this new normal, we communicate using tools like Slack and Teams, meaning we often miss the one-on-one human interaction from the office. When we can’t see our coworker’s expressions or the emotions behind them, it’s easy for messages to be misconstrued.
Communication is key for any great leader, but simply asking your team how their days have been or asking for their advice on an ongoing project doesn’t necessarily make for great leadership; giving feedback does—and that’s best done face-to-face. In an email or text, it’s easy for miscommunications to happen, so when you have something to share, the good, bad, or ugly, hop on a Zoom call, or find another way to get face time with that person so you can be sure they understand the message and tone you’re trying to convey.
Remember that feedback goes both ways. Good human leaders frequently ask for, and are open to, receiving feedback. If you’re in a leadership role at your organization, don’t be afraid to ask your team how you’re doing and ways in which you can improve.
Simply put, we are all humans in this together, and we’re solving the same problem. So let’s help each other grow and grow with one another as we continue to evolve in the digital realm.
Interested in learning more about BARR’s culture? Take a look at our careers page.
Swathi West, healthcare and privacy manager
As healthcare and privacy manager, Swathi leads BARR’s HITRUST practice by strengthening client relationships and developing new business opportunities. She will also be charged with planning and executing information technology audits, client risk assessments, and GRC Advisory engagements for our rapidly expanding client portfolio.
Swathi is originally from South India, and came to the U.S. to pursue her Master in Space Studies degree at the University of North Dakota. From there, she went on to work for UnitedHealth Group’s information security team where she fell in love with the cybersecurity industry, auditing several healthcare clients against the HITRUST framework. She then moved over to the client side, working for Cardinal Health where she gained experience selecting security tools, planning security testing, and the overall auditing process. Swathi then went on to Schellman and Company, working on several HITRUST, SOC, and HIPAA certification projects, before joining the BARR team.