Working from home or remote working in some shape or form is going to continue and depending on which report you read, it’s a good thing for work life balance (flexibility and productivity are up) or a bad thing for our mental health (stress levels and feeling isolated are also up). The reality is managing our people remotely is harder and leaders may be underestimating how poor their emotional connections really are.
While the increased use of digital tools has meant we can continue with our jobs, we have found ourselves overwhelmed by those tools, feeling unproductive and inadequately supported by our bosses. So much so that 1 in 3 of us will be looking for a new job as soon as we can.
And there’s also the fact that your remote work culture may be harbouring toxic behaviours which are harder to locate when it’s distributed electronically rather than physically experienced or observed.
Better spec kit and strong internet connection fit for home working, working time flexibility and maybe a pay rise might fix the mechanical aspects of work but what about feeling that our boss cares and knows how to be remotely supportive?
If we agree that the quality of our relationships is directly related to the quality of our conversations and time together, then our emotional connections could be the powerhouse of managing our people remotely.
So, how can we earn that emotional credit with our direct reports and people generally?
#1 — Get really good at contracting
Where we feel complete trust and confidence in a member of our team to get stuff done with very little oversight, it’s likely we view them as highly competent or we have a strong emotional connection, or both. (Pst… they still need support and good conversations.)
When we worry that work might not be getting done and we give in to that irresistible urge to keep checking in, we’ve got some serious trust issues and definitely a deficit in our emotional connection to that person. More on that in a moment.
Contracting is an important part of conversations where you both align on what needs to be done, by whom and by when. The bits that we don’t do so well are:
- Clarify what the consequences are of something happening and not happening
- What resources and help our direct report needs to successfully do the work
- How we will both know that progress is happening
- How we will be both know the task is successfully completed
- What our options are should things not go to plan
Not only will this level of contracting bring both of you peace of mind and keep Big Brother at bay, but you as their manager will learn how your direct report thinks and you’ll establish a better emotional connection.