Managing from a distance: do’s and don’ts

Managing online: there is no other way today. How do you do that efficiently? Also, what should you do once we are all allowed back into the office? Hanno Van Eldik, prevention advisor for psychosocial aspects at Mensura about six do’s and don’ts.

Importance of body language and reaction time

Hanno Van Eldik, prevention advisor for psychosocial aspects at Mensura: “If you want to guide your team virtually, there are two things you should always keep in mind. Online, you miss a lot of signals like body language. Sometimes there is a lot of delay on the line. Mailing and even chatting is definitely not as efficient as a video call because you do not hear a voice or see body language and have to wait for a response.”

1. Mutual trust

“As a manager, you have less control. You have no choice other than to let your employees work independently. To do this, you have to be able to trust each other. It is the basis of your relationship and you must actively work on that trust relationship. You cannot make someone earn your trust. You have to give your trust. This includes good and clear constructive feedback, and to accept mistakes. That way, you build a positive spiral, your employee feels they can trust you and dares to come to you to discuss problems.”

2. Motivate your team members and cultivate assertiveness

“Working online is much more tiring and requires much more concentration. Play on motivation. The best motivation comes from within, for example because we enjoy something or like doing a certain task. Someone who is motivated to use their talents contributes to your team’s success. Therefore, tell your employees what they do well. That takes away their insecurity. Help them develop their assertiveness, because that is not easy for everyone. That way, they will come to you with problems quicker.”

3. Constructive feedback and cooperation

“Our motivation also comes from how competent we feel, how much autonomy we are given and how we feel connected to our colleagues and employer. Telework requires a lot of independence, but as a manager, you need to encourage the other two. Competence, for example, is encouraged by regularly giving constructive feedback. Solidarity by having your employees work together on assignments.”

4. Put out your feelers

“You must be alert to stress signals. Employees who do not feel well behave differently. They make more mistakes, become irritated more quickly, isolate themselves... That is why it is important that you contact them immediately if you notice this. Check if everything is okay. Take a preventive approach to this as well and call everyone in person every now and then to ask if they are having a hard time.”


“Dare to say that you can tell something is wrong and that you are concerned. The DESC method is very useful for this:

- Describe: describe what you have noticed.
- Express: show your concern, ask if things are going well.
- Suggest: listen to what your team member is saying and suggest solutions.
- Conclude: make an appointment to work on it further, do not leave it open-ended.

In addition, help them to bring structure to their working day: fixed working hours, taking breaks, a list of priorities and less urgent tasks... Because the normal rhythm of the working day of pressure and relaxation such as getting a coffee or asking a colleague something, falls away. Alternating difficult and easy tasks is also an interesting solution to this.”

5. Video calls rather than emails

“A person needs physical social contacts. The less abstract your online relationship is, the better. Therefore, cut down on mail traffic as much as possible. Encourage short team meetings and personal video calls. But watch out for pitfalls. Avoid misunderstandings and check that everyone has understood everything. If necessary, summarize each point briefly. Agree who does what. Let everyone have their say. Schedule personal interviews with quiet, introverted employees. During a video meeting, take a long break or several short breaks. Everyone still underestimates how exhausting a videocall is.”

6. After corona: mix working from the office and from home

“Your employees have experienced the benefits of working from home. No wasted time, no traffic jams, to-the-point meetings: maintain that. Map out which assignments they can do at home or at the office. For people who prefer to work from home because they experience fewer stimuli there and can concentrate better, you need to find the right balance. Let them reap the benefits of working from home. Encourage them to make social contacts so they do not get lonely. For example, schedule physical contact moments, social events and joint assignments. But do not impose that, that is counterproductive.”

Remote leadership?
A smart and clear teleworking policy is more important than ever, to guarantee the well-being and productivity of your employees. Mensura offers you various tools to develop a sustainable policy.
Check out the brand-new online learning courses with tips for your managers.

Safe and healthy teleworking?
Make teleworking a success with our digital training courses.

This article was written in cooperation with our partner, Proximus, which offers technological support for reliable connectivity and efficient remote collaboration in the context of hybrid working.
Switch to hybrid working with Proximus.