Employee Experience

How to lead remote teams: tips for managers

Managers are looking for extra guidance during this unquestionably strange time. How can they best support their people, while still making sure that productivity and engagement stay high? Here’s some advice from the experts...

Trust your people

Now is an opportunity to focus on results, not presenteeism. As Dave Gilbert, VP of Talent at Gitlab says: “Don’t be a clock watcher.”

After all, “The coolest part of working from home is there isn’t an expectation to be at your desk. Watch the results, but not time in the chair,” he advises. 

Ask your people how they’re doing

Communicate and then communicate some more, says Benjamin Granger from the XM Institute: “Communicate even more than you think is necessary,” he says. “Results from our latest EX trends report clearly indicated that employees want to be surveyed during times of major organizational change.”

Staying closely connected to your employees is always important, but in these uncertain times, it is critical.

David Landman, Head of Talent Assessment at Goldman Sachs

Qualtrics Manager of EX Solutions Strategy Steve Bennetts agrees: “What we’ve found is that companies that listen more and take action off the back of that listening have a significant increase in employee engagement.”

Read more about communicating effectively with your teams.

Don’t expect to have all the answers

“Managers want to feel like they can help in any scenario,” says Steve. “But in times of uncertainty it’s OK not to know. It’s OK to say, ‘I’m not sure – let’s figure it out together.’”

In fact, in unprecedented times like these, it’s better to be figuring it out together rather than just telling people what to do.

“Crowdsource ideas,” says Steve. “Now is the time to really tap into how people are feeling and to be asking them how they need to be supported.” You’re far more than likely to get unexpected ideas that the leadership team may have never thought of.

Don’t expect 100% right now

“Now is not the time to be expecting 100% from your people,” says Lori McLeese, Global Head of Human Resources at Automattic. “Make sure that you make that clear.”

Be empathic

“Empathy is extremely important at the moment,” says Courtney Seiter, Director of People at Buffer. Especially for those with family responsibilities who need to fit work around childcare, or caring for elderly relatives. “So what if you can hear someone’s child in the background on a call? Be kind and try and be as understanding as possible.”

Find out more about your people

“Do get to know them personally,” says Dave Gilbert, VP of Talent at Gitlab. “Spend the extra time required to get to know them personally.”

Listen and then act

Let your people feel heard. When your workforce is disparate it’s even more important for people to feel like they not only have a voice, but that their voice is valuable.“

What's your biggest struggle with working remotely?

  • Unplugging after work: 22%
  • Loneliness: 17%
  • Collaboration / Communication: 10%

- Buffer's 2019 State of Remote Work Report

Find out how our free and simple-to-use Remote Work Pulse tool can help