Leadership in remote work

by Bastian Eichler

VP Marketing

December 17, 2023


10 Minutes

Reading Time

Why not think outside the border?

Onboard teams in 160+ countries within minutes.


Bastian Eichler is the current VP of Marketing and former VP of Product at WorkMotion. Over the last 2+ years, he has helped us establish and enhance a product our customers fell in love with. Throughout his career, he has led multiple teams: both in remote and traditional office settings. 

Currently, he leads our Marketing team. Read on to learn more about what Bastian has learned over the years, his leadership style and his strategies to inspire remote teams.

What’s your past experience like with leadership roles?

I have worked in both small and large organisations, traditional Mittelstand as well as startups. The roles have always been in Product Management, which means managing other managers. These are usually team members who generally work with less direct guidance, and their work is mainly judged on results or output.

What strategies do you use as a manager?

Product Managers are like mini CEOs for their area of responsibility. My role is to enable them, make sure they know the larger product vision, and help connect the dots. I help them in setting up standard processes and boundaries, and oversee their work, but they work freely in their own domains. I also don’t like to micromanage. I prefer to step in when they have blockers and help the team overcome their problems as quickly as possible. I like to empower them to drive their success themselves.


The main philosophy I follow as a leader is based on Malik’s framework on effective management. One of my favourite Malik tools is the systematic “waste disposal” model that I carry out for my team constantly. 


According to Malik Management, “Performance is not possible without systemic, continuous purging and “waste disposal”. This comprises the question: “Which of all the things we are doing today would we not initialise anew, if we weren’t already doing them?”


In a traditional office setup, it’s easier to monitor the progress of projects regularly. It’s possible to have a quick chat in the coffee corner, or you can stop by your team member’s desk and see if they look or feel stressed, and shift your attention to how you can help them. The frequency of contact is just much higher compared to a remote setting, even if the number of meetings is the same.

During the pandemic, for the first time I faced a situation where I had to lead a team remotely (as many of us did). It was initially a learning curve, but now I’ve realised remote work can be highly motivating for many employees. If done correctly, it can also make work more efficient as compared to physical office setups.

What has changed in a remote set up in terms of leadership?

Overall, remote work has had a positive impact on most employees, but as an accountable manager, you can also find yourself struggling from time to time. For me the biggest factors which can sometimes be tricky: 


Visibility: In a remote setup, it’s harder to sense tension between team members or if someone is struggling for some reason. In an office environment, you can sense this more easily. Remotely, a lot can be out of your sight. 


Communication: Only 10% of perceived communication is the words we speak. The majority of communication are non-verbal signs, like body language. In a remote setting, a lot of communication is missed or misinterpreted and it requires a lot of adaptations (e.g. over communication or more precisely written summaries.


Smooth collaboration: Intensive collaboration sessions like workshops are not easy to replicate remotely. There are some great virtual meetup tools or collaboration tools like Miro, but it’s still not the same. Whenever more than two people need to collaborate closely in real time, you have to accept that there are some limitations in remote meetings.


But this is where the limitations stop for me. I’ve heard managers talk about how remote work impacts engagement and productivity. I see it differently. 


Engagement: I often hear that employees are less engaged and less committed to work hard or push their limits when working remotely. For me, the question of engagement has nothing to do with the office setting. It’s a question of good or bad people management. 


I see leaders asking their employees to return to office as a mandate, and I can confidently say it’s counterproductive. If you’re a good leader, you can enable your team to thrive irrespective of their preferences or ways of working. If the only way you get your employees to work hard is to closely observe and micro manage them in an office setting, you are probably not suited to lead a team. 


Regardless of the office setting, the key elements for high engagement are: overcommunication, setting clear goals and expectations and giving people a strong sense of why their job is important for the overall success of the company. 


People in leadership roles today don’t always know how to do that. And that’s the real cause for the lack of engagement in teams. Bringing people back into the office to amp up engagement is a flawed move. Looking over the shoulders of your employees and telling them what to do is not the solution and will lead good people to leave and the not-so-good ones to quietly quit.


Productivity: I don’t see any productivity loss in a remote setting; quite the opposite in fact. 

Employees are way more productive, more in control of their schedules, and set up their working spaces so they are not constantly distracted by what’s happening around them. 


For work that needs silence and focus, there can’t be a better setup than remote work. Collaboration can be more difficult, but if you overcome the communication challenges, there’s not much productivity loss either. 


Support your employees with the right tools (like Miro)adapted processes (like quick stand-ups or efficient alignments) to cope with the additional difficulties of a remote setting. Remember that work-life balance has a significant long term impact on productivity and this can be managed much better in a remote setting. 


Overall, I think that remote work provides additional challenges for leaders, but also great advantages. If you are a good team leader and know how to use a certain tool box, you will succeed in an office as well as a remote setting. But if you are missing certain managerial skills, you will struggle in a remote setting, and will point fingers at the setup and pin the blame on it for the lack of productivity.

What have you tried within your team to increase productivity?

With a vision to improve collaboration in the team, I started our own WorkMotion Product Academy. It’s a weekly meeting where everyone in the product team gets together and discusses different aspects of product management and aligns on how they want to work together. This includes prioritisation, discovery process, working with engineering and more.


When working remotely, visibility is limited. That’s why it’s important to go deep into topics and make the time and space to talk things through. By involving team members in a weekly educational meeting like the Product Academy, you can make sure everyone is on the same page and the tendency for them to go “off-script” is reduced.


As a leader, don’t be afraid of sharing your own experiences and knowledge with your team, Imagine there are 5 hard problems to solve. Would you rather solve them sequentially because you are the only knowledge holder in the team or would you solve them in parallel, because you enabled 5 of your team members to do it on their own? 


I prefer the latter. And this doesn’t only make our team more productive, it also motivates every single team member to learn and grow. Think about how you can spread knowledge and by that harmonise processes across your whole team. It will become very handy especially in a remote setting.

How do you feel about the future of work, especially in terms of remote work?

I believe that globalisation and the wider use of technology will lead to a higher integration of labour markets and borders will play less and less of a role in hiring processes. The question of fair compensation between different employees in markets with severely diverged costs of living will become more important in that process.


Remote work is here to stay. Leaders asking their teams to come back to the office will miss out on scarce and young talent and will be less successful than those who embrace the future of work.

<span style="color: #00826E;">Bastian Eichler<br> <span style="font-weight: 300; font-size:24px; color: #00234B;">VP Marketing</span>

Bastian Eichler
VP Marketing

Bastian Eichler is the VP of Product and the interim VP of Marketing at WorkMotion. Besides talking about product, leadership and HR technology, he likes listening to pop culture and music podcasts, cheering for his favourite football club Eintracht Frankfurt, and he has a soft spot for Llamas. Make sure to reach out to him via LinkedIn.

Curious to know more?

We’re here to help you on your global hiring journey.