Remote working boom could see power-shift towards employees

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The lockdown has been a major test for managers and leaders. Many businesses have had to tackle tough economic conditions, with demand for their goods and services evaporating overnight.

At the same time, many employees have faced incredibly stressful months, with social isolation, a lack of exercise, diminishing job security, and impending economic uncertainty.

This means that along with the short-run pressure of keeping their businesses afloat, truly effective leaders have also had to ensure that their employees remain engaged and motivated during the crisis.

To do so, they’ve had to ensure they communicate with their employees, take a proactive approach to looking after employee mental health, and ensure there’s not too much pressure on team members during this turbulent time.

All in all, companies that are well-set to thrive in this testing time are those that have adopted an open and collaborative leadership style. But what does this mean in practice?

Build up motivation through communication

In our recent survey of workplace attitudes amid lockdown, we found two of the major barriers to team motivation were not being able to talk to employees face-to-face (46% of respondents) and having less visibility on what the team is doing (37%).

This isn’t surprising, as working remotely deprives teams of access to the many uncodified ways that we communicate with one another, and this can impact everything in a business from feedback on projects through to overall strategy.

When working remotely, there are two effective tips leaders can follow to fix this communications deficit. The first is making the effort to share positive news and feedback whenever possible, which lets employees know that the work they’re doing remotely is not happening in a vacuum and is valued by everyone else on the team.

The second is deliberately setting aside more time for team members to communicate with each other, so everyone has the opportunity to set the purpose of their current work.

Listening to ideas

Many businesses are currently in uncharted territory, which means that the experience of leadership teams might fall short in how to handle the problem. Companies should be willing to turn to their employees for ideas to help them navigate their current situation.

This doesn’t just help the business, but also the employees who feel that they have a stake in its future and also feel valued as contributors.

Leaders should therefore make sure to ask their teams outright - both during group meetings and one-on-ones - about how the business could be doing better.

It’s also important to take time to observe contributions made by employees and ask them to build out broader suggestions whenever they hint or mention something that could improve the performance of the team.

Leaders as servants

All of the above hits at a unifying theme - leaders that are coming out of this crisis best are those who see their job as serving the needs of their teams. Through making sure that the needs of employees come out first, these leaders ensure better communication, improved morale, better productivity, and greater innovation in their businesses.

At a time like the present, the benefits brought about through overhauling the employer-employee relationship aren’t just nice to have, but a necessity for many businesses that will need to bounce back after lockdown ends. And in the long-run, businesses with better-served employees will be happier and healthier for this cultural change.

Takashi Sato is managing director at Unipos

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