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Leading a Remote Workforce

How emotional intelligence can help

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the launch of remote work in many organisations. This forced shift in working arrangements meant organisations and their staff had to adapt quickly to a new way of working.

Since then, allowing employees to work remotely has provided organisations with a number of benefits. For example, employees who work from home have reported increased job performance, job satisfaction and overall wellbeing.

However, navigating and managing a team virtually presents different challenges to managing a team that is face-to-face. Whilst working from home creates more flexibility, there is also more opportunity for conflict, decreased engagement and feelings of isolation.

So, how do you overcome these challenges and lead your remote team effectively?

Here are three ways using your emotional intelligence can help:

1) Set goals and celebrate success

As a leader, it is important to promote learning and development by setting clear, well-defined goals that suit the individual needs of each team member. This ensures your team continues to see their work as meaningful which improves motivation and engagement. When your team succeeds, celebrate loudly and ensure each team member knows their contributions are appreciated.

2) Show empathy and remain connected

Working from home can feel isolating and your team is likely to all be working in different environments. Showing empathy will help you to recognise this and consider how to manage each person’s specific circumstances. Remember to reach out regularly and ask your team how they are doing both professionally and personally. Providing support and an opportunity to share ensures people feel like a valued member of the team.

3) Encourage effective communication

Communication is key in any team but without regular, face-to-face interactions, it may be harder to know how people are feeling about their work. To reduce the risk of unhappy, unmotivated or even disgruntled employees, leaders need to be aware of any problems. This can be achieved by encouraging clear and direct communication within the team. Equally, you should also express your own expectations and concerns with clarity and confidence to ensure everyone is on the same page.

While virtual teams are not without their challenges, leaders can use their emotional intelligence to help maintain engagement and motivation in this new era of remote working.

Find out more about emotional intelligence and how it can be developed using EQ Extra.

Flood, Ed.D., Francesca. (2019). Leadership in the Remote, Freelance, and Virtual Workforce Era. 10.1007/978-3-319-31816-5_3825-1.

Larson, B. Z., Vroman, S. R., & Makarius, E. E. (2020). A guide to managing your (newly) remote workers. Harvard Business Review, 18(2), 27-35.

Popovici, V., & Popovici, A. L. (2020). Remote work revolution: Current opportunities and challenges for organizations. Ovidius Univ. Ann. Econ. Sci. Ser, 20, 468-472.

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