When the Covid-19 pandemic changed the way we live and work, no one was prepared for the extent of these changes or how long they would need to stay in effect. Leaders are trained to handle upheaval, but this health crisis presented a long-term challenge that disrupted our global economy at its core.

Here we are, nearly two years later, still reacting to the reverberations of that disruption. The role of leaders has changed, and it’s likely that things aren’t going back to the way they were. Remote work and hybrid arrangements are the next normal. Leaders have to perform their roles differently by leaning further into trust, beyond resistance and discomfort, and learn how to effectively manage from afar. 

Listen as Debra discusses the challenges that Covid-19 has presented both inside and outside of the workplace. We’ll break down the new understanding we’ve gained about the evolving role of leaders and share a few interesting statistics from employee and leadership perspectives when it comes to working remotely. 


In This Episode, You Will Learn:

  • Survey statistics regarding remote work among employees during the Covid-19 pandemic (2:00)
  • 4 workplace models we can expect to see in the future (4:57)
  • Benefits of adopting a more global static hybrid model of remote work (8:49)
  • The challenges for remote leaders in a hybrid team scenario (10:59)
  • How the increasing demand for flexibility will affect the workplace of the future (15:48)
  • The biggest challenges organizations faced when Covid-19 hit (17:29)
  • Pleasant surprises that have come from the remote work model (19:53)


Resources Mentioned in this episode:


About the Host:

Debra A. Dinnocenzo is president and founder of VirtualWorks!, a consulting and training firm that specializes in virtual work issues. Debra is a co-author of the recently released book, REMOTE LEADERSHIP – Successfully Leading Work-from-Anywhere and Hybrid Teams, as well as several other books on remote and virtual teams. 

Since publishing her first book on telecommuting in 1999, Debra has been a pioneer in the shift to virtual work and remote leadership. Few practitioners in the field have the depth of knowledge and hands-on experience Debra brings to her work. As a nationally recognized expert on the virtual workplace, has spoken widely on related topics, and developed and taught “Leadership in the Virtual Workplace,” an online graduate-level course offered by Duquesne University. Previously, Debra was a teleworking executive and has worked from her home office for more than two decades.

Connect with Debra at:






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Debra Dinnocenzo:e insights and expertise that:Debra Dinnocenzo:

With the likely increase of remote work as our next normal, and in spite of its challenges. This is how and where the essential work of a growing number of organizations will get done. The challenges of building trust, communicating, collaborating, onboarding, coaching, motivating, problem solving, and maintaining organizational culture. While leading work from anywhere and hybrid teams is the leadership imperative for the next era of remote work. And I look forward to sharing with you the tools skills, and the techniques remote leaders and hybrid teams need to achieve their best results. Many of the topics in this in future episodes draw from the book I recently co authored which is titled remote leadership successfully leading work from anywhere and hybrid teams, you'll find the book at remote leadership book.com. In conducting research for the remote leadership book, I along with my co author Jason Warwick, surveyed and interviewed hundreds of leaders and team members during the COVID 19 pandemic, from across industries in organizations of varying sizes. In many cases, people discovered how to work remotely for the first time. When asked how often they worked remotely prior to the pandemic 40% of the respondents answer not at all. Yet, only 7% of those surveyed wanted to go back to the office full time and never work remotely again. The vast majority responded with some combination of working in the office and working remotely. Just over 20% of survey participants who are already working remotely to some degree prior to the pandemic wanted to increase the amount of time away from the office when the pandemic was over. In short, and this is worth noting, people overwhelmingly want some degree of flexibility to work remotely. What we found even more interesting is that there was no significant difference in desire to work remotely between leaders and team members. Studies done over a decade ago indicated that team members wanted to work remotely more than leaders. Presumably, many leaders were uncomfortable leading from a distance or untrusting of how their employees would perform if unsupervised. And my work with clients over the past two decades certainly reflect this leader resistance. However, our research for the book helped us see that leaders have evolved beyond their previous resistance and perhaps discomfort. When we asked what has gone well while working remotely, leaders were far more likely than team members to mention productivity, collaboration and communication. We found this both interesting and encouraging, and an important dynamic that will further accelerate the expansion of remote work.

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Now, while not all jobs can be accomplished remotely, we've seen that an increasing number of jobs can successfully be done from a distance, and there's growing demand by workers to work from locations that are removed from the physical workplace. In many cases, there's a blending of remote work with occasional work in the traditional workplace. For a number of reasons, the group of team members on site at any particular time may vary with an alternating mix of onsite and remote team members. This produces the hybrid team effect, where shifting groups of team members revolve through physical and distant iterations of the workday. That brings us to the other two team models that Jason and I discuss in our book on remote leadership. In our model of hybrid teams, the static hybrid team design has become common, those still an occasional one off or special arrangement, often to accommodate the needs of a handful of team members. In this model, a critical mass of team members may be co located on site, while some individuals are permanently remote. Examples of this include sales organizations, with sales representatives working from home offices, and service organizations with service technicians located in the field, closer to customers and often using home as their base of operation. Face to face interactions with remote team members in the static hybrid model may be infrequent if at all. This model benefits those with special needs or accommodates those with desired skills or talents that can't relocate to the company or team location. Multinational and global companies may embrace the static hybrid model, so they can strategically position teams or team members in countries where business is conducted. This model also describes organizations that take advantage of a wider national or global talent pool through distributed teams that are spread across geographic areas and time zones. Despite the fact that some members are co located. Everyone works remotely to some degree as they interact with off site team members. Most likely our fourth team model, fluid hybrid teams will be increasingly common in a growing number of organizations. The physical work location will still exist, but leaders and team members will have the flexibility to use the workplace as needed. With remote work as the default mode. Organizations may benefit from higher Our employees satisfaction and engagement and therefore higher retention as well as reduction in overhead and real estate costs. As I mentioned earlier, our survey of leaders and team members highlighted the desire to work remotely. Some of the time. approximately a quarter of respondents said they wanted to work remotely full time, but two thirds indicated that they want to work remotely only part time. Additionally, leaders cited the lack of personal interactions as the biggest challenge to working remotely. Team members identified this as one of their top challenges, while concerns about staying motivated and maintaining productivity ranked slightly higher. Most people are social creatures and want in person live human interaction, there will increasingly be an optimal solution for most employees. They will work on site when necessary, but the balance of the time they'll work remotely. Hybrid teams present many challenges and implications for leaders, there may be shifting groups of team members who are present at different times, or a portion of the team might consistently work on site with the leader, while others are primarily remote. These are some of the scenarios that are likely to create new challenges for remote leaders requiring new skills and innovative approaches to working with teams. Therefore, leaders must prepare themselves to meet the needs of the new work environment and the changing demands of their team members. So what was previously an occasional temporary or limited aspect of the workplace, causing limited impact on leaders is now a growing reality of organizational life for the future. Smart leaders will stay ahead of this curve, anticipate ways to adapt and ensure they're prepared to meet the demands of leadership effectiveness in the new world of work, where teams must work well together from wherever they are, and however they engage in teamwork.

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During the extended work from home experience, We saw a team members being patient and tolerant for the most part, there was an overall sense of acceptance of children appearing on camera, bad hair days, casual dress, barking dogs and noisy backgrounds. It was sometimes impossible to maintain a standard of decorum that existed pre pandemic, and workers learned to overlook and forgive that comfort levels. With video meetings rapidly increased, the value of connecting by video became more apparent, as people increasingly recognize the risks of isolation, and the value of seeing each other for work and personal connectivity. Those who are already skilled at using video tools adapted more easily. We found that people became creative about ways to replicate and simulate some of the interpersonal experiences they missed by not being together, they found ways to have fun and retain important bonds of communication, sharing and support for each other. We'll highlight some of these creative solutions in future episodes, because they demonstrate some of the key learnings that leaders and teams can take from the pandemic experience to enrich the future remote workplaces. certain tasks, such as sales, prospecting performance reviews and problem solving, were initially deferred. But when it became clear that remote work would continue for longer than originally expected, teams found ways to tackle those tasks, because further delaying them would have hurt business. Teams and leaders who made concerted efforts to reach out to each other in a variety of ways were less frustrated by the impact of the extended remote work time. Those who took the initiative to connect on a personal level, ie on specific work tasks reported feeling more engaged with their team and their leader. Digital overload resulting from so many video meetings became a problem as work from home was extended. People realize that it was difficult to stare at a video screen for the same number of minutes it would take to hold an in person meeting. Video meeting, burnout became an increasing complaint. Leaders felt the stress frustration and exhaustion of team members as the pandemic oran many responded by ramping up coaching, support and additional virtual touchpoints with team members. They tried to foster optimism even as employees were furloughed and departments were shut down, and sometimes businesses folded. Leaders found that openness, transparency and increased communication was vital to helping people survive this process.

Debra Dinnocenzo:

Although the pandemic created extraordinary and unpredicted circumstances, leaders and team members who work together and learn to adapt, created solutions to some of the most vexing problems of the virtual workplace, some leaders gained valuable experience in overcoming or managing remote work obstacles. It's clear that much was learned as a result of the intense ramp up of remote work during the pandemic. And these insights provide a wealth of opportunity for leaders to leverage as we shift to more stable and lasting models of remote work and hybrid work. We will be addressing in future podcasts many of the challenges and learnings that have brought us to a new understanding of the evolving role of leaders in the next normal of remote work. Join me for future episodes of the remote leadership podcast to hear tips, techniques and timely information to accelerate the success of remote leaders and their teams in the expanding hybrid workplace. In the meantime, remember to subscribe and share this podcast with your colleagues. For access to helpful resources for remote leaders. Visit remote leadership podcast.com.