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What Is the Right Leadership Style for Remote Teams?

Saturday July 25, 2020

Remote worker working from home on their laptop with a thoughtful expression

It’s natural for managers to want to keep track of employees’ activity while working from home. CNBC reports that worker monitoring tools experienced surging growth after the pandemic as companies adjusted to remote work. Google searches for “employee monitoring” reached peak popularity in May, 2020.

The Problem With Employee Monitoring Software

Some employee monitoring software companies measured a 600% spike in interest from prospective customers. Many resources dedicated to employee monitoring software tools became available online.


For example, some of the critical features of monitoring software include:

  • Employee desktop live viewer
  • Smart time and activity control system
  • Screen recording

As Kate Lister, President of Global Workplace Analytics, told CNBC, one of the biggest holdbacks of remote work has been trust.

Many managers are used to a style of leadership that involves tracking attendance rather than measuring results. This lack of trust likely drives the immediate urge to instill and expand monitoring capabilities.

The problem with this micromanagement leadership style is that it simply isn’t effective. A Harvard Business Review (HBR) study revealed that employees who were monitored using this technology were much more likely to:

  • Take unapproved breaks
  • Intentionally break rules
  • Work more slowly
  • Damage workplace property
  • And more

This is likely because monitoring workers decreases their sense of responsibility for their actions, making it more likely that they’ll place blame on their managers for their actions.

Another HBR article highlighted that excessive employee monitoring causes employees to feel like their privacy is being violated and harms their sense of wellbeing.

How To Improve Productivity Without Monitoring

But is there a way for leaders to establish trust and sustain productivity without extensive monitoring?

According to a McKinsey article, leadership will need to adjust their leadership style whether they’re in-person or virtual. Instead of excessive monitoring, leaders should instead focus on improving teamwork, trust, and social cohesion.

Building a team that you can trust is likely to have much more positive outcomes than excessive monitoring and micromanagement.

What Are the Implications for Teams?

Leaders should be deliberate about building cohesion and trust in distributed teams. Leaders need to ask themselves: “How will I be perceived differently as a leader in this environment? How do I “show up” for my team? How do I help my team members stay connected?”

An excellent way to begin building trust and cohesion is by incorporating Teamraderie experiences into your corporate culture. Our experiences are live, virtual workshops that improve outcomes such as team cohesion, trust, wellbeing, inclusion, and belonging.

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