The Do’s and Don’ts of Remote Leadership

Currently almost 40% of Canadian employees are working remotely due the COVID19 outbreak. If given a choice, 80% of employees would prefer to continue working from home at least some days of the week, according to Global Workplace Analytics. Employees consider remote work as their ideal work scenario because it leads to greater work-life balance and increases productivity levels. But managing a remote team is not always easy. Managers struggle with feeling of decreased control over their team, monitoring challenges, and problem solving.

Here are some tips to help leaders become better remote workforce managers:

Do

1. Communicate Frequently: Keep your team engaged and connected on a daily basis. Utilizing communication channels and collaboration software is a great way to build and retain engagement. Schedule regular check-ins via video meetings to ensure inclusivity and provide opportunities for employees to raise any issues. Make sure to develop and communicate appropriate work-from home guidelines that define expectations. Just as you would at the office, encourage collaboration on projects and regular feedback.

2. Be Flexible: Regular work hours might be difficult to impose especially under the current circumstances where many kids are at home with their parents. Recognize that this is an un-ordinarily challenging time for many of your employees and being rigid will do more harm than good. Trust your team and provide them with flexibility to work on a schedule that helps them be the most productive. If productivity becomes an issue, especially with an employee that has always been outstanding at their work, learn what is causing this decrease, and work together to develop a solution to get back on track.

3. Set Your Team Up for Success: Remote team collaboration is highly dependent on reliable technology. Ensure that your team has access to appropriate resources and equipment to help them get their work done effectively and to work well together. Also provide your team with sufficient IT support should something go wrong. Remind your team to take breaks and take good care of themselves, physically and mentally. Develop strategies to keep motivation up such as rewards or positive feedback.


Don’t

1. Avoid Video Calls: Digital tools have made remote communication convenient, but that does not guarantee effectiveness. Face-to-face interactions are extremely important to understand non-verbal cues and develop reactions based on what you see, rather than what you read or hear. In addition to emails and texts, managers should incorporate adequate face-to-face communication in their daily routine.

2. Focus On Control: Sometimes managers tend to focus too much on controlling scenarios and how work is performed. This creates a hostile environment for employees, who may already be feeling the pressure of a new way of working. Trust your team and focus on the outcomes, not processes.

3. Lose Company Culture & Connectivity: Remember staying well into the evening, eating pizza with your colleagues, working on that milestone project? Or popping your head into your co-worker’s office to bounce some ideas off of them? This is part of what builds a strong corporate culture and binds people together. Try to translate traditional office activities into your new virtual setting. Organize in-person team gatherings at least once a month, bringing everyone together to reconnect in person.

Will a four-day work week become the new normal of employment?

In 2018, nearly 70 per cent of Canadians said they would prefer a compressed four-day work week, rather than a five-day work week, according to an Angus Reid poll. Not much has changed since then. Many leaders, in fact, are now weighing the opportunity of utilizing a compressed work structure to rebuild the current economy.

We surveyed our LinkedIn audience about the benefits of a four-day work week, and the results were not surprising. 54 per cent of the respondents claimed that it would bring in greater work-life balance, while 34 percent suggested that it would increase productivity.

So here’s the big question: are businesses and government organizations equipped to embrace a four-day work week? This idea is compelling and feasible but it requires thorough evaluation and strategic execution.

1. Who Would Benefit? Companies should consider which demographic of people would benefit the most from a compressed work week. Some believe that a 4-day work week would best suit people who are in their 50’s and 60’s. This economically influential generation can make use of an extra day off by attending to tasks that are being put off such as doctor’s appointments, spending time with loved ones or pursuing a new passion. On the other hand, millennials and gen Z’s are more focused on shaping work priorities in ways that fit their daily lives, which includes remote work or a compressed work week.

2. Establishing A Trial Period: A four-day work structure is highly dependent on business and employee needs. Employees are drawn towards companies that offer flexibility and with a four-day work week concept, companies can become more desirable to job seekers. Perhaps doing a trial run for a couple of months and monitoring productivity and employee satisfaction is a good beginning point. In 2018, New Zealand’s Perpetual Guardian, a trust management company, tested this compressed work structure for 2 months with 240 team members. Productivity levels increased by 20 per cent and employee stress levels reduced by 7 per cent. Similarly, in August 2019, Microsoft Japan experimented this concept with it’s Work-Life Choice Challenge Summer Program, giving 2,300 employees five Fridays off without a pay decrease and a 40 per cent increase in productivity.

3. Assessing Business Operations: To evaluate whether a 4-day work concept is suitable for a company, leadership teams need to start by understanding their work culture and make decisions around the seasonality of their business. For instance, in California, an employee is entitled to over-time pay after eight hours of work a day. This means a non-exempt employee on a four-day work week would be receiving eight hours of overtime pay every week, if companies move to a 4 day, 40 work hours scenario.

4. Stakeholder Evaluation: Businesses should examine the impact of a four-day work week structure on its stakeholders on both sides of the value chain. Will companies lose valuable business by not being available five days of the week? If your clients/vendors operate on a traditional work schedule, but your team is working a compressed week, how is this going to impact coordination and ultimately productivity? Be prepared for the challenges associated with a compressed work week and plan accordingly to mitigate any issues.


A three-day weekend sounds great, but it may not be suitable for everyone and every business. There are certainly pros and cons to doing this. Will it become a new normal of employment? Perhaps. But it will likely happen in stages and require a widespread change in attitude.

Office Return: Plan Ahead for a New Workplace Normal

It is understandable that employees might be feeling anxious about re-entering the office where once they so freely collaborated and conversed with others.  Everyone is in some sense preparing for the “new normal” at the centre of which is a valid fear of the coronavirus.  According to a recent study conducted by Forrester, 59% of surveyed employees are afraid of its spread.  As company leaders begin to think of returning their staff to an office, it is important that they plan for it in advance, consider the impacts on morale, and make adjustments to minimize any risks of infection.

Employer Obligations

Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”) requires employers to take all reasonable precautions to ensure the health and safety of its workers.  Before moving everyone back into the office, it is prudent to identify and assess risks for COVID19 specific to your company and devise a plan for minimizing those risks.  Evaluate which elements of your business require frequent contact between people, what the movement patterns are, and which rooms as well as objects are shared.

This is the time to revisit and adjust organizational policies to include items such as hygiene, work from home guidelines, or reporting of personal travel and illness.  As an employer it is also your responsibility to ensure that the office is equipped with enough hand soap and sanitizer, that surfaces are disinfected regularly, and to take immediate and appropriate steps in isolating anyone who presents symptoms of an infectious nature.

Reconfiguring the Workspace

Whether yours is an open-concept office or a traditional closed floor plan, consider and understand how the space was being used prior to COVID19.  Were people apt to gathering in one particular area?  What are the high traffic spots and how closely are employees sitting to one another?  Depending on the size of your workforce and office density, explore opportunities for reseating your team to every other desk in any open areas, to leave more distance in between.  If that is not possible, partitions or privacy screens are a good solution.

Minimize use of shared objects such as printers or copiers by shifting to a paperless environment.  Limit the number of persons in smaller, more contained spaces, such as the kitchen, bathroom, or the boardroom.  If you can open windows to let in some fresh air regularly, do so.  Place markers on the floor to direct traffic.  These are just some ways in which you can make low-cost adaptations to the workplace so returning employees will feel safer.

PPE’s & Screening

The Government of Canada recommends that “outside of the health care context, PPE should only be used on the advice of an organization’s occupational health and safety department, based on a risk assessment that considers both the risk associated with a specific task/activity as well as the characteristics of the source of the infection (e.g. a sick person or a contaminated environment).”  Some organizations are requiring employees to wear masks and gloves.  Others have initiated employee questionnaires to assess for illness.  Lean on your health and safety committee to determine what is most appropriate for your company and be sure to consider employee privacy as well as discrimination issues, particularly when implementing any COVID-19 screening practices.

Paced & Strategic Reintroduction

If you don’t have to rush moving everyone back into the office, pacing the return is a smart approach. Start with essential staff who cannot work well remotely and then add a second wave of employees.  At first you can also introduce shifts or staggered work times to ensure there are less people in the office at a given time.  You have likely invested in technologies and other setups for remote work so continue to make use of this arrangement, encouraging staff to work from home as much as possible.

Communication & Morale

A lot of anxiety around returning to the office can be dispelled through regular communication with your team.  Inform them about the steps you are taking to minimize risk and encourage a culture of feedback.  Provide information and updates from government and public health groups.  Post instructions for proper hygiene and cleaning of surfaces.  Educate your employees about the effectiveness of social distancing and encourage leaders to model distancing behaviours such as stopping handshakes, keeping a gap of at least two meters from each other, and staying home when feeling ill.

As swiftly as we had to acclimatize to remote work, just as quickly we will now have to readjust to a new way of working.  There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to this.  Once again each company will have to find the right balance of business continuity and employee safety measures, and likely keep adapting them in the months to come.  The way we interact with one another, from business meetings to team brainstorming sessions, is going to be different, at least for the foreseeable future.  Companies that embrace the changes will be that much more resilient.

This article is a contribution by HIRE Technologies. PTC Recruiting is a subsidiary of HIRE