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4 Lessons We’ve Learned About Leading Remote Teams During A Pandemic

Baili Bigham
Baili Bigham

Within a blink of an eye, leaders all over the world have been forced to uproot their employees and shift them into fully remote teams. While this transition has been more difficult for some than others, many have learned that remote work does, in fact, work. 

15Five recently hosted a webinar with Zoom, VaynerMedia, and PagerDuty where their HR leaders shared what they’ve learned, developed, and deployed in their organizations to conserve high levels of employee engagement and productivity. Check out the four key lessons these leaders have learned over the past months about leading remote teams. 

1. Your teams can move much faster than you think

In business and in life, it’s easy to get stuck in the weeds. While any situation can result in a variety of complexities, when there is bottlenecking, miscommunication, and lack of transparency, making progress can become increasingly difficult.

The COVID-19 crisis has been a strong and unfortunate motivator, but it has pushed many businesses to move quicker than ever. Think back to a year ago. If someone had told you that you could successfully transition your entire organization to remote work in two weeks, would you have believed them? If you’re like most, the answer was “probably not.”

Yet one of the silver linings of this year is that we’ve seen just how adaptable we truly are.

2. Distributing your workforce can bring people together in unorthodox ways

“Previously, we were 20% remote, and just like most people, we’re now 100%. But we weren’t all that open to remote work,” explained Joe Militello, Chief People Officer at PagerDuty.

 “We knew those remote people felt disconnected. Previously, if a person walked by during your Zoom call, it was very stressful, but now there’s so much kindness. Now, if someone’s child makes an appearance, the employee is expected to introduce them. Embracing these moments can reduce stress.” 

With many people unable to see friends and family, go out to dinner, or work in the office, remote teams have found creative ways to come together.

For example, a team at Zoom gets together every week for an hour just to hang out while they answer their emails. The company also has employees who voluntarily plan virtual talent shows, trivia, and other types of games, like naming strange finds in their fridges. 

At VaynerMedia, employees from each of their global offices are meeting online for a daily 15-minute meditation. “People are really stepping up, getting together, and rising to the occasion,” said Claude Silver, Chief Heart Officer at VaynerMedia. “There’s an understanding that we’re all in it together.”

Building connections, even in unorthodox ways, can remedy the loneliness that so many people are likely experiencing during this era of social distancing. 

3. Virtual meetings can actually be more collaborative than in-person meetings

It’s safe to say that video conferencing platforms like Zoom have become one of the unsung heroes for remote teams during the transition. Alongside its meteoric rise in popularity, millions of people have become more comfortable with having personable interactions from afar.

Some benefits of virtual meetings are obvious, like the ability to connect any number of people in different locations, but one perk many have started to notice is that video calls give people an equal share of space—literally. This is encouraging, especially for those who are often quiet during discussions, and can lead to more collaborative and engaging meetings for everyone.

4. Managers are the glue holding remote teams together

In some way or another, we’ve all probably been challenged to step up to the plate this year. Leaders have had to transition, communicate, and lead their teams in entirely new ways; many employees have taken on additional responsibilities’ and managers have had to become the support systems that their people desperately need.

Jodi Rabinowitz, Head of Talent and Organizational Development at Zoom explains, “We rely on our managers to not micromanage, but to bring people closer together.”

Creating a safe and supportive environment for your people to work in is more important than ever. And although we haven’t quite reached the wake of this pandemic, you can take the lessons we’ve learned and use them to help lead your remote teams to continued success.

Baili Bigham is the Content Manager at 15Five, continuous performance management software that includes weekly check-ins, OKR tracking, peer recognition, 1-on-1s, and 360° reviews. When Baili isn’t writing, you can find her binge-reading a new book or strategizing ways to pet every dog in San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter @bgbigz.

Image Credit: Shutterstock