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8 Common Leadership Mistakes in Remote and Hybrid Work

8 Common Leadership Mistakes in Remote and Hybrid Work

A global pandemic proved that most companies could work remotely. Almost three years later, remote and hybrid arrangements have become a staple in the workplace, but there are still common leadership mistakes while managing these teams.

People not only can but want to work from the comfort of their homes. The latest State of the Labor Market report by LinkedIn shows that more people want to work remotely than ever, although the market is tight and remote job postings are declining.

That's why it's crucial for companies to know how to attract and retain their remote workers.

Having a remote or hybrid team requires managers to take the time to learn about the people on their team, what makes them tick and how they work best –especially when companies have both arrangements in place at the same time.

Leadership mistakes arise when managers are unsure whether a remote team can be as productive as their on-site counterparts. Moreover, they may worry about ensuring everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals.

The proven benefits of remote work include reaching diversity goals and having satisfied employees, but there needs to be intentionality behind leadership to make both teams work effectively.

Here are eight common leadership mistakes that remote and hybrid companies need to ditch to increase efficiency and retain talent.

8 Leadership mistakes to avoid in remote and hybrid teams

  • Not having dedicated spaces for conversation
  • Failing to provide adequate equipment
  • Not holding remote and hybrid teams to the same standards
  • Scheduling meetings inefficiently 
  • Not giving the same opportunities to remote and hybrid teams
  • Not allowing team members to give you feedback
  • Using the wrong communication tools while working with synchronous and asynchronous teams 
  • Assuming that remote work means employees will be available all of the time

1. Not having dedicated spaces for conversation

Most of what made employees have good relationships in the traditional office were the non-work-related conversations, the time spent between tasks, or the out-of-office fun activities. 

Without that quality time, workers can only base their relationships on work which may increase the employee's sense of loneliness and isolation.

Leaders can avoid this by providing a space and time where teammates can engage in conversations or activities besides work. 

One way to do this is by encouraging team members to create a chat room for informal talk. Another way is leaving a little space after video meetings to talk about their lives and their circumstances. 

Some companies even have a weekly or monthly remote activity with teammates (remote coffee, cocktails, cooking class, games, etc.). Being intentional about forming solid relationships is part of a great remote company culture.

2. Failing to provide adequate equipment

Leaders should make sure their team members have a nook expressly set up for work with all the equipment they need: a good computer, a comfortable desk, an ergonomic chair, and a fast and reliable internet connection, at the least. 

Companies can do this by allowing an equipment stipend or sending company equipment to employees. Management needs to push their companies to sort these requirements out and not let employees to their own devices. 

3. Not holding remote and hybrid teams to the same standards

While every team has its unique set of challenges, when it comes to performance management and leadership development, there should be no difference between office-based and remote teams. 

Employees not part of your daily meetings or discussions will feel left out of important information. They may also feel like they don't belong or aren't considered an equal team member.

You can avoid these mistakes by being transparent with everyone about what's happening within the company. This means sharing goals, workflows, tools, processes, and expectations clearly.

4. Scheduling meetings inefficiently 

Managers must avoid scheduling meetings at inconvenient times when working remotely in different time zones. Meetings should consider a time that works for everyone involved. 

Besides, not everything requires a video call. As a leader, ask yourself if a meeting is necessary or the message can be delivered through another medium. You can summarize your ideas in an email or provide a video recording if there are many steps to explain.

Of course, some meetings are absolutely necessary, but leaders should make sure everybody knows about them ahead of time and specify what will be discussed, how long it will last, and, if it's the case, how each team member needs to prepare. 

5. Not giving the same opportunities to remote and hybrid teams

Working remotely should not mean being out of sight or out of mind for leadership. On the contrary, there needs to be intentionality in creating remote working policies that outline what's expected of workers and the inner workings of any team.

Regarding promotions or professional development opportunities, managers should equally advocate for remote and on-site employees. For example, suppose an employee wants to attend a training course offered by their employer. In that case, they should receive equal consideration for such an opportunity regardless of whether they work from home or in an office building.

It's easy for remote employees to feel left out of office banter or inside jokes. Managers must pay special attention to including remote workers in the on-site culture. This can improve trust and overall employee satisfaction.  

6. Not allowing team members to give you feedback

When your employees see that their feedback is being read and—more importantly—responded to, it builds a culture of feedback that will help you improve your remote work engagement. 

Modern workers like to be heard. The first thing you need to do is set up avenues for feedback. Find channels that allow you to respond quickly. Slack or Zoom will enable you to create dedicated, private channels that you can use for feedback.

You need to create a culture where your employees will feel that their feedback is valuable. This is critical to find out what's working and what isn't with your remote work strategy. The way to get this done is to respond to their feedback in a real and tangible way. Veer away from the positively scripted corporate-speak and talk to them like people—be honest and realistic in your responses.

7. Using the wrong communication tools while working with synchronous and asynchronous teams 

There are two types of remote communication: synchronous and asynchronous. Synchronous communication happens in real-time and asynchronous communication doesn't require all parties to participate simultaneously. 

Each type of remote work requires different communication, and not having the correct communication strategy can hinder your team's progress and lead to frustration. According to TechSmith, here are the various channels of communication you can use:

Common types of remote synchronous communication

  • Zoom or other video calls
  • Phone calls
  • Virtual meetings
  • SMS text messages
  • Slack or Microsoft Teams conversations

Common types of remote asynchronous communication

  • Project management apps
  • Wiki or Sharepoint site
  • Informational or instructional videos
  • Quick-reference guides
  • Screenshots with markup
  • Slack or Microsoft Teams chats
  • Trello or Monday

Identify which type of communication suits each team and implement a strategy to simplify work for everyone. Having clarity over the proper communication channels can increase your team’s productivity since they won’t waste time figuring out how to report their progress. 

8. Assuming that remote work means employees will be available all of the time

Imagine you turn off your computer after working all day, put on your pajamas, and turn on the TV, and suddenly you get a message from your boss telling you to respond to an email ASAP. Either you ignore the message and feel like you are not meeting your boss's expectations, or you do as they say and resent them later for not respecting your time. Neither option is good for the company. 

Even though remote work should be flexible, people need some structure or guidelines to which they can adapt. Feeling that they need to be available all day can make them anxious. Make sure you establish a clear schedule or time frames for different tasks for team members and stick to it. Workers will feel that their time is valuable and will try to be effective during work hours. 

Final Thoughts

Talent, especially remote workers, appreciates empathy and closeness. They need to feel that their work and time are valuable and that their input is being considered. They need to feel that they are a part of something great. That is what will make them develop a sense of loyalty and commitment. 

If you want to excel as a remote leader, you must let go of traditional micromanaging and square tactics and understand that your team is your company's most important resource. The future of work requires leaders that know how to listen, empathize, communicate and adapt.

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Mara Quintanilla

December 13

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