What does it take to lead a remote team?


The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the paradigm of how people work, from traditional office spaces to the living room or even the bedroom.

Although employees tend to enjoy working from home, it is a challenge for managers and business owners to maintain the company’s efficiency levels due to the possible sense of comfort that workers tend to feel once they are outside their regular work environment.

In this context, business consultant Jasdeep Singh has some recommendations that managers can follow to make sure workers continue to be as productive as they were before the pandemic pressures began.

Are workers more or less productive when working from home?

A recent survey from research firm Valoir found that productivity only decreased between 1% and 2% for employees working at home. Such numbers debunk the hard-wired notion that employees will become less efficient if they are allowed to work in an environment as distractive as their place of living.

The survey further highlighted that employees actually work more than they usually do, with an average of 9 hours worked per day.

That said, it is important to note that the survey also found that individuals were increasingly worried about losing their jobs, which is probably the number one reason why they decided to remain productive despite the seemingly favorable arrangement.

Managers could use the above-mentioned information to design practices and policies that encourage productivity while also preventing, to some extent, helping employees feel too comfortable and begin to neglect work due to an artificial sense of permanence.

Best practices to manage remote employees

Setting deadlines, milestones, and deliverables

Remote workers are more likely to remain efficient if they are assigned clear tasks for which the goals are outlined and deadlines are given.

For managers, this could involve using project management software or other systems that allows leaders to track the progress of each employee and assigned tasks. The purpose is to be able to easily identify those that have been lagging and those that have been outperforming.

Although some projects may seem too be big to track, they can be broken down into smaller milestones and those can be assigned with a specific deadline and deliverable to keep sight of how things are going.

Such a system will reduce the need to micro-managing employees as feedback or corrective actions can be provided in a timely manner if deadlines are not met or deliverables do not comply with the expected level of quality.

Creating an environment of collaboration

Most remote employees agree that they miss the friendly dynamic that emerges in an office environment through the so-called water-cooler meetings and after-hours drinks.

In this regard, managers should find creative ways to keep employees connected. Technology can facilitate some of these interactions through tools such as video calls, live chat groups, and the gamification of the office environment.

Managers can also promote projects that promote interaction between multiple employees to allow them to find a common space to share and collaborate. This will strengthen the team’s sense of belonging and other key elements that are valued in traditional work environments.

Rewarding instead of punishing

A study from the Harvard Business Review showed that positive reinforcement is more effective than punishments to solidify a certain pattern of behavior.

Employees react much more positively to a reward than to punishment and it should be easier for a manager to provide affirmation than to frequently critique or criticize employees.

Positive reinforcement gains more importance in the context of remote work because an absence of positive validation becomes even more discouraging for workers who may feel isolated or unimportant due to distance.

Managers can create programs designed to reward employees with the best track record in terms of punctuality, quality of work, collaboration, and other similar aspects inherent to their duties in a way that can be consistently and fairly measured, tracked, and evaluated.

By doing this, employees will once again feel their work is important for the company and be more likely to remain productive.

Bottom Line

Although working from home is challenging for both managers and employees, studies show that productivity has not been reduced by this shift.

Managers can encourage productivity by following some of the recommendations outlined in this article to keep employees motivated and focused on completing the tasks they have been assigned.

You can also read more content on this topic and other business management matters on Dr. Singh’s website.

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