Is empathetic understanding the best practice for remote working?

3 minute read
Today’s leaders need to actively connect with their employees to drive their ability to thrive at work, whatever their location. Mimi Nicklin, creative CEO and founder of inclusive creative agency Freedm,  gives her top three tips on how to keep connected while working remotely

Empathy in remote work

As human beings we are naturally creatures of habit, and while the world has most definitely moved towards an acceptance of remote work, many companies continue to be anxious to get back to business as they ‘knew it’, reluctant to fully embrace the opportunities and benefits of this new hybrid environment.

In the creative world there are a host of reasons companies use to argue for teams being ‘in office’, but in truth none of them is sound enough to truly demand a shift to in-person entirely, especially when we see so many advantages of building a talented team from around the world. Remote working has gifted us with the ability to bring expertise, creativity and content to markets that previously had no access to this level or form of thinking – and the impact is astounding.

However, the continued efficacy of remote working does depend on a leadership team’s ability to drive culture, consistency and delivery across their teams, locations and need states. More than ever we are finding that it is extremely important that our leaders can explain the purpose behind the choice to stay remote and that our teams understand how and why this practice helps to build the business while servicing their clients with excellence. 

Create flexible working experiences for your teams

While remote working has brought in a multitude of benefits, it has also brought its own set of challenges which may affect your team in different ways. Today’s leaders need to actively connect with their employees to best support their realities and drive their ability to thrive at work, whatever their location. Doing so requires leaders to: 

  1. Willingly and openly provide employees with allowances or equipment to set up a comfortable and efficient work office set up at home.
  2. Communicate flexibility in work timings and time zones to enhance and aid global teamwork.
  3. Be empathetic towards employee realities – ensure you make the time to truly connect and understand your team’s realities, challenges and passion points on an ongoing basis.
  4. Offer both the permission, and the support, for employees to balance personal and work lives, focusing on physical and mental wellbeing within a working day set up.

Elevate your communication and connection remotely

Beyond the set up and processes themselves, communication becomes ever more critical in remote and nomadic teams. Driving a specific focus on communication expectations, engagement and relationship building becomes key when trying to align your goals and workflows across different time zones. To that end, these are my three top tips on how to keep connected when working remotely:

  1. Turn your cameras on. It is very hard to continually drive engagement, culture creation and morale when looking at blank screens, so switch those cameras on. We can connect, empathise, and authentically create engagement digitally if we commit to being on screen, but it’s important to set these expectations in advance of any meetings so that your team members are prepared and content to be on camera.
  2. Share, share, share. In remote teams, information sharing is critical, as if you’re not in contact you lose touch of what’s going on. Communications tools like newsletters, company intranets, WhatsApp, and Slack channels help you stay connected with your team and share your news without overloading your inbox, so think about which would work best for your business.
  3. Make time to connect on a personal level. If every online meeting becomes a formal, agenda-driven session then relationships start to suffer. Instead, create time to talk to your team as you would if you were meeting up in a café or grabbing a cup of coffee together. Take the opportunity to ask questions about their work, their life, and their plans. It might be small talk, but it can make a big difference.

The future of work is built on understanding

If we put our mutual human understanding at the core of every engagement we will see optimal performance, loyalty and teamwork wherever we are based. These are fundamental principles of leadership, however global, local or hybrid your team is.

The successful experience of growing your business with this approach will open your eyes to the power of an organisationally empathetic corporation that enables exceptional performance with the potential to effectively align multiple goals, workflows, and priorities across time zones.

Empathy as a leadership skill set is the key to consistently successful business growth in the changing and remote-led times that we find ourselves in. Empathy in leadership and nomad teamwork is not a ‘nice to have’; it is a fundamental principle for growth and recovery in the years ahead. Businesses today need loyal, high-functioning, fast-thinking team members wherever they are based, and empathy is the currency to get us there.

Mimi Nicklin, pictured below, is the creative CEO and Founder of inclusive creative agency Freedm, a leading empathy expert, and best-selling author of Softening The Edge

Mimi Nicklin Freedm

Published 28 September 2022
Enjoyed this story?
Sign up for our newsletter here.