Leading a remote workforce will certainly allow organizations to assemble the best talent available, regardless of location. This strategy will not be limited to larger organizations. Mid-market companies will be able to leverage available talent, no matter the location. While this will be a tremendous recruiting opportunity, if not managed effectively, it will lead to turnover and burnout.
What good is recruiting top talent if we don’t retain them? Being able to allow top talent to telecommute when it is appropriate will be an advantage. Not leading them effectively and allowing burnout will be a significant disadvantage.
The remote leadership superpower will require helping folks protect themselves against themselves. Employees working remotely will need to understand the healthy boundaries between their work and personal lives. Laura M. Giurge and Vanessa K. Bohns, in their Harvard Business Review article, “Three Tips to Avoid WFH Burnout” warn, “To signal their loyalty, devotion, and productivity, employees may feel they have to work all the time. Afternoons will blend with the evenings; weekdays will blend with weekends; and little sense of time off will remain.”
Giurge and Bohns also warn, “Our research has shown that workers often unintentionally make it hard for their supervisors, colleagues, and employees to maintain boundaries. One way they do so is by sending work emails outside office hours. In five studies involving more than 2,000 working adults, we found that senders of after-hours work emails underestimate how compelled receivers feel to respond right away, even when such emails are not urgent.”
The remote leadership superpower will require a great deal of coaching. Workaholism, whether real or perceived, needs to be addressed. Just because someone chooses to work at 10 PM does not mean the rest of the team wants to switch back on before bedtime. Leaders will need to set clear boundaries, so folks avoid the unintended consequences of working during off-hours.
This will be a bit more difficult when teams are spread across time zones. Leaders will need to address this fact and set clear expectations for each individual and for the team as a whole. For example, a team consisting of folks in Barcelona, Tokyo, and New York will need to have different expectations than a team scattered across the same time zone.
Leading remotely is an inevitable evolution of work in the 21st century. Remote workers still need strong leadership and cannot be treated as “out of sight, out of mind.” In many ways, a remote workforce requires even stronger, more intentional leadership.
Adapted from our best-selling book, The Leadership Decade: A Playbook for an Extraordinary Era. If you’d like to purchase a copy, please visit s21.us/tldbook for a hardback book or s21.us/tldebook for an ebook. For even more information, check out theleadershipdecade.com.