Remote work leadership - What Matters Now? See what our Founder, Meghan M. Biro says as she reflects on how far we've come since the 2020 Covid quarantine

Photo: Kevin Bhagat

Remote Work Leadership: What Matters Now

In 2020, our most popular blog post discussed how leaders could move forward when Covid abruptly forced many of us to work from home. I remember writing that piece, wondering which remote work leadership practices would make the biggest impact during those uncertain, turbulent, anxiety-filled days.

At that time, it was impossible to fathom what was happening, let alone how to respond. There were no experts, benchmarks, or guidebooks to point the way forward. I couldn’t predict the future any better than anyone else. Still, my message seemed to strike a chord with our community.

Fortunately, necessity is the mother of invention. And resourceful leaders persevered, relying on trial and error to navigate through those early quarantine days.

Covid CliffsNotes

Nearly three years later, we’ve all learned more about remote work than anyone could have imagined. In fact, we’ve adapted so well that many people want to keep working remotelyat least partially.

With this in mind, I decided to revisit my “early Covid” advice to see how much of it still holds true. So here’s a fresh look at 4 key points that seem just as relevant today as we continue to define new ways of working:

Remote Work Leadership Lessons From Covid

1. Be Tactful (Always a Wise Choice)

Exceptional times call for exceptional tact. I noted it then and it’s still unequivocally true. Times may not be as exceptional as they were in March 2020, but we now know that what we once considered “normal” will never return. In fact, the sudden and scary pivot to remote work turned out to be much more effective than we thought.

What changed for the worse? Among other things, stress continues to rise, inflation has risen to record levels, the economy has suffered, and employees have been resigning in droves. In this unstable environment, everyone benefits from tactful, considerate guidance.

In 2020, I encouraged leaders to give people a break when minor mishaps occur, like being late to a meeting. It seems people are now better at coping with small annoyances. (How often have you said in online meetings, “You’re on mute…” without reaching a breaking point?)

However, stress is real. It continues to mount, as mental health issues increasingly challenge many members of the workforce. My advice going forward? Remember to pair diplomacy with a healthy dose of empathy.

2. Provide Plenty of Training (But Wait, There’s More)

Training is critical. The more training we provide, the more confident and capable remote and hybrid work teams will be. Strong leaders are strong learners. And they believe in coaching and developing others. Remote work leaders that invested to help their teams learn, adjust, and grow are now operating at an advantage.

We didn’t know how well people would embrace distributed work practices and tools. But leaders with faith in their team’s ability to adapt now have another advantage: optimism and support that spread throughout their organizations. It’s easy now to see the value of doubling down on learning. But in those bleak early days, this kind of commitment was truly visionary.

The lesson here? Whatever challenges you face, make sure your people have the knowledge and skills they need to come up to speed with a minimum of friction. The sooner they can work effectively, the sooner they’ll become engaged.

But this isn’t just about ensuring that people complete a course. Smart remote work leadership combines skill development training with nudges, status checks, resources, roadmaps, measurable goals, social performance support, and open recognition.

That’s the win. Why? Because no one learns well in a vacuum.

3. Seek Frequent Feedback (Never Enough)

No doubt about it, regular input and reality checks are vital. In 2020, I was concerned that distance could widen the gap between a leader’s view of work culture and an employee’s reality. Physical proximity makes it relatively easy to close that gap, but remote work requires intentional communication.

I suggested reaching out formally to ask employees about their experience and learn what kind of resources they need to feel comfortable, supported, and productive.

Did leaders actually send feedback requests and surveys to their remote teams? Perhaps some did. But then, we became obsessed with isolation and disconnection. Soon, employee engagement took a hit and leaders started watching some of their best employees walk out the virtual door as The Great Resignation gained steam.  

What went wrong? Perhaps remote work leadership didn’t act fast enough. More likely, these managers have become just as exhausted as employees — but they’ve been overlooked. The truth is, no one is immune. In fact, recent U.S. and U.K. research found that 98% of HR practitioners and leaders are burnt out! 

4. Stay Connected (More Than Ever)

This leads to a final lesson — remote work leadership means staying connected with managers, employees, and teams. Full disclosure:  The TalentCulture crew has worked remotely since Day One. Our vision is a virtual “super team,” leveraging digital tools and processes to manage business functions and grow a thriving digital community.

I’ve always admired other leaders who take it upon themselves to reach out and be present via multiple channels. And the power of that approach became apparent throughout the worst of the pandemic.

We saw remote work leaders who stayed involved, engaged, and accessible, giving their teams a sense of alignment and empowerment. I’ve taken notes and found that their toolkits include quick video chats, daily messages, virtual town halls, and short/sweet messages.

Leaders who adhere to an open-door policy — even in virtual settings — are even more important now. Why? This behavior fosters a culture of inclusion and belonging. If you want to bring your workforce together (and trust me, you do), you’ll focus on this lesson. The more digital touchpoints you develop, the more likely you’ll reach everyone in a way that resonates, and the more “present” you’ll be for them.

Leadership Takes Heart (and Strong Nerves)

A final note:  We’re not yet on the other side of the pandemic, but we’ve learned a lot. And we know the world of work will never be the same.

I’m reminded of how far we’ve come when I recall my 2020 comment:

Peace of mind is as hard to come by as n95 masks.”

Thank goodness we aren’t dealing with a mask shortage anymore! Nevertheless, we still see high levels of stress, anxiety, and disengagement at work. And this is likely to continue for a long time to come.

Here’s where great management qualities count. Empathetic, engaged, resourceful, in-touch remote work leadership makes all the difference. It says your organization truly cares about supporting employees while getting the job done. And that’s essential, because the buck always stops at the corner office — whether it’s at corporate headquarters or at your dining room table.

Movember Celebrating Men's Health at Work

Celebrating Movember: Men’s Health at Work

EDITOR’S NOTE: At TalentCulture, we recognize a healthy workforce is a more engaged and productive workforce. That’s why we’re spreading the word about the importance of “Movember” men’s health awareness in this article.


The holiday season is upon us! As the days get shorter and colder, schedules are getting busier and more packed with activities. It’s common for us to let some things slide — including taking care of our health and wellbeing. We’ve all been there. But health should never take the backburner. That’s why we’d like to talk about the Movember movement.

What exactly is Movember? What does it mean for men’s health? And more specifically, how can employers leverage this opportunity to encourage discussions around important workplace health issues? We’ll even touch on how you can start a Movember event with friends and coworkers. 

What Is Movember? 

Two friends kickstarted Movember as a grassroots effort to promote men’s health in Australia. It began in 2003, at a time when the mustache had all but disappeared from popular culture.

That’s when Travis Garone and Luke Slattery first convinced 30 friends to take up the challenge of growing out their facial hair in solidarity with men’s health issues during the month of November.

This simple challenge grew faster than anyone imagined. In fact, by the time it reached the U.S, in 2008, the Movember charity had raised more than $46 million, in partnership with global charities dedicated to raising awareness around important men’s health issues.

Over the years, this movement has continued to gain traction across the globe. Now, nearly 7 million men and women contribute to the cause by funding more than 1200 men’s health projects. The Movember project and its enthusiastic supporters (known as “Mo bros” and “Mo sisters”) have addressed many worthy health causes around the world. 

Why Movember Matters

The importance of raising awareness and encouraging communication around men’s health can’t be overstated. Unfortunately, men are still statistically far less likely to take care of their health. That’s not an opinion, but a well-documented fact.

For instance, a 2021 study found that less than half of men (47%) had a routine medical checkup in the previous 12 months. Embarrassment and perceived stigmas are the primary reasons.

Our culture of stoicism means that when men experience pain, many feel societal pressure to simply push through it. And although women tend to become familiar with healthcare from a young age — seeing gynecologists and being encouraged to schedule annual checkups — men generally don’t develop the same kind of connection.

Simply put, conversations about men’s health aren’t common. In fact, they’re often stigmatized. Ultimately, this leads to poorer health outcomes. 

The Movember Mission

The Movember movement celebrates men’s health in all its forms, but emphasizes mental health and cancer prevention, in particular. Here’s why:

1. Preventing Cancer

For men, two key health concerns are prostate and testicular cancer. Prostate cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in men. Fortunately, testicular cancer is less frequent. However, it still affects about 7 out of every 100 men.

Both cancers are considered highly treatable if caught early. However, when left untreated, they can be very difficult to cure, and the statistics are less promising.

Most experts recommend starting prostate exams around the age of 45 and getting an exam every 3-5 years. Doctors often perform what’s called a PSA test. A PSA is a reliable metric that helps determine the risk of prostate cancer.

Similarly, to help detect testicular cancer, men should perform self-exams, looking for signs like lumps, swelling, or dull aching pain. Anyone who experiences any of these symptoms needs to see a doctor immediately.

Bottom line: Routine checkups are crucial for effective cancer prevention, detection, and treatment. That’s one of the most important messages behind the Movember movement.  

2. Communicating About Mental Health

Although mental health is extremely important, it is also perhaps the most stigmatized men’s health issue. Statistics show that although mental health challenges are relatively common among men, less than half will seek treatment.

This problem is especially important to recognize in the workplace, where burnout and stress are common. People often don’t realize how stressed they are until the symptoms become unavoidable.

Left unchecked, stress or burnout can not only affect your mental and emotional wellbeing but also wreak havoc on your body. Fatigue, anxiety, and depressed mood — even changes in weight and thinning hair — all can occur.

Of course, it’s important to see your doctor to make sure you’re not dealing with underlying medical issues like hypothyroidism or male pattern balding. But these symptoms can also be a response to physiological changes caused by stress.

How Employers Can Get Involved

Encouraging your workforce to be part of the Movember trend can be an excellent way to raise awareness around these important men’s health issues. For example, you can set up a Movember fundraiser, either in person or virtually. This can foster teamwork and solidarity in the workplace, while also encouraging people to take charge of their health. 

If you decide to start a Movember campaign, you don’t have to focus on only one topic. It’s an opportunity to help men feel more comfortable talking about a variety of issues that affect their health.

Conversation Starters:

  • Are you getting enough exercise
  • Are you sleeping well?
  • Do you feel overloaded with work lately?
  • How healthy is your diet?
  • Do you schedule regular check-ups? 
  • Have you talked to your doctor about things like prostate screening? 

Talk to your coworkers, talk to your friends, and bring the Movember movement to your professional and social circles. It’s not just for men either. It’s for anyone with a man in their life they care about — a significant other, a family member, or a friend. Every man matters. Encourage open conversations, show your support, and get involved!

Employee Caregivers Are Quitting How Employers Can Help?

Employee Caregivers Are Quitting. Here’s How to Keep Them

These days, we’re flooded with headlines about The Great Resignation, The Big Quit, and The Great Reshuffle. It’s not surprising. The desire for career advancement and better work/life balance are powerful reasons why people are resigning in record numbers. But these aren’t the only motives. Actually, a growing number of people are quitting so they can take care of loved ones. If your organization can’t afford to lose these employee caregivers, this advice can help you keep them on board.

Factors Driving This Trend

We’re seeing more employee caregivers, partially because the pandemic put older people at risk and disrupted existing family care arrangements. But also, it is the result of broader population shifts and the rising cost of long-term care. Let’s look at how this could play out over the next 15-20 years…

1) Our Population is Changing

Historically, if you mapped our population by age, the chart would look like a pyramid. In the past, many more young people were at the base. As they became adults, they helped support a smaller number of older people at the top. Today, that pyramid is inverted, with a larger elderly population and an increasingly smaller base of young people at the bottom who struggle to support the elderly. This is happening because:

  • Boomers are aging
  • Younger generations are producing fewer children
  • Medical advances are extending life expectancies

This inverted pyramid means that by 2040, the elderly will depend more heavily on the working population than those under 18. Put differently, in less than 20 years, more of your employee caregivers will be supporting elderly loved ones, rather than their own children. Or potentially, they could be caring for both at the same time.

That’s already the case for many employee caregivers. In fact, more than half of middle-aged Americans are currently “sandwiched” between generations.

2) Caregiving Costs Are Rising

Because care is expensive to provide, not everyone will be able to hire professionals to look after aging family members. Instead, they’ll need to provide care themselves at home. According to a recent AARP survey, there are 48 million unpaid caregivers in the U.S. and 80% of these caregivers are providing care to an adult family member or friend.

This means organizations will increasingly have employees who are juggling job performance with the burden of being a caregiver—along with all the time, energy, and emotional commitment that caregiving requires. While they may manage caregiving by missing time at work, it could also be as serious as leaving the workforce altogether.

For example, consider these statistics:

How to Support Employee Caregivers

What are forward-thinking HR leaders doing to help employee caregivers? Our recent conversations focus on three key action areas:

1) Provide Financial Solutions

One of the most important ways to support employees is by helping them plan for their own long-term care. While younger employees may not see the need, education and planning now will offer them more care options in the future if they’re injured or become ill.

When you create financial programming, be sure it includes discussions about the role of:

  • Medicare and Medicaid – Some people see government programs such as care options. However, they typically don’t cover long-term care (Medicare) and access involves significant drawbacks and limitations (Medicaid).
  • Retirement savings/401k – Similarly, using 401(k) and retirement savings to pay for care is possible, but this also comes with drawbacks. These investments are best reserved for funding life expenses during retirement and are not recommended for use during working years.
  • Standalone long-term care insurance – This coverage may be offered at work or purchased through an independent insurance provider. It can be a viable solution that can help cover some costs of long-term care.
  • Hybrid life insurance with long-term care benefits – This lets people purchase life insurance coverage that includes the ability to advance part of a death benefit for care needs. Many products on the market focus care benefits on professional care such as a nursing home or home health aide, but new products in this category cover family caregiving, as well.

2) Promote Your Employee Assistance Programs

Another way to support your workforce is through an employee assistance program (EAP). The right program can help employees navigate the challenges they face as caregivers. Whether it’s offering care planning tools and strategies or access to tools to help people manage complex aspects of care, be sure to consider a wide range of resources. For instance, you could include:

  • Care planning services
  • Care needs assessments
  • Help in finding and evaluating care
  • Life insurance claims support
  • Long-term care claims support
  • Home care placement assistance
  • Legal support for wills, trusts, and power of attorney documents
  • In-home loneliness solutions
  • Home modification services
  • Relocation support

Finally, it’s important to share details about your EAP program, and re-communicate the program’s features and benefits on a regular basis. Pairing this with enrollment or re-enrollment of your financial support solutions is a great way to protect your employees.

3) Pay Attention to Caregiving Legislation

Many state governments are taking notice of the need for care—the growing number of people who need a solution, the lack of affordable care, and the expected future drain on state Medicaid funds. A growing number of states are enacting legislation to address these care issues.

For example, in 2021, Washington became the first state to pass this kind of legislation. The Washington Cares Act provides long-term care financial support for state residents. The program is funded by a payroll tax. Employees with qualifying long-term care coverage could opt out of the program (and the associated tax).

Although this legislation may provide a rough blueprint, each state’s approach is likely to be different. To prepare their organizations and their employees for the future, employers should begin tracking legislative activity.

Start Planning

It’s hard to know precisely what’s in store for employers as more Boomers leave the workplace and younger employees step in to care for aging loved ones. But thus far, it’s clear that employee caregivers will need support and solutions as they navigate an increasingly challenging eldercare crisis.

HR leaders can be an essential part of the solution, but it’s important to start planning now. Workplace programs and policies need to evolve, with active involvement from employers and their employees. Start by educating your workforce about the need to plan for long-term care–whether caring for an elderly parent or planning ahead to manage their own care should they need it. Working together with employees to address their needs will help them understand your commitment to them, and encourage them to stay.

The Empathetic Workplace

An Empathetic Workplace – 4 Practical Tips

As a business leader, you want to keep employees engaged at work and encourage company loyalty. How does the empathetic workplace blend in with those goals? How can you create a culture that makes people care about their jobs? The key is making empathy your central focus by starting with a top-down approach.

When leadership makes employees feel respected and valued, they provide a space where employees can bring their whole selves to work. In turn, their teams are happier and more motivated. Employers who want to facilitate a compassionate company culture need to improve communication, boost transparency, listen to employees, and include more stakeholders in the decision-making process.

The Importance of Empathy

Traditional work methods got flipped upside down at the start of the pandemic, creating additional stress in people’s work and personal lives. Research conducted by Qualtrics found that 42% of employees experienced a decline in mental health after the start of COVID-19. This stress caused a decrease in work performance, with 20% of people saying it took longer to finish tasks and 12% saying they struggled to juggle workplace responsibilities.

Creating an empathetic workplace can help ease some of the stress employees are feeling. Recent research from Catalyst shows how empathy can improve workplace performance. The survey found that 76% of people with highly empathetic leaders reported feeling more engaged at work, while less than a third of those surveyed with less empathetic leadership reported engagement. So what does this mean for you? If you want your employees to do their best work, creating an empathetic workplace isn’t an option. It’s a necessity.

How to Create an Empathetic Workplace

Empathy has the power to transform your workplace. However, it takes more than one initiative to make empathy the cornerstone of your company culture. Here are four things you can do to continuously foster compassion and create a company culture grounded in empathy:

 

1. Implement an Open-Door Policy

Opening communication lines across the company is a great way to show employees that they’re in an environment that values empathy. When appropriately implemented, an open-door policy can improve communication across all levels of an organization and establish trust among employees. Rather than keeping workplace issues to themselves, employees with this policy will feel more comfortable discussing problems with managers. This allows managers to address concerns before they become major stressors.

For an open-door policy to be successful, you need to encourage upward communication. If this is a new concept for your workforce, you may need to prompt workers to provide senior leadership feedback. One way to get the ball rolling is by asking employees for feedback in annual surveys and addressing the survey results in a companywide meeting.

 

2. Be Vulnerable

To effectively lead a team through a crisis, transparent communication is key. Yet very few leaders keep employees in the loop. In a recent survey conducted by Leadership IQ, only 20% of employees said their leaders always openly share ongoing company challenges. When employees are left in the dark, anxiety and fear can develop, causing them to consider looking for new career opportunities. On the other hand, when leaders openly share company challenges, employees are 10 times more likely to recommend them as great employers.

So how can senior managers and CEOs practice vulnerable leadership? You could try discussing challenges you or the company are facing and victories you’re incredibly proud of. By opening up to your team, you make it easier for them to open up to you.

 

3. Listen More Than You Speak

To be empathetic, you need to become a better listener. This means keeping an open mind, recognizing how your employees are feeling, and trying to understand their perspectives. While you don’t have to agree with everything said, ensuring your team feels heard can make a world of difference. In fact, employees who feel heard are 4.6 times more empowered to do their best work.

Try to listen more than you talk. Your goal should be to avoid interrupting employees while they speak. Paraphrase what was said after they’re done to show that you are listening. Although you may disagree with what was said, it’s still important to validate the other person’s perspective and let them know you understand where they’re coming from.

 

4. Talk With Your Team Before Making Decisions

As the world returns to normal, you may be wondering what your work environment should look like. Some employees may be eager to return to the office, while others enjoy working from home. Before creating a return-to-office plan, talk with your team about their preferences.

Employees will have their own unique qualities that dictate which type of working environment suits them best. As an empathetic leader, it’s important to keep each individual’s unique characteristics in mind while creating a plan that works for them. The world of work has been permanently altered, and there’s no longer a one-size-fits-all strategy that works for everyone.

If you want employees to care about their jobs, you need to care about them. By creating an emphatic work environment, you can create a space where employees feel safe bringing their whole selves to work.