Emotions play a huge part in our lives. They accompany us wherever we go and influence our behavior. Today, I would like to look at how remote leadership can trigger, or be accompanied by, different positive and negative emotions. As we know, emotions influence our behavior. Leaders should be aware of what emotions are triggered and relevant at work.
How is remote work relevant in times of Corona?
In times of Corona, many leaders are being forced, whether willingly or unwillingly, to open up to the concept in order to continue regular labor at their firm. So how can we continue to be good leaders to our employees, when Corona forces us all to stay at home?
And what positive or negative aspects make remote work and remote leadership attractive beyond the corona pandemic?
What does “remote” mean in this context?
The most important characteristic is that employees don’t work from one office, but from elsewhere. Being in a room together and seeing each other at work on a daily basis, regardless of whether one is in direct contact with their work colleague, has a psychological effect that should not be underestimated.
What makes remote leadership collide with conservative leadership structures?
With the “remote work“ approach it will be harder for leaders to directly control their employees’ work. In conservative, old firm structures, the person in charge can theoretically still do all of the employees’ work and control and oversee it. With increased digitalization there is more specialization. This means that even without the remote approach, such direct control is often no longer possible. Leaders and employers have to rethink how they can continue to efficiently and effectively lead their employees. Only then is remote work no longer that far fetched.
How, when and where are POSITIVE emotions entangled in remote work and leadership?
Remote work and home office usually leads to more flexibility in every-day life. When people have more freedom to structure their day according to their needs, this can often lead to more satisfaction. For example, older employees often wish to work remotely enabling them to care for their children better (during the current corona crisis, this fact is turned upside down – as children stay at home too, working parents face the challenge of balancing childcare and work even more than usually).
Another advantage is that individual biorhythms of different employees can be considered. Working remotely enables to plan the day according to this rhythm rather than according to conventional office rhythms.
Flexibility can not only heighten satisfaction of employees through enabling to incorporate their individual rhythms but allows for an individual design of their personal work space.
Last but not least, higher satisfaction is known to influence work efficiency positively. Additionally, remote working eliminates many disturbances that are found in shared offices. As a consequence concentration will be higher enabling more efficient work.
How, when and where are NEGATIVE emotions entangled in remote work and leadership? And how can remote leadership still be successful?
There are a few rules leaders should follow, in order for remote leadership to be successful.
Communication. Since the familiar face-to-face communication is no longer available, new rules, habits and places have to be established online for efficient communication to take place , since communication principles cannot be transferred to the online environment to 100%.
Limited communication can lead to less information flow, which may end in frustration when employees are told afterwards that their work was redundant. What helps to avoid frustration is to decide on one communication software that is used by all employees and leaders, and make sure that all employees know how to use it. This may often already be the case, but should not be assumed.
Rules and guidelines should be introduced on where what kind of communication is appropriate. Regular meetings should be continued and even extended.
A negative aspect of remote work, that has been empirically proven by multiple studies, is that non-remote employees experience more career enhancement than remote-employees (Watson 2007). This is where it is very important to build a platform, where goals and successes from all employees can be presented and seen by the team leader and co-workers. This can increase team spirit and motivation greatly.
Communication is a very important factor in every firm independent from what structure the firm follows. In remote work however, neglect of efficient communication is particularly easy when it does not have high priority.
Isolation. Employees should, despite the physical distance, not feel they are left alone. It is important for a leader to define times and a platform for different types of communication, for example feedback, as well as to make sure that there is the possibility of employees communicating amongst each other. This will also minimize the feelings of isolation and can increase motivation and team spirit.
Management. Freedom of choice can often lead to positive emotions in some cases, though it may lead to employees feeling lost. How efficient is the separation between private life and work life? What is more, non-remote work surrounding often give structure that people need to feel safe. With daily structures eliminated (e.g. when to start and when to finish work), without self-management and self-controlled working, remote working leads to stress. With some kinds of personalities this is more likely the case, and a lack of structure will then lead to negative emotions. A leader has to know his or her employees in order to assess when a tighter lead is necessary for an employee to be happy.
Text by: Sophia Wende
Also a nice read in german: https://media.t3n.de/redaktion/homeofficeguide/t3n_Homeoffice_Guide.pdf
Mühlenbeck, F. (2017, April 12). Remote Leadership – Wie man erfolgreich virtuelle Teams führt. Retrieved March 21, 2020, from https://www.transformieren.com/remote-leadership-wie-man-erfolgreich-virtuelle-teams-fuehrt/
Müller, E. (2017, July 17). Remote Leadership. Retrieved March 21, 2020, from https://www.manager-magazin.de/magazin/artikel/fuehrung-befehlsprinzip-hat-ausgedient-a-1145730-2.html
Watson, K. D. (2007). Remote management: traditional leadership behaviors in a contemporary work environment.https://krex.k-state.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/2097/432/KelleyWatson2007.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
Murphy, M. (2016, June 10). 6 Traits Of Leaders Who Successfully Manage Remote Employees. Retrieved March 21, 2020, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/markmurphy/2016/06/10/6-traits-of-leaders-who-successfully-manage-remote-employees/#711ce71d4032