We spend energy interpreting and decoding each other’s messages (words, gestures and body language). As a manager, your messages are particularly important for your staff. There is more latitude for interpretation when people work together remotely, and that can lead to misunderstandings. Here is some useful advice on what to watch out for.
Communicate with your staff about how you intend to communicate with them. When leading remotely, you will be able to use various forms of communication and technologies. But what’s most important is that your staff should not have to guess why you decide to use the ones you chose.
In other words, it's a question of reflecting on when you should meet with your employees in person, when you should send a email, when you should call, or when a remote meeting is appropriate. I’ts important that you make it a point to consciously reflect on how to use the technology in the way that best supports remote management.
Email correspondence is an important tool in your communication palette as a manager. You should put thought and energy into ensuring that your mails are polite and respectful – and not least ensure that your message comes through loud and clear. This strengthens your relationship with your staff. Your emails make up a considerable part of how your staff experience your remote leadership: How quickly do you respond? How do you respond? Etc.
Metacommunication is important here as well – in addition to being clear and explicit. For example: ‘I understand your email in such and such a way. Have i understood it correctly? I’m asking because I want to be sure we agree.’
If your staff are working remotely, you need to make an effort to communicate the ‘why’ of decisions. Things need to make sense for your staff – and complex situations and reasons are often more difficult to grasp in a remote work context.
This makes it important to be explicit about the ‘why’ when you communicate: Why are we doing this? What is the background for this? etc..
You don’t need to be present in person to be accessible: staff perceive successful managers of remote teams as accessible, despite the geographical distance. To achieve this, staff need to be able to call or write you and receive a quick response when they need a clarification about questions, dilemmas or a need for input or feedback.
An important factor in building trust between you and your staff when collaborating remotely is about creating space for informal communication. When we meet online or by email, we are often more efficient and formal – and we often only reach out if there’s a problem or if we need to deal with a specific issue.
When managing teams remotely, you need to include the informal dimension in your leadership.
This advice is based on the article (in Danish) "Den virtuelle leders kommunikation" by Mads Schramm.
Distance management takes a special effort. This video presents management dilemmas in relation to effectiveness, work-life balance and the issue of boundaryless work. You will become conscious of your own biases as a manager, the importance of psychological safety in your unit and the risk that staff working remotely might feel excluded.
To watch the video (in Danish), sign in with your AU email (AUID@uni.au.dk):