The pandemic has forced many companies to adopt remote work policies, and it doesn’t seem like things are going back to “normal” anytime soon. A recent Gallup article reports that 39% of employees worked exclusively remotely in early 2022, while 42% worked in a hybrid setting, and just 19% worked fully on-site. The same poll anticipates that 24% of employees will continue working remotely and 53% will work in a hybrid setting well beyond 2022, while also noting employees’ preferred locations remain either fully remote (32%) or hybrid (59%) over working onsite (9%).

Businessman working from home

The Advantages and Challenges of Remote Work

Working remotely comes with many advantages, such as enhanced autonomy among employees, increased productivity, and decreased overhead costs. However, one of the challenges of leading a remote team is building and maintaining authentic relationships. It can be difficult for leaders to create a sense of camaraderie and trust when they’re not seeing their team members face-to-face on a regular basis. 

These advantages and challenges are causing a lot of buzz among influential thought leaders like Malcolm Gladwell, who has been criticizing remote work for some time, stating, “It’s not in our best interest to work at home.” Pro-office supporters like Gladwell, in particular, stand against remote work because they believe it limits social connections that leave employees feeling the negative effects of these absent connections, which, ultimately, causes them to quit.

For leadership coaches, this presents a unique challenge. How can you help your clients develop relationships and build trust with their teams when they’re not in the same room? Fortunately, there are several things you can do. By incorporating the following strategies into your coaching, you can help your clients build authentic relationships, even while working remotely.

Female in a virtual meeting with coworker

Coach Leaders to Solicit Proactive Communication and Feedback

One challenge leaders in remote settings face is encouraging proactive communication and feedback. When working in a shared setting, it’s easy to get up from your desk and go talk to a colleague or leader. Working remotely, however, takes more intentionality, planning, and coordination to communicate virtually — but it’s no less important.

Leadership coaches can support their clients by helping them set clear communication expectations with their teams to not only build, but also strengthen relationships. Leaders must provide open lines of communication to ensure they can learn what their team needs to be successful, what is and isn’t working, and obstacles that are hindering their workflow or production. By encouraging proactive communication along with proactive feedback, leaders provide a space for employees to feel heard, which helps them feel valued. Additionally, leaders can learn from their teams by hearing their thoughts, ideas, and feedback, while also welcoming them to actively participate in problem-solving to find solutions collaboratively. 

Together, these actions can have positive outcomes for the team as a whole by strengthening trust and agency among employees, while providing a space where leaders can help guide, coach, and develop their teams without feeling like they’re overbearing or micromanaging their teams.

Female leadership coach coaching clients

Encourage Leaders to Recognize Good Work

Everyone wants to feel appreciated, and this is especially true of employees who are working hard remotely. Unlike in a shared space, leaders can’t actually see their employees working remotely, which can sometimes lead them to unintentionally show minimal or no appreciation for their team. When this happens, it can make employees feel as though their hard work is going unnoticed. If an employee feels unvalued or unappreciated because their leader isn’t effectively recognizing good work, it can lead to issues with employee retention.

With that being said, coaches can support leaders operating in remote work settings by coaching them to be mindful and intentional about proactively showing their appreciation for their team and recognizing good work. They can send handwritten thank-you notes, give public recognition during team meetings, or offer small rewards for a job well done. These gestures go a long way in building trust and relationships within a remote team.

Male leadership coach coaching clients

Learn More Leadership Coaching Strategies to Support Leaders In Remote Settings

When it comes down to it, building relationships in a remote work setting is hard. Nobody has it all figured out, but we’re learning. One thing is certain, though — it’s worth putting in the time, energy, and effort to implement strategies to form authentic connections and relationships when working remotely. This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the many relationship-building strategies leadership coaches can share with their clients working in remote work settings. The Academies is excited for the opportunity to teach you these and other tools rooted in neuroscience to help you earn your leadership coach certification so you can go out into the world and make a difference. Be sure to explore our upcoming leadership coaching courses, such as our Strengths Coaching course, and don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions. Register for an upcoming leadership course today!