Team Impact: During virtual meetings—or one-to-one conversations with workers—managers who don’t focus on effective communication may multitask, read or respond to emails or messages, or take phone calls rather than give their full attention. (Managers who work remotely, too, may be distracted by doorbells, family members, or other interruptions.) Inattentive leaders leave employees feeling ignored and unvalued.
Critical skills: verbal and non-verbal communication, written communication, active listening, presentation, influence, empathy, and relationship-building.
2. Fail to maintain frequent contact with employees
Out of sight, out of mind is a trap that trips up many managers who are used to interacting with team members they see in person every day. Constant contact with remote employees (individually and with full teams) is necessary to build and maintain trust, effectively monitor and support performance, provide guidance and development, and perpetuate organizational and team cultures.
Team Impact: If managers don’t commit to regular and meaningful contact with team members, trust, engagement, and productivity can erode quickly. Further, when employees work remotely, virtual interactions may take on a casual feel. Flexibility is important, but virtual team meetings and one-to-one manager/employee interactions require an appropriate degree of structure and formality. This is especially true for performance management and coaching conversations.
Critical skills: Organization, collaboration, flexibility, planning, goal-setting, coaching, accountability, and performance management.
3. Show lack of respect for work/life boundaries
The ability to work from home is a top draw for employees, but the flexibility of the remote environment is not without its challenges. In fact, many employees working from home still struggle to keep work and private lives separated successfully. For their part, managers unused to leading remote teams often need guidance in establishing and respecting workers’ boundaries. Creating organizational and team norms can provide a framework by specifying hours of employee availability, appropriate times during which meetings may be scheduled, non-meeting hours, and other parameters that enable respectful interaction and work/life balance.
Team Impact: Remote work flexibility makes it possible for employees to address family or personal issues more freely. However, managers must respect the work/life division their team members create, and employees must ensure that work objectives are accomplished and that trust is not abused. Norms provide the structure some workers need in the home setting while also ensuring that work/life balance is respected by specifying core hours of employee availability for collaboration/meetings; when emails, phone calls, and other contacts may occur; conduct in virtual settings (appearance on camera when required, engagement in discussions, etc.); and other factors.
Critical skills: Respect, empathy, emotional intelligence, courtesy, team leadership, problem-solving, conflict management, time management, and creativity.
4. Fail to manage virtual meetings and use remote work technologies effectively
Just as people/soft skills are vital for managers overseeing remote or hybrid teams, so are the technical capabilities required to leverage virtual work technologies and structure and conduct effective virtual meetings. Managers should receive instruction in all applicable organizational technologies that enable team and individual communications, scheduling and execution of virtual meetings, and any other tools necessary to successful management of productive remote and/or hybrid teams.
Team Impact: While organizational IT functions must ensure appropriate technological capabilities (to avoid freezing screens, low bandwidth, poor audio/video quality, etc.), mishaps with screen sharing, breakout rooms, chat capabilities, and other features signal managers (and employees) who don’t know how to use virtual communication and meeting tools (Zoom, Slack, Teams, etc.) correctly. Beyond technical aspects of virtual meetings, managers who don’t know how to set agendas, define goals, coordinate inclusion of all attendees (whether remote, on-site, or both), and use meeting time well, risk wasted time, employees who feel excluded, unmet objectives, and under-performing teams.
Critical skills: Use of virtual communication technologies, stress management, presentation capabilities, confidence, meeting leadership/management, and resilience.
5. Disregard development and advancement of remote team members
Ongoing and rapid changes in organizations and in the world at large make continuous learning a must for individuals and workforces. In turn, that calls on managers to be constant champions of development opportunities for their teams. Ensuring internal mobility for remote team members is important as well. Too often, organizational leaders responsible for succession and workforce planning overlook employees who are not visible in physical workplaces. Managers must be vocal advocates for both remote and on-site team members, and internal mobility practices should be reviewed and updated to avoid bias against remote workers.
Team Impact: Workers who are removed from physical workplaces may miss out on learning opportunities if managers don’t make team development a top-of-mind priority. Training programs must be suitable for on-site and/or remote work settings, and employee/manager conversations leveraged for development purposes when appropriate. Remote employees also are at risk of being overlooked (or discriminated against) for advancement or internal mobility—a form of unconscious bias that untrained managers may perpetuate.
Critical skills: Talent development (individual and teams), teaching/coaching/mentoring, performance management, self-directed learning, career planning, and goal setting/achievement.