How to Be a Better Ally in the Remote Workplace

Free photos of Man

Managers have an additional responsibility to be role models in building inclusion across teams. As a new manager who is likely leading a remote or hybrid team, you may face unique challenges. But allyship actions in the remote world are not so different than the physical office. There are just a few additional things to keep in mind.

Learn, unlearn, relearn.

Allies in the workplace are people who make an effort to learn about their colleagues’ unique experiences, unlearn their biases and stereotypes, and relearn new skills with an understanding that there is an imbalance in opportunity that needs to change in order for everyone to succeed. On teams, this growth begins with managers initiating interactions that develop empathy and open communication.

In remote workplace settings, you and your team are not going to have random water cooler chats or run into each other in the hall. If you want to build better relationships and gain a real understanding of one another, you need to be intentional and schedule those moments.

Re-create the water cooler.

Virtual team-building exercises or informal group activities are a great way to encourage remote or hybrid team members to connect. You might have a brown bag lunch or coffee/tea break where you arrange for everyone to have a meal or drinks sent to their homes, and enjoy each others’ company. This doesn’t need to be a big time commitment.

Offer allyship learning.

Our research finds that most people want to learn about allyship through interactive training, and it is generally very successful. Ninety-seven percent of people who work in companies that offer allyship training have allies in their workplace. Many diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practitioners offer interactive remote skills-building workshops. Ask your DEI, human resources teams, or employee resource groups what learning opportunities they offer. As a leader, you now have the power to initiate these kinds of conversations.

Do no harm.

Allies make corrections to their own words and actions so that they don’t unintentionally harm people through biases and microaggressions . Most biases and microaggressions occur in both remote and physical workplaces, and some are even heightened in the virtual world.

Do not let microaggression go — in any setting.

Not surprisingly, research shows that people who have experienced discrimination want their allies specifically to take action when someone harms or belittles them. Indigenous people, Black people, LGBTQIA+ folks, and women with disabilities prioritize this particular action of allyship much higher than their colleagues.

As a leader, you must practice consciousness and intentionality by regularly considering how your words and actions might make someone else feel. Be aware that biases and microaggressions are often unintentional and tend to emerge more often when we are stressed, fatigued, or in a hurry. In the virtual setting, a few common verbal microaggressions include: interrupting, taking more than your share of airtime, dismissing or taking credit for someone else’s ideas, diminishing someone’s experience, stereotyping, and using racist , sexist , or ableist language .

Interrupt interruptions and other microaggressions.

Engaging in the practices above will not just help you recognize harmful behaviors in yourself, but also in your team members. For example, in video meetings and internal chat messages, speak up if you hear or see something inappropriate. Be mindful of who’s talking regularly and whose opinions haven’t been heard.

You can create a space where everyone feels safe speaking up by using language like, “I’d love to hear from everyone, so let’s be brief in our answers and give everyone room to share their thoughts,” or, “I’m seeing that Hadiya has been trying to say something for a while, let’s hear her thoughts.”

Mind your microexpressions.

On video, we’re only seeing a rectangle of each other, which means our facial expressions and upper body language are amplified. If we’re looking off to the side, multitasking, or otherwise appearing to be less than fully present, it can impact how the person on the other end feels and experiences the call.

Additionally, we often move from meeting to meeting. Unintentionally, we bring the energy from one meeting to the next. Anger, frustration, stress — these can all show up in ways you might not intend. Something you can model, and encourage your team to do as well, is taking a moment between meetings to reset and refocus. Work to be fully present, and even prime yourself to think about the emotions you want to bring into the call.

Pro tip: In chats and emails, remember to pause before hitting send to make sure you’re sending a thoughtful message to the human or humans on the other end. We can often become so transactional that we miss the little moments to build connections and show empathy.

Advocate for people.

When asked to name an important way an ally has shown up for them in their life, research shows that most people recall a time when an ally used their power or influence to advocate for them in ways that helped them move forward in their careers. Advocacy is a key piece of good allyship, and it’s particularly important for managers. Overwhelmingly, we found that people want allies to show trust in them, help boost their confidence, and mentor them.

Provide regular constructive feedback and microaffirmations.

During your one-on-ones, make sure that you are providing consistent, equitable, and actionable feedback. Women , and particularly women of color , tend to receive less quality feedback that can help them make needed course corrections and develop as leaders.

While giving constructive feedback can be hard, it is now a part of your job — and it is in your team’s best interest . To reach their full potential, your team needs to know how they can improve. As long as you are thoughtful and empathetic in your delivery (explaining what worked and what didn’t and brainstorming together ways to improve), people will likely be grateful.

Microaffirmations are another form of feedback that can be valuable in remote settings. Nonverbal feedback like nodding, showing you’re paying full attention to someone speaking, indicating you want to learn more, or showing you’re confused by one of their points can help someone in the moment.

Advocate for your team’s mental health.

More employees are experiencing burnout than ever before, especially those with underrepresented identities, who have experienced more stress during the pandemic. Most teams would benefit from a focus on mental health and stress reduction during this time. A few actions you might take:

Transferring your managerial skills to a remote setting doesn’t have to take months of training: You can set up the basics pretty quickly by breaking it all down into these five steps.

So pour yourself a piping hot cup of home-brewed coffee and let’s do the slipper shuffle towards the first step to managing a successful remote team.

Step 1: Build Your Team’s Remote Home Base

Just like you would set up a designated section of desks, some meeting rooms, and create casual space in the lunchroom for your office team to use, you need to create common spaces for your remote teams where they can group together, access team resources, and even indulge in some non-work-related banter.

This goes beyond a set of tools: It includes a shared set of expectations around how to use these tools so your team can work harmoniously in these spaces. Little inconveniences can cause big disruptions in a remote work setting.

Here are the elements of a remote office that you’ll want to set up:

Step 2: Set Up Recurring 1:1 Meetings With Each Report

Managers at Trello anchor their relationships with their team around weekly 1:1 meetings. This is the minimum level of face-to-face communication you should have with your remote reports. Set up a recurring half hour meeting on your calendars, and reserve 1 hour per month for longer discussion if necessary—it’s OK if you don’t need all the time, but you should never rush these important face-to-face video calls.

And yes, you should encourage the use of video during these meetings. They are your most valuable time to build your relationship and check in on everything from work-in-progress to personal and emotional issues.

Step 3: Schedule A Weekly All-Hands Team Meeting

It’s equally important to build in regular facetime as a whole team as it is to create those 1:1 moments. You’ll find that the frequency of meetings needed will ebb and flow. In times of crisis, your remote team might be craving more frequent interaction, while they might prefer less meetings when deadlines loom or work is flowing well. Since flexibility is one of the best parts of remote work, don’t be afraid to change up the cadence to suit your team’s preferences.

However, anchoring your team with a regular, weekly all hands meeting can create a structure around which the team can build their schedule. The key is to make sure that time is used well, so that people actually want to show up and participate!

Step 4: Build A Process To Protect Your Team From Distractions

Research has proven that remote workers tend to be more productive, despite the lure of Netflix and laundry. But a key to productivity for any team, remote or co-located, is a manager that can properly protect and prioritize the work that comes to the team. When requests start sliding into DMs unfiltered and the stress builds up, it can be easy to miss the signs as a remote manager.

Building one place where all requests can come in, can be prioritized and assigned, then tracked to completion, will streamline things significantly and give you peace of mind that nothing’s slipping through the cracks. We recommend using a kanban workflow that lets the process be agile:

Step 5: Create A Cadence For Performance & Team Health Reviews

If you take a look at your current performance review process, you’ll probably notice that none of the factors that play into how you assess your team’s performance have to do with how they function in a physical office. Shift your meetings to video, your printed review letters into PDFs, and you’ll be well on your way to continuing your review cycle in a distributed setting.

Reviewing your team health is also vital, because teamwork can get fragile when work piles up and people forget that there are other humans on the other side of the screen. Run a bi-annual or quarterly Team Health Monitor to assess how everyone is feeling about team issues and processes.

As a manager, you have a unique opportunity to redefine work in a way that better supports all of us and allows everyone to truly thrive. Remote and hybrid workplaces offer more inclusion and flexibility for people with disabilities, parents and other caregivers , LGBTQIA+ folks , and people of color who regularly experience microaggressions and harassment. Use this guidance to recognize what people need and to set up a remote team that doesn’t just work together, but thrives as a productive unit of geographically-separated home offices.


Your sales have stagnated or decreased, and you can’t figure out why. Discover what’s holding you back from achieving predictable sales growth in your business.

If you want to grow your business, you need a proven plan and framework. That’s what you get with the 2X Your Sales Discovery Session.

Want to learn about a formula for Predictable Growth that will put your business on a 90-day path to 2X Your Sales?

Join our 90-minute one-on-one virtual workshop.