Remote work is a perk that has exploded since the pandemic began. Prior to 2020, a remote job was a unique find. Today, it has become the norm for many jobs. But, working from home has introduced challenges related to human connection. And, leadership has never been more important.
It’s funny. Prior to the pandemic, I knew much more about my coworkers, and I bet you did too. I had seen photos of their families. I knew the kinds of cars they drove. I had a good sense if they were morning people, and whether or not they liked coffee. These are details you learn in person.
Remotely, these details are lost. And, so is the connection. Many interactions become far more transactional than before. Gone are the days of chatting over your cube wall to the person next to you. Gone are the watercooler chats.
The other area that has changed is how we interact with our leaders. In the past, it was not unusual to talk with your manager at least once a day. You’d likely have a one-on-one meeting once a week. You would also see them in other scheduled meetings. But, even more importantly, you’d have casual conversations.
The casual conversations were the most important ones. They were the ones where creative ideas would come together. They were the times you would work together to solve big problems that popped up. And, most importantly, it’s where you’d build a real relationship with them. You might learn about their family, and they’d learn about yours. You’d become work friends in a way. These sort of interactions are where mutual trust and respect are formed. It’s where loyalty and common purpose are developed.
Trust and respect are the foundation of any good working relationship. They’re the reason why you keep getting your job done, even when the boss isn’t looking over your shoulder. It’s why your boss can count on you to keep the lights on while they’re on vacation.
But, what happens when these personal interactions begin to dwindle? What happens when the personal relationship fades away? I would argue that work becomes more transactional. Work becomes something you are simply bartering your time for in exchange for a paycheck. And, like any consumer in a store, you’ll looking for the best deal. You’ll want to put in the least amount of effort for the most amount of money.
To the leaders who aren’t taking the time to connect to your team, their work is suffering. It may not be clear today, but someday this pattern will catch up with you. They may be producing less work than they could. They may be producing lower quality work. Or, they may have no hesitation to leave when another job opportunity arises.
Remote work requires you to do more than to control those who work for you. It requires you to lead – more now than ever before.