Remote Work Challenges: How to be an Effective Leader

October 24, 2022 |

By: Krystal Wilson, executive administrative assistant

When the world shifted during the COVID-19 pandemic, suddenly employees had to move from a familiar designated workspace at the office to working at the kitchen table or even on a small desk in the corner of their bedroom. We scrambled to figure out how to make this new life work. One of the biggest hurdles was learning how to stay connected—not wirelessly, but emotionally. As humans, we learn to evolve. We did, and let’s be honest, we still are. But, how do we know if we are practicing effective leadership when working remotely? Let’s dive in.

What are the biggest challenges in remote leadership?

Working in a remote environment requires a different leadership approach. With different approaches comes different challenges. Some challenges that may arise include:

  • Trusting your remote team. 
  • Lack of a strong remote workplace culture, which prevents the team from bonding and working together more closely.
  • Providing opportunities for learning and development in an environment of fewer in-person, on-the-job learning opportunities.
  • Team building exercises and interactions.

How do we combat these challenges as leaders?  Consider providing a set time for your team to connect on a personal level. Plan a monthly team building exercise that gives everyone an opportunity to interact with each other beyond their projects at work. Also add Slack channels such as water-cooler, or other Slack channels and groups based on personal interests (book clubs, TV shows, hobbies, etc.).

What makes a great remote leader?

With the challenges that leaders face creating a connected culture in a remote environment, there are characteristics and skills that remote leaders can sharpen to ensure a happy and productive workforce.

Here are some attributes that make an effective remote leader:

  • Empathy: A great remote leader acknowledges the challenges faced by remote workers, listens to their team, and adopts an attitude of understanding and compassion.
  • Attentive: With the physical distance that comes with remote work, leaders have to be more attentive and observant than ever to recognize potential mental health issues or other problems faced by their employees.
  • Flexibility: Every employee adapts differently to remote work. A good remote leader is flexible to cater to different employee needs, with the ability to adjust their leadership style according to each situation.
  • Trustworthy: Trust is a fundamental requirement for remote work. Remote leaders need to be able to overcome the feeling of losing control over their teams and have trust in their employees.

Above all, remote leaders need to have strong communication skills, listen actively, act as a role model, and practice outstanding time management skills.

How to successfully lead remote teams

It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. As a remote leader, you’ll need to continue to work at these behaviors to maintain productivity.

  • Provide clear expectations on work hours and performance.
  • Provide your team with the right communication tools to help them with their connectivity and productivity, likeSlack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, emails, etc.
  • Make yourself available and ensure you’re approachable.
  • Build a culture of trust by respecting your team’s workflow, as long as they are completing their work in a timely manner.

 “At BARR we leverage one of our core values to stay connected as a remote company. Our core value, inclusive, means getting to know our associates on a personal level,” says Brad Thies, president and founder of BARR Advisory. “This is true at all levels of the organization and in a remote environment, you have to make time for it. We have a “segue” during weekly leadership meetings so that we all share good news personally from the previous week. It may seem small but it works. It also makes it more fun once we do get together in person.”

To sum it up, having a successful remote work environment starts with having effective leadership and management teams in place that will execute the needs of the company and put their people first.

Krystal Wilson, executive administrative assistant

As Executive Administrative Assistant, Krystal Wilson provides general administrative support for BARR’s President as well as supports the Leadership team and overall success of the organization. Krystal brings 10 years of experience to her role. She previously worked with BDO US, where she was responsible for supporting the BDO Detroit office as well as the Tax Regional Managing Partner. Krystal is accomplished in customer service, training, collections, and administrative work. She has been awarded for strong customer service skills and leadership with the ability to execute deliverables with excellence.

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