The biggest takeaway from our “EQ & Remote Managers 2020 Report”

September 2, 2020

If you haven't read our "EQ & Remote Managers 2020 Report" here's a quick TLDR; the biggest challenge for remote managers right now isn't Zoom fatigue.

Corine Tan
3 min

When we started our manager interviews in January 2020, the three of us were in college and barely 20-years-old. We wanted to build a tool for remote teams, but we had less than two years of collective remote experience. To make up for it, we hopped on Zoom with any remote manager who’d chat with us. We wanted to know: What’s the hardest part about managing remotely?

Two months into our research, a global pandemic forced everyone into indefinite work-from-home. We continued talking to managers, though it was clear the Future of Work was changing day by day. By August 2020, we had well-documented interviews with 180 managers at 110 major tech companies. By chance, we had captured a historic transformation in remote work through qualitative notes and hundreds of data points. We’ve compiled all of our learnings into a massive report and the answer to our question emerged.

You’d think the biggest challenge with remote work fell to Zoom fatigue, micromanagement, or time management. Maybe the lack of water-cooler talk, based on personal experience.

Nope.

According to our managers, the most challenging part of remote work is relationship building. Second is communication. These two challenges made up 75% of the collected responses.

When we asked managers to elaborate, five major pain points emerged:

  1. Maintaining relationships. How do I build trust and buy-in over video call?
  2. Adapting to individual communication styles. How do I context-switch and meet my teammates where they’re at?
  3. Understanding how people are feeling. How do I keep tabs on my teams emotions through this crisis?
  4. Keeping everyone on the same page. How do I share information effectively and prevent miscommunication?
  5. Resolving conflict and miscommunication. How do I manage flareups over chat and keep us aligned?

If you've ever asked these questions while managing your remote team, you're in the same boat as managers from Gitlab, Evernote, UberEats, Heroku, and more. It may feel counterintuitive because these pain points are so human. They’re less about wrangling productivity metrics or collaboration tools. They all involve emotional intelligence.

It makes sense though. A manager’s job is to support people. Remote work makes the human side harder.

When we talk about remote management, we have to talk about EQ. Extensive research shows a direct correlation between retention, team effectiveness, and psychological safety. Building that environment of trust falls to the manager and their emotional awareness.

Like agile methodology and public speaking, emotional intelligence is a skill perfected over time. However, packed schedules and a lack of manager training often make building EQ the last priority. Factor in that 21.5% of the managers we interviewed had less than a year of management experience when COVID19 began, and it’s no wonder EQ encompasses remote work’s biggest challenges

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There's a lot to unpack when it comes to remote EQ. That's why we're creating a newsletter for empathetic managers and culture leaders. Every Wednesday, you’ll get a deep dive into key topics based on the learnings and stories from our interviews. If these issues resonate with you, sign up and join us. We'd love to have your help in solving these big problems in remote EQ!

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