Optimize Remote Work With Interpersonal Skills

September 27, 2023

As remote work continues to become a more prominent feature of our working lives and employee disengagement simultaneously hits a 9-year high, it's crucial for companies with remote work policies to develop their teams’ emotional intelligence to stay engaged and high-performing.

Social and emotional skills are called power skills for a reason. They are key to building effective working relationships, managing stress, and communicating effectively with colleagues. They contribute to an awareness of self and others that allow us to navigate the working world with curiosity, resilience, and empathy. When developed in teams, the result is safer and higher-performance work environments.

With many employees now working remotely, the traditional office environment has given way to virtual meetings, digital collaboration tools, and remote workspaces. While remote work has many benefits, such as increased flexibility and cost savings, it also presents unique challenges, particularly when it comes to engagement and team performance. Remote teams are not able to rely on the social cues and interactions that occur naturally when face-to-face, and as a result studies show remote workers are more likely to feel isolated and less connected than their office-bound counterparts. This lack of connection can lead to decreased job satisfaction, lower productivity, and higher rates of turnover.

To ensure the engagement and wellbeing of their employees and the success and innovation of their business, companies with remote and hybrid working models need to develop key power skills in their teams. Here are three key drivers of engagement and how their development benefits remote teams.

  1. Trust (Showing up fully, creating connection, becoming more self-aware, welcoming all voices): Trust is a critical component of successful remote work. A study by Buffer found that 98% of remote employees believe that trust is essential for remote work. Trust allows remote employees to feel confident in their colleagues' abilities and work ethic, leading to more effective collaboration and better outcomes. A lack of trust can lead to misunderstandings, conflicts, and decreased productivity. Building trust requires consistency, transparency, and communication.
  2. Communication (Practicing embodied and clear expression, mindful listening, caring and candid feedback): Effective communication is essential for remote employees to work efficiently and collaboratively. The same study by Buffer found that 97% of remote employees believe that communication is crucial for remote work. Remote work can make communication more challenging because it relies heavily on technology and digital tools. Effective communication helps to reduce misunderstandings and conflicts, build strong relationships, and create a sense of shared purpose and direction.
  3. Collaboration (Staying present, moving the team forward, leveraging strengths, navigating conflict): Collaboration involves working together towards a common goal, sharing ideas, and pooling resources to achieve a better outcome. A study from MIT found that remote workers spent more time collaborating with people they knew well, and less time collaborating with their weaker ties, which is where they’d be more likely to encounter novel and more innovative information. Collaboration networks became “more static and siloed, with fewer bridges between disparate parts of the organization.” Remote employees need to be able to work together effectively, even when they are physically separated. This requires a willingness to share ideas, be open to feedback, and actively engage in problem-solving. Productive collaboration skills enable remote employees to achieve better outcomes, innovate, and support one another.

By now, we know that remote work has great benefits for employees and employers alike. To avoid the pitfalls and optimize the experience for everyone involved, companies need to ensure teams are equipped with the critical interpersonal skills necessary to stay engaged, perform, and stick around. By teaching remote teams how to communicate effectively, build relationships, manage stress, and understand their emotions, companies can create safer, more supportive and connected remote and hybrid work environments and will enjoy greater collaboration and innovation as a result.

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