Why Team and Employee Health in Distributed Workforces Can’t Be Ignored

Gigster
|
December 15, 2022

Recently, news headlines have been filled with the chaos around Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover. The glaring fact amidst the commotion is Musk’s “hardcore” back-to-office mandate, demanding “long hours at high intensity” that drove the departure of two-thirds of its workforce. Much of Twitter’s C-suite executives were also fired, and there were continuous resignations even when he took over operations. Also, remote work is only permitted for “exception basis for exceptional people.”

These events are the common consequences of bad leadership especially in the post-pandemic world where team and employees’ health and wellness are a top priority. Amid the uncertainty in  current global economy, businesses need to undergo a mindset shift to weather any challenges. Employee value propositions must shift from “work for me” to “work with me”, while customer-first approach should be changed to people-first approach. Organizations that look after their people are not the ones who falter, but instead survive, while the better ones thrive.

The Mistakes Leaders Make and its Negative Effects

Elon Musk may have a powerful mind aiming to solve the world’s problems, but he has continued to resort to bad leadership practices which don’t work for his employees and teams. This kind of leadership style hurts employee mental health and overall team chemistry and performance. The leader may be able to recruit good talent, but oftentimes not able to retain them as he doesn’t listen to what they have to say and drives them to exhaustion and burnout, resulting in rapid employee turnover.

Not to discount that Musk has the two most dreaded traits of a toxic boss: volatility and inconsistency. The sense of uncertainty you get from an unpredictable and erratic boss can make workers emotionally drained and unhappy – even more than the bosses who are consistently awful. At Tesla, there were reports of stress- and exhaustion-driven injuries and rampant burnout.

These bad practices work against the much-needed employee-centric method, which are employed by successful organizations in today’s tumultuous economic climate. Treat your people right, and they will be happy to support the company’s growth and innovation for the long term. Emphasis on the health and wellness of employees would yield to a strong foundation to push forward amidst the headwinds of a sluggish economy.

Remote work and distributed teams are also adopted by companies at large because they work. Recent studies and reports point to the majority of American workers preferring to do purposeful work and opting for partial or fully remote work. Adopting the remote and distributed teams model led to businesses reaping benefits such as better productivity and agility, faster completion of projects, improved employee health and wellness, cost efficiency to both the business and workers, and many others.

The well-being of a distributed workforce is critical now more than ever. Distributed teams that are motivated and have healthy working relationships can aid companies and organizations to be resilient and reach greater heights even during hard times.

What the Post-Pandemic Company and Workforce Needs

No man is an island. Leaders like Elon Musk can’t solve a company’s problems alone. They are in need of capable teams to carry out their vision. They also need to know how to work with these talents.

A company can benefit from getting the best talents around the world through a distributed teams model. Digital working tools and platforms can unlock the teams’ full potential, especially when they are equipped with artificial intelligence, blockchain access and capabilities, and even virtual reality. A holistic digital platform replaces toxic work environments, enables data access across departments, brings efficiency in communication and exchange of information, and raises the efficiency and focus of workers on every task and project.

Leaders must also observe what is called “virtual leadership” (the combination of relationship-focused and task-focused leadership) to handle a distributed workforce better. It is crucial to observe the upkeep of physical and mental health of employees and teams in order to create an efficient network of teams capable of seamless processes and delivery of projects and outputs. A good virtual leader can manage a truly high-level global team and help them reach milestones by building the connection, trust and unity between members.

To do this, leaders must possess characteristics of a good leader and fulfill roles that champion employees and bridge healthy connections and relationships. Here are some of the traits of a good leader that motivates and aids the success of a dynamic post-pandemic workforce.

  1. Exercises Empathy and Role Modeling - Before bombarding them with messages of inspiration and trying to do more, good leaders listen first and then try to understand and empathize with their people. Workers don’t serve leaders. Rather, leaders serve everyone – customers, workers, and stakeholders – and set a good example. By “leading the way”, teams will have heightened morale and will be happy to follow a steadfast leader with clear and strong convictions.
  2. Creates Stability and Psychological Safety - Company founders and leaders must go back to why they started in the first place and gather strength to be an unbreakable and malleable pillar for everyone, showing adaptability in times of uncertainties. By being a stable and resilient figure who is open to changes, a leader can provide psychological safety that in turn will help employees function better and give back to the company.
  3. Empowers Middle Managers - Good leaders know how to leverage the capabilities of middle managers to lead teams, and reach out and mobilize members. Middle managers need to be empowered and supported in order to avoid burnout, especially as oftentimes their roles are not clearly defined.
  4. Exhibits Open Mindness, Improved Awareness and Adaptability - During bleak times, it’s easy to fall into the trap of copying other examples. But this is the time to be open minded, listen to the inputs of employees, and be willing to be your own case study. Identifying and navigating through what works best for the organization in a particular industry can be the way to keep the company afloat. Conflict and possible errors may arise, but open mindedness, humility and adaptability can be a driver to unite the whole organization in working towards the right direction.

Overall, good behaviors exhibited by leaders can give employees and teams – distributed or not – the confidence to carry on despite hard times. Good leaders that look after their teams will encourage employees to ask for help, share suggestions and challenge the status quo. This leads to a better organization that can innovate quickly, adapt well to change and benefit from the diversity of minds and ideas present in the distributed workforce.

Distributed teams may face the pressures of not seeing each other in person, but through the right digital tools and a well-executed virtual leadership, each team member may feel closer to each other more than ever, relating to and sharing the same goal and purpose despite the distance.

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