boss chairBy Jaimy Ford

When you lead a virtual team, one of your biggest challenges is assessing each employee’s engagement level. After all, you can’t monitor body language during meetings for clues that employees are bored. Because you likely communicate via email most of the time, you can’t rely on employees’ tone of voice to determine if they are excited, frustrated or indifferent.

In most cases, you won’t even know if remote employees have disengaged from the work. However, here are four red flags that they have checked out.


  1. Stop contributing. They no longer offer ideas and opinions or weigh in with their expertise on a specific subject. They may stop volunteering for assignments or commit to only the bare minimum.
  2. Don’t participate in meetings. They may make excuses to get out of meetings or show up late. Even if they show up, they don’t speak up. In fact, you may not even realize they are present because they remain quiet. Or they seem distracted and regularly need you to repeat what you have just said.
  3. Seem completely overwhelmed. Whenever you assign new work, employees complain. Some may even freak out a bit because they have a full plate. They don’t view training or new assignments as opportunities to learn and grow, and instead, view them as burdens.
  4. Aren’t collaborating. If employees seem to be embroiled in some sort of communication breakdown, turf war or other conflict, they may be feeling fed up, and that is hurting teamwork. Because they simply don’t care, they don’t work to prevent or resolve issues.

If you see any of those red flags, schedule individual meetings with disengaged employees to talk about your observations and offer them an opportunity to share their frustrations or concerns. Do what you can to address issues, for example, by decreasing an employee’s workload or by offering the person a plum assignment. Continue to monitor engagement levels and address problems as soon as you recognize them.

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