The idea of remote or hybrid work is now almost a given for many large and small companies. And while companies had to flip quickly to working-from-home last year, with the expectation of it continuing in some form, leaders need to understand that managing a distributed team is different than a centralized team. Being aware of the variation in skills and potential pitfalls for these two different office structures will set you up for success.
Ensuring clear communication with your team is always critical to success. When you have a centralized office, that can be easier, as are interacting with your team in face-to-face meetings during the meeting and after. With remote work, leaders may believe that more frequent communication is the solution to ensure communication is clear, but that is not necessarily the case. Finding the right cadence and format for communication can take some trial-and-error but vital to long-term success. It's essential to balance written communication, asynchronous video, and conference calls because it’s likely your team has individuals who process information better in different formats. Getting feedback from your team and learning the best way individuals process information will also help determine the frequency, cadence, and design of the communication.
Providing Effective Feedback
In one survey, we see that 80% of people believe they are missing something important when they cannot see body language or other visual cues that you would get as part of a regular face-to-face meeting. This can make providing feedback more challenging.
While some feedback will not change, e.g., providing written notes on a memo or presentation, feedback on performance needs to be clear and direct but delivered in a way that doesn't feel abrasive or robotic. It will also be essential to find and establish a robust feedback model and recognize that what works for one employee may not work for another; For a hybrid office, performance feedback may best be scheduled during in-person office day. For fully remote teams, giving feedback about a person's performance during a meeting, approach to a project, or interpersonal issue would probably benefit from live interaction through audio or video. This allows the person to ask questions, share their thoughts, and decrease the chance of misunderstanding feedback.
Ensuring Advancement and Growth Opportunities
One of the concerns noted about remote work is the potential decreased opportunities for advancement for employees. This is an even more significant concern for hybrid offices, where some employees get more "face-time" with the boss.
Establishing a robust and formalized learning and development plan will help to mitigate this concern and will also provide a benefit to the company. If your company already has a plan, now is an excellent time to review to ensure that it encompasses any new skill sets necessary due to your revised office structure.
If a manager has communicated expectations, it's also critical that they empower their employees to deliver on their projects. When you cannot see an employee all day long in an office, you may feel the need to micromanage to ensure milestones are met. However, that adds a great deal of stress to an employee and leads to dissatisfaction in the workplace. You hired the team for a reason, so like when they were in the office, empower them to make decisions and deliver on their projects.
Remote and hybrid work will become the norm for many companies, so now is an excellent time to review your management skills and company policies to align your business for long-term success.