The Virtual Workplace: Leading Remotely

By Jane Hollman | Principal Consultant, Hollman Consulting

Network map of people

Photo credit: Wokandapix /

As we continue to adjust to this seismic shift in the way we lead our lives, an important thing to consider is the new way of working that has been thrust upon us all. Some people will thrive, already working virtually some or all of the time. For many others, though, this is a first. The experience can be daunting, isolating and challenging for those who suddenly find themselves physically disconnected from their colleagues and working out of tiny apartments or sharing “office space” with a partner or other family members. And then, there are those wondering if they’ll still have their jobs long enough to worry about what an extended period of remote work means for them. 

The key to keeping your teams connected and productive is fairly simple:

  • Communicate
  • Communicate
  • Communicate

Be clear, simple and honest in your conversations with team members. 

In addition, consider the tools you have at your disposal to stay in touch. Videoconferencing through platforms such as Google Meet and Microsoft Teams is quickly becoming the norm, providing an opportunity for people to not only speak to one another, but also see each other. You shouldn’t underestimate the joy people can experience in seeing co-workers they normally sit next to every day. And make it interesting. I’ve already witnessed teams having coffee catch-ups via video or themed meetings such as “wear your craziest hat.” Things like that can really lift spirits.

It’s also important, though, to still set goals and targets for what you want your team to achieve, recognizing that some tasks may be harder remotely but still achievable if you can be flexible about timelines. And, most importantly, keep close to your teams and monitor how they’re mentally coping with working remotely. Create space in your conversations to allow them to admit they’re struggling, and keep on hand a resource list for support organizations in your area they can reach out to for help.

Finally, make sure you, as a leader, take care of yourself. Connect with your colleagues to share concerns and struggles and seek help if needed. As leaders, we often forget to take care of ourselves. It’s essential to do that; otherwise, we’ll struggle to support our teams.

Additional Reading

Thankfully, we’re not alone in navigating these new virtual workplaces. Whether you’re leading a virtual team or are a member of one, here are additional resources that might be helpful. Some were published several years ago, so not all suggestions apply, but the big takeaways are worth the read. 

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About Jane Hollman

Jane Hollman has more than 25 years experience in senior human resources roles at large multinationals and sports across Asia Pacific and the United States. Currently a career coach, she helps business leaders and university students think through their career paths. Hollman is passionate about creating flexible, innovative work places and mentors women looking to start their own businesses. She is also a freelance writer covering the business of sports for publications such as Women Talking Sports.

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