Leadership Tips for Remote Employees During COVID-19

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COVID-19 activated remote work teams overnight, popping up across the globe forcing teams to re-invent quickly to maintain efficiency and productivity.   As a person who dabbled in working from home in the early ’90s and eventually committed to virtual employment as my normal since 2001, I was curious and fascinated to see how employees and their leaders would manage virtual employment through the crisis phase of the COVID-19 transition.

Recognizable behavioral patterns, communication, and leadership styles surfaced as if under a magnifying glass with strengths and opportunities easy to identify. What I believe happens when we work in isolation is we become stripped to who we are at our core. We no longer have the option to hide in groups of peers or sit in the back of a meeting forum. Our authentic selves are who we are on camera.  “Good morning” hello’s are now one-dimensional on a tv screen and cafeteria chatter is non-existent.

In speaking to colleagues from various industries and through my own experiences, these top tips are to encourage remote leaders to stay-the-course for maximum motivation and productivity!

If you read no further, leaders, continue to lead vs. manage.  Leaders lead people, managers manage projects. Your leadership shouldn’t become compromised since you’re now leading a remote team.

Team members more than ever will pay attention to you as a leader by watching you on one of the most influential media platforms, the square screen. 

  1. Working remotely means setting clear expectations, establishing consistent team meetings, and continuing to provide structured agendas for meetings.
  2. Assess team members’ psychological frame of mind by asking open-ended questions during one-on-one check-in meetings. Engage with sincerity and empathy and remain curious to learn about your team members. Ask “what’s most important for you to work on during this time”? “What do you think we can do to help our team engage through virtual meetings”? In short, ask for input and solutions from your team members.
  3. Be creative and make time for fun! Create activities for team members to team-build across the miles. Working from home can offer unique opportunities to heighten team activities in new and innovative ways. Consider an in-home scavenger hunt where team members seek out specific items while being timed. Team members have 1-minute to find X item and must report back to their computer for each subsequent item.  For teams trying to become healthier, consider sharing a workout best-practice offering team members to take turns sharing their favorite activity.
  4. Maximize virtual platforms where interactive whiteboards offer everyone the opportunity to participate simultaneously and continue to have a voice. Zoom, TruConf Online, ExplainEverything, Miro, LiveBoard, and Jot! are top picks for interactive participation.
  5. Hold morning coffee huddles or lunchtime chat and chews! Show up being 100% authentic and encourage the same with your teams. Where there is comfort, trust, and security, team members will begin to thrive and produce.
  6. Offer optional team check-ins. Keep the conversations like and limited to 20-minutes or less. Offering optional check-in’s allow team members to show up if they’re looking for a connection. If they opt-out, don’t pressure them, hence opting out.
  7. Conduct meetings with an agenda and focus on goals, timelines, results. Close with committed next steps. Follow-up timely with an email synopsis of the meeting for team members to use as a guide to continue to stay focused.
  8. Trust the team. If team members are having technical issues or personal hiccups, allow them the time and space to work through the problems.  A simple “no worries” can and will go the distance when remote tech issues pop-up.
  9. Encourage self-paced development. This is a great time dedicate towards reading more, taking online free courses through LinkedIn Learnings, or brush up on technical skills via YouTube videos.  Ask team members to make recommendations to their peers of new skills and new knowledge.
  10. Empower teams to take turns leading weekly meetings, which also includes crafting the agenda topics and reporting out afterwards.

Through it all, whether short-term or indefinitely, be available, supportive, and continue to create a culture of trust and psychological safety. Team members more than ever will pay attention to you as a leader by watching you on one of the most influential media platforms, the square screen.  While this square will project a one-dimensional you, become a multi-dimensional remote leader who can and will make a difference.


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