marketing trends


6 Tips to Lead Remote Teams Post-Pandemic 


By Nicole Laidler


Remote work is here to stay, but traditional approaches to leading remote teams may no longer apply in the post-pandemic world.

In response to the global pandemic, more than one third of Canadian workers suddenly found themselves working from home. Many will not be returning to the office any time soon. A recent survey by Statistics Canada found that once the COVID-19 pandemic is over, close to one-quarter of businesses expect that at least 10% of their workforce will continue to work remotely.

So, if you’re a leader, chances are good that if you’re not already leading a remote team, you will be at some point in the future.  

Remote work is nothing new, says Glendalynn Dixon, who teaches Leadership Communications at Western Continuing Studies. But the unplanned and unprecedented shift to virtual work caused by COVID-19 means that traditional approaches to managing remote teams may not be appropriate for the post-pandemic world.

“People are not working from home because they necessarily want to,” she says. Many employees may not have a dedicated home office. Others may be trying to juggle work with childcare responsibilities. Many more may simply be struggling with the isolation and anxiety brought about by the global pandemic.    

Fortunately, Dixon says there are a few simple things managers can do to help support employees as organizations begin the transition to the new “new normal.”


Lead with compassion

“My very first piece of advice for every manager guiding a remote team is to lead with empathy and compassion,” Dixon says. “Even though it’s been well over a year, this situation is not the status quo.”

Opening up the conversation can be as simple as asking a general question about how remote work is going. Sharing concerns and acknowledging stress can help build a sense of empathy between team members.

“There is a huge cohort of workers who are burnt out,” says Dixon.  She encourages managers to identify mental health resources available in their workplace and the community and to be aware of the toll the pandemic has taken on the workforce – and themselves.    


Set clear expectations

Of course, work still needs to get done. Dixon says setting clear expectations is key to keeping a remote team on track. “Managers need to ensure they are very focused with their communication. They need to be clear about timelines and make sure they give people as much notice as possible so they can meet their deadlines.”

Leaders can help set clear expectations around work-life balance, too. “We know that many people are working longer hours and having difficulty switching off,” says Dixon. “So don’t send that email at seven o’clock in the evening if you can help it.”


Minimize video meetings

Online video platforms like Zoom have been an invaluable tool to help keep remote teams connected during workplace shutdowns. But Dixon cautions that on-camera meetings should be kept to a minimum.

“Being on camera is a draining experience,” she says. “People can become self-conscious about looking away from the camera to take notes, or be nervous that they are going to be interrupted by their children or their barking dog.”

If it’s not absolutely necessary to speak face-to-face, Dixon suggests sending an email or picking up the phone.


Provide options for communication

Ideally, managers will reach out to each employee to find out whether they prefer to be contacted by phone, email, text, or video call for private conversations.

Not everyone has a suitable space for work-related calls, notes Dixon, and some employees may prefer to keep text messaging for non-work-related chats. “Asking shows respect, and will help ensure you get the most out of those conversations,” she says.  


Provide opportunities for remote social interaction

At the end of a long day, most employees probably don’t want to hop back on Zoom for an after-hours get together. But that doesn’t mean leaders shouldn’t try to find creative ways for people to connect socially while working from home.  

It can be as simple as opening up a video meeting a few minutes early to allow people to chat before getting down to business, or taking a five-minute break to play a Kahoot! trivia game. “There are a lot of free online games that you can tailor to your team,” says Dixon. “Keep it simple, and try not to be forced.”  


Practice equity 

Looking ahead to a future when many people may continue working remotely at least part of the time, Dixon says it will be more important than ever for leaders to practice equity.

This goes beyond simply making sure that everyone on your team has the same access to information. “Access to relationship building is often overlooked when people work from home. And quite often those relationships are what helps people get promoted,” Dixon notes. “We can’t ignore the fact that right now, women specifically are more likely to opt to stay home.”

The path back to the office will be different for each team, she says. “It’s still a bit of a social experiment. There is no exact roadmap.”



Canadian Survey on Business Conditions: Impact of COVID-19 on businesses in Canada, May 2020

Working from home: Productivity and preferences


Glendalynn Dixon

As a professor, columnist, and best-selling author, with over 15 years of experience leading teams and implementing change, Glendalynn understands the importance of leadership communication.
Throughout her career, Glendalynn learned that successfully navigating change and developing leaders requires a flexible approach to communication.