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Six ways to be a great boss for your remote team

Remote working is now a permanent fixture in our professional landscape, whether it’s full-time WFH or a hybrid model blending office and home days. It means that the role of a good manager now often includes effectively leading team members who may not always be physically present.

In this environment, many managers face challenges like maintaining oversight, combating feelings of disconnection among staff, dealing with social isolation, and managing home life distractions. To help navigate these issues, we’ve compiled some expert advice on how you can excel as a boss for your remote team.


Foster Effective Communication

You can’t communicate too much with remote employees. Make sure you’ve got multiple methods of staying in touch – such as emails, instant messaging and video calls – with rules of engagement for what to use when. Erica Dhawan, an expert on digital teamwork, says it’s important to make space for quieter team members to speak up and to give extroverts an opportunity to sound off. She says bosses should learn to adapt to the different communication styles of their team, just as they would strike up a rapport in person. “The key for leaders is to create a digital environment that fosters and encourages a range of communication styles so that everyone can engage authentically,” she says.


Implement Regular Check-Ins 

Many of the problems of remote work – supervision, disconnection, isolation – can be tackled with a regular daily call. That may mean a series of one-to-one meetings or a joint Zoom meeting for more collaborative teams. “The important feature is that the calls are regular and predictable, and that they are a forum in which employees know that they can consult with you, and that their concerns and questions will be heard,” say management experts Professor Barbara Larson, Dr Susan Vroman and Professor Erin Makarius in Harvard Business Review. Others suggest making sure your calendar is available to your team and maintaining a virtual open-door policy, so staff know when they can message you to chat.


Support Professional Development

Encouraging continuous learning and career growth is vital for remote employees. Offer opportunities for online training, webinars, and virtual conferences. Schedule regular career development check-ins to discuss goals and progress. Providing clear paths for advancement and skill development keeps remote employees engaged and motivated, and by investing in their professional growth, you show that you value their future within the company.


Promote Social Connections

It can’t all be work, work, work. Be sure to build in some opportunities for social connection – the equivalent of those watercooler chats in the office. That doesn’t have to mean cramming social Zoom hangouts into your employees’ calendars. It might just be a matter of a few minutes of chat before or after your regular meetings. “Share positive feedback, open a fun chat channel, or try and ‘grab coffee’ together—whatever helps maintain a sense of normality and solidarity and reminds everyone they’re not an island working alone,” suggests Scott Bales, a vice-president at time management company Replicon, speaking to the Society for Human Resource Management.


Prioritise Remote Team Members

Hybrid working can create a difficult political problem for managers: how to avoid making your WFH colleagues feel left out? Wayne Anderson from the Leadership Science Institute says the answer is to put your remote staff first. “Treat your remote people like they are local and treat your local people like they are remote. Give remote people as much access to you as possible. Remember, your local people see you in the halls, eat with you at lunch, stop by your office, etc. The remote people don’t have that access and can feel distant,” he says. He suggests making a point of responding to messages from WFH staff as quickly as you can, and making your colleagues in the office book appointments for your time.


Boost Employee Recognition

When you’re isolated at home, you can feel more vulnerable. Are you really doing a good job? A remote boss can address that insecurity by making time to give a shout-out to great work. “During periods of disruption, employees’ desire for being recognised for their contribution increases by about 30%,” says Brian Kropp, vice-president at Gartner. Recognising great work doesn’t just motivate the recipient, it sends a signal to everyone else about what you want to see more of. Use your one-to-one meetings to probe team members on what barriers they have overcome or who has helped them. Then you can bring these achievements to the team meetings and give them public recognition.



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