After the world grappled with the pandemic, many industries and businesses had to adapt to new working techniques. For managers, this has meant a significant shift in managing their teams, as remote work has become increasingly popular and traditional office structures have been disrupted.
The 17th Floor invited Kevin Eikenberry, Leadership and Remote/Hybrid Work expert and author, to explore how managing teams changed after the pandemic and how managers can navigate these changes effectively.
Having written three books on remote work from different perspectives, management, teamwork and employees, Kevin co-wrote The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership. This revealing publication at the time covers how leaders conducted remote teams in 2018.
Later came The Long-Distance Teammate: Stay Engaged and Connected While Working Anywhere when the pandemic hit, and employees were sent to work from home. Instead of concentrating on management, this book focuses on the role of individual team members in being successful when they're not always with their leader and their team space.
Now that we live in the post-pandemic world, he recently published The Long-Distance Team: Designing Your Team for Everyone’s Success. This edition follows how we can consciously and intentionally create a culture that will help us succeed both as a business and as individuals who work there.
How Technology Helped Shape Remote Work
Contrary to what many people think, remote work was not born with the pandemic. Kevin’s The Long-Distance Leader from 2018 proves that. Nonetheless, the pandemic did massively accelerate this trend thanks to the support of technology.
Not only did the pandemic speed new ways of working, but it also accelerated technology, as many tech giants had to work hard to improve their products for this new reality. Microsoft, for example, already had Microsoft Teams but improved it; Slack and Zoom already existed, but now Zoom is a verb. The use of these technologies grew dramatically.
How to Effectively Manage Remote Work Teams
Technology is not the only significant element in this increasingly popular working approach. There are new challenges for managers and how they lead their teams in the distance. Leading teams in the hybrid work world requires a new set of skills and strategies and a willingness to adapt and evolve as the situation changes.
Although leading a group at a distance is different, it's not 100% different. Some elements rest the same. Building a team, coaching employees, and being effective and self-aware are all features needed for leaders conducting on-site, hybrid and remote teams.
Go Remote or Back to the Office?
Regardless of where the employees work, the most important thing for a leader to be clear about is the reason “Why?” of their business. It's paramount for every organization to know exactly what the business purposes are, what the objectives are, what the KPIs are, etc., in order to assess if on-site, hybrid or remote work fit better these goals. With a clear path, leaders can effectively communicate to employees the expectations they have to meet and ensure productivity.
If the expectations are clear and achievable and employees are engaged and care about the company, they will see for themselves that it is better to balance working some days from home and others from the office. They will realize that it is not an obligation but can actually be a productive way to integrate and collaborate as a team.
Managing Hybrid Teams the Right Way
What managers need to do is figure out how to organize the work when employees are in the office differently from when they are at home. Taking advantage of the time in the office to collaborate and communicate effectively is vital, and it is very different from the work that employees should be doing from home.
Concerning the employees with whom the leader has no face-to-face contact, managers must ensure that they interact with these team members in a similar way as with those at the office. Leaders must ensure an interaction, not just a transaction.
Remote vs In-Office Work Day: Why Should They Be Different?
For this reason, if the leader's routine looks the same when they are home as when they are in their office, then they are not taking advantage of the hybrid work setting. Successful leaders block out time to interact, whether through serendipitous conversations or huddles with their teams. Making sure to do these types of activities that they wouldn’t do when they work from home is the key to success.
Addressing the Current Skills Gap in Today’s Labour Market
The world of work and how society views work have changed drastically in three years. This doesn't mean people must throw out everything they know about leading because a lot hasn't changed. But the context has changed drastically, so people can't lead as they always did in this new situation.
This is especially true if they manage young employees. The last generation of young workers to enter the job market came out of college during or after the pandemic. Their entry into the workforce was remote from the start, so there is a skills gap between this generation and previous ones with the experience and the codes of working at an office.
In the end, all the things that leaders want employees to do with them, they should do as well. If they do, they will head in the right direction.
Kevin Eikenberry is the founder, owner and leader of The Kevin Eikenberry Group. He spends his days writing, speaking, coaching, consulting and training to help leaders make a bigger difference in the world around them.
How do you manage your team from a distance? Share your best practices in the comments section.
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The young worker skills gap is a very real thing–wouldn’t it be great if integration into physical office work were offered during post-secondary training (or better yet, even high school!).3 days ago