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The role of leadership in building a positive remote work culture

The role of leadership in building a positive remote work culture

Feb 13, 2024

5 mins read

Employee Experience

According to William Craig in Forbes, “Leadership has by far the largest and most direct effect on company culture, which revolves around employee engagement, environment, atmosphere and the success of the company and its clients.” But with remote or hybrid work settings increasing the challenges around employee engagement and connection, it’s more important than ever for managers to keep a finger on the pulse of their employees. And we’re not just talking about productivity. 

A Gallup study found that workers who are thriving in all five elements of well-being, including purpose, social, financial, community, and physical, miss fewer days of work, have higher customer ratings, solve problems more readily, and adapt to change more quickly than employees who are only thriving in one element. And they’re 81% less likely to seek out a new employer compared to their colleagues thriving in one element. 

As Ashley Casey, Global Assistant Director of Workplace Experience & Operations, Shutterstock noted in a recent interview with Flexspace, happy employees are productive employees. 

And that starts from the very top. A company’s leadership plays a crucial role in helping to shape and maintain and positive workplace culture. Here are several of the many ways this can happen:

Setting the tone 

Managers need to establish the tone for a company’s workplace culture, through their actions, behaviors, and attitudes. For companies that are remote or hybrid, this might be a little more challenging, given the lower amount of in-person interaction that might be happening. So the tone they set needs to come through in their writing—emails, texts, or Slack communication—as well as in how they approach individuals on video calls and meetings. 

Clear and thoughtful communication 

Communication can be tricky with remote and hybrid teams, particularly because so much of it is done via technology. Establishing the methods of communication for both formal and informal communication (like socializing, for example), will be important for leaders. Yutai Liao, Director of Product, Distrokid, suggests that leaders “be an excellent asynchronous communicator. Not everything needs to be a meeting.” 

Encouraging collaboration 

For teams that are distributed, collaboration can be challenging for leaders to tackle. However, many leaders are implementing all-hands work weeks or more frequent in-person gatherings to help support this important part of working and building rapport and trust that will pay off tenfold in the future. 

“Nothing beats in person collaboration. Plan for yearly or quarterly (and sometimes ad-hoc) in person get togethers to help build the interpersonal connections to power all the remote work later on.”

– Yutai Liao, Director of Product, Distrokid 

Embracing adaptability and flexibility 

Remote and hybrid work aren’t inherently flexible or adaptable. Leaders need to have a deep understanding of the needs of their teams and be able to implement changes on-the-fly to accommodate the needs of their team. A great example is ensuring teams can work together when they’re across multiple time zones. While it might seem simple, this can create myriad challenges. 

As Liao shared, “Wide timezone gaps are the number one challenge to creative collaboration. Who is being asked to work at off hours, potentially missing key times with their family members? Will anyone be working against natural circadian rhythms?” The latter, in particular, can greatly impact an employee’s well-being, which we know from research is essential to their engagement. 

Craig added, “Managers play a central role in employees’ professional and overall lives, so their dedication to employee well-being initiatives is pivotal for success.” While managers and leaders are always concerned about the bottom line and the productivity of their employees, if they’re unable to see the impact that they play on their positive workplace culture, especially for remote and hybrid teams, they’ll be missing a great opportunity to retain talent and help them grow.