5 Things Emotionally Intelligent Leaders Do to Retain Remote Workers

TSP • @myTSPnet


Even though the number of remote workers was previously on the rise, COVID-19 led to an unprecedented adoption. In fact, 31% of businesses said the pandemic was the trigger to begin allowing remote work at their company.

Managing remotely can be complicated. Add a dash of national emergency, and it becomes even more challenging to engage employees. As organizations across the world continue operating in a partial or fully work-from-home environment, understanding what managers need to lead remotely is a must.  

One of the biggest challenges faced by remote employees is wondering if their employer understands what they are going through. According to a recent survey, 82% of staff would think about leaving their organization for a more empathetic company. Global leadership development firm DDI ranks empathy as the number one leadership skill, reporting that leaders who master empathy perform more than 40% higher in coaching, engaging others and decision making.

In order to mitigate working remotely, here are five ways leaders can put in additional effort to let employees know they are cared for.

Screen time will never replace in-person interactions, but it sure beats back and forth emails and phone calls for communication. Seeing the other person’s face gives the feeling of being connected. Emotionally intelligent leaders can demonstrate they care by limiting email use to information sharing and using video calls for any kind of in-depth discussions.

Having remote employees makes it more difficult to spot when someone is struggling. It’s important to hold regular conversations with team members to find out how assignments are unfolding and whether there have been any changes to individual circumstances. During these and all interactions, demonstrate empathy and understanding so the team members feel comfortable discussing any challenges.

Leaders who excel in social awareness practice empathy. They strive to understand their colleagues’ feelings and perspectives, which enables them to communicate and collaborate more effectively with their peers.  

Not all people who work remotely have the same struggles. Some will have to look after children or elderly parents at home. Even post-COVID, leaders and human resource staff should find avenues for employees in similar circumstances to connect with one another. Employee assistance programs or connections through trustworthy external organizations are a great way to support remote employees who may be struggling.

Not only do leaders need to spend more time checking in on employees regularly, but they should do so in a way that is caring. The check-ins should be done in a way where direct reports do not assume the purpose is to monitor their work or evaluate performance. Emotionally intelligent managers can build trust with their staff by being open, transparent and sharing their own struggles. Listening also connects us and builds accountability. By asking open-ended questions and listening without interruption, employees will be able to voice their concerns and express their needs.

Relationship management refers to your ability to influence, coach and mentor others to resolve conflict effectively. Some prefer to avoid conflict, but it is important to properly address issues as they arise. If you want to keep your team happy, you need to have tough conversations. In a recent survey, 72% of employees ranked “respectful treatment of all employees at all levels” as the top factor in job satisfaction.

Even if birthday lunches and happy hours are not in the picture yet, there is no reason not to have fun virtually. Leaders should still look for opportunities to recognize life milestones and team accomplishments to keep up company culture. Providing staff with fun memorabilia, such as coffee mugs or T-shirts, may also help create a feeling of being part of the group while working virtually. Managers can also ask for team-bonding ideas from employees to get their input. The things that can be done in this area are only limited by imagination.

Leaders set the tone of their organization. If they lack emotional intelligence, it could have more far-reaching consequences, resulting in lower employee engagement and a higher turnover rate.

While you might excel at your job technically, if you can’t effectively communicate with your team or collaborate with others, those technical skills will get overlooked. By mastering emotional intelligence, you can continue to advance your career and organization.