Why Empathetic Leadership is Key to Building a Healthy Remote Culture

asian woman working on her laptop outside

By Margaret Yip, Partner, GoGlobal

“Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.” Oprah Winfrey.

From the beginning, GoGlobal’s focus has been on our people. We know we can only be successful if our employees are looked after. We are committed to prioritizing our people and walking the talk when it comes to empathetic leadership.

A remote work environment presents different challenges for employees than the traditional in-person office. The lines are more blurred as employees manage their personal and professional lives in tandem.

As leaders, we are seeing our people in their home environments with kids, pets and spouses often popping into Zoom or Teams meetings. We need to think of our employees in a more holistic way, understanding their unique challenges and situations.

To me, empathy is about showing our employees they are valued and listened to, and that we are willing to do what we can to help them be the best version of themselves.

I believe empathetic leadership is key to building a healthy remote working culture.

virtual meeting on a laptop screen

Helping however and whenever we can

“Leadership is not about being in charge. Leadership is about taking care of those in your charge.” Simon Sinek

As a global company with a growing team living and working around the world, we are aware that at any time our employees are going through different experiences and circumstances. As an employer, we must be quick to act and show we care.

For example, the Covid-19 pandemic affected our employees in various ways and to different degrees across the world. We first arranged for food and other essential supplies to our employees in China during the lockdown and sent fruit hampers to others who were sick with the virus.

Natural disasters can also impact some of our team members. Several of our employees have had their homes severely damaged by typhoons, storms and flooding. We always act and help however we can to ensure they and their families are safe, have comfortable accommodations and are taken care of at our company’s expense.

Remote work can be a game-changer

Our remote working culture often attracts and retains talent who need to be mobile for a variety of reasons.

For those who must relocate to another country for personal or family reasons, remote work provides career continuity. For example, remote work provided financial stability to one of our displaced employees fleeing the war zone in Ukraine.

Everyone has their own stories and struggles, with their unique health, family, financial and other personal issues to juggle. We have a very caring HR team whom our staff feels comfortable reaching out to. They are quick to offer solutions, with full support from the partners at the top.

By showing we care, a powerful message is sent to staff to assure them they are valued. We are here to support them in their own circumstances.

The power of being a good listener

“Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.” Andy Stanley

A remote workplace requires leaders to make an extra effort to reach out, connect and check in on employees.

By identifying our employees’ strengths, we can better match them to the company’s needs. By understanding what motivates them, we can help unlock their full potential by offering the right environment for them to thrive. Employees who feel they are listened to feel trusted and empowered are more driven to contribute to the company.

One of the most important management tools at GoGlobal is our annual employee survey where we gather anonymous feedback from all our employees. I read all the feedback closely and take it seriously. Besides employees recently raving about how much they love the company and its culture, they also expressed the challenges they face in switching off from work. Some are struggling with communication under a global environment.

As a result, our company introduced initiatives to promote health and wellness, and build connections. For example, we recently launched a virtual step challenge where employees recorded their daily step counts and shared pictures of their beautiful surroundings during their walks. This initiative not only promoted exercise and time off from their busy work schedules, but it also helped to connect and engage colleagues. We had a Teams channel specifically for the event and 75 employees participated, traveling over 4,682 kilometers together!

Keeping the virtual door open

We must create a corporate culture where employees feel comfortable to speak up and reach out anytime. My virtual door is always open to employees from all corners of the world.

Another reason to always listen intently is because nobody knows everything, but together we know a lot. I learn new things and gain new perspectives every day by listening to our talented colleagues from around the world as they share their experiences and opinions.

Many consider empathy a soft skill but it is actually a hard skill — a must-have — in remote workplace leadership. Empathy enables a workforce to stay connected and engaged.

asian woman leaning on a wall

When employees feel they are listened to, and their wellbeing is cared for, they will go above and beyond in their work. This feature makes the difference between a job and a career and is what helps to build a healthy remote culture.

Check out our ‘What is an EOR?’ guide or contact us to talk with an international HR expert and learn more about how partnering with an EOR can help you tap into a remote workforce.