We’re tapping into the expertise of virtual work expert and INSEAD Professor Mark Mortensen to bring you a series on how best to work remotely, now and into the future. In today’s piece, we share TIPS FOR SUCCESSFULLY LEADING A REMOTE WORKFORCE.


Three months ago, as the COVID-19 crisis was rapidly escalating, business leaders across the world – some of whom who were not accustomed to managing employees remotely – were suddenly cast into that unfamiliar role, and each day forward was an experiment in how to keep their teams productive and cohesive.

After teaching and writing about remote work best practices and organizational design for more than 20 years, INSEAD Professor Mark Mortensen has become a recognized authority in the field. While he admits the crisis-driven circumstances requiring people to suddenly work from home are unusual, he says his strategies for doing it successfully still apply, even if remote work becomes long-term – or permanent.

In his recently-published Harvard Business Review (HBR) article, “How to Prepare Your Virtual Teams for the Long Haul,” Mortensen and co-author Constance Noonan Hadley push leaders to think beyond the current crisis in ways that will make remote work sustainable.

Mortensen’s recent INSEAD piece, “The Three Main Challenges of Remote Work,” offers leaders the “language of working from a distance,” and his ever-relvant 2017 HBR article, “The Overcommitted Organization” outlines powerful tools for successfully multiteaming.

The Investment Leaders Need to Make Now

Mortensen’s best advice to leaders right now is to invest in the elements that used to come for free when working face-to-face. Take, for example, building relationships and trust. In the absence of water cooler conversations, leaders must proactively build opportunities for connection, through regularly scheduled virtual coffee chats where people can talk about interests unrelated to work in a relaxed setting. And for parents who are struggling with the aggressive merger of work and home life, Mortensen offers excellent advice during this April 2020 podcast.

Through keynotes, workshops and advisory roles, Mortensen helps leaders at companies like adidas, Deutsche Telekom, Gen Re, Goldman Sachs, Maersk Oil, Merck KGaA, SAP and Qatar Petroleum devise strategies that improve how people work together in a shared space and across distances. His research into the future of work is particularly relevant right now as leaders revise their business models in response to the crisis.

According to Mortensen, the companies that think holistically will win.

For more of Mark Mortensen’s tips and strategies, check out these related links: