Working Remotely: Employer Edition

March 20, 2020

Tips and tricks for managing a remote workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This week, following a series of health department recommendations and in some counties, mandates, many employers are shifting to a remote workspace.  For managers, the personal transition from office to home office may feel less daunting than the task of managing a remote workforce.

It can be difficult to find silver linings these days, but we are so fortunate to have powerful and scalable technology to support working from home.  Chances are, technology hasn’t been the barrier to remote work for your organization. Organizations I have worked with typically cite other obstacles to creating remote work policies for their business. If you find yourself worrying about managing your team remotely, I suggest taking note of those feelings and making a commitment to exploring and solving them post-COVID outbreak.  For now, here are some tips for managing your team from home.

Communication is key

If you’re used to a visual management style – where you trust folks are doing what they should be if their bums are in their seats, this will be especially challenging for you – consider it a stretch assignment.  Start by clearly setting expectations. Make sure your team knows what is expected of them right down to tasks and timelines. Have a direct conversation with your team about how you are going to communicate as you work remotely.  Examples could include a quick, daily check-in call, a daily email update, or keeping in touch via Slack, Hangouts, or Teams. Take some time to think about what is going to work best for you and lay that out for the team. If you can take it a step further, consider the communication style that is going to work for your direct reports and consider how you can best support their transition from office to home office.


Replicate your office scheduled as much as possible (or desired)

Depending on the nature of your work, this could be very easy or quite challenging.  If you’re managing a call center you’ll have a dashboard where you can easily oversee call volumes, ASA, abandon rate, and so on.  If your team has mixed schedules with meetings and independent project work, you’ll need to figure out how to check in with your staff the way you would in person.  Using your calendar to block off time for one-on-one touchpoints is helpful. It’s important now more than ever before for you to lead by example. Your effective time management will be noted by your team.  Don’t be afraid to have an open dialogue about what you’re learning about remote work during this transition. Create time and space to share tips and tricks across your team.  


Use your tools

I will say it again, we’re so fortunate to be in this situation in the digital age.  There are so many tools available to support remote work. Be sure to use all of the features at your disposal to maximize your team’s productivity and communication.  Share your calendar and have them do the same. If you step away from your desk, update your status so folks know you’ll be right back, or you’re offline. Make that the expectation for the whole team.  Simple steps like this really cut down on miscommunication and confusion.  


Don’t forget the fun stuff

You and your team may find it isolating to work from home.  Be intentional about recreating opportunities for connection. If you normally pop in on the accounting team on your way to the copier with a bad dad joke, keep doing that – now you’ll just have to do it virtually.  Check-in on your colleagues with kids and make sure they have enough alcohol or chocolate to get them through this crazy time. Virtual happy hours are a thing, you can schedule a video conference to have lunch together, those connections matter (maybe now more than ever). 

Lastly, practice compassion. You may remember the video of the gentleman being interviewed by BBC when his kids busted into the office and were caught on camera as his wife flailed in the background to get them out of there. A lot of folks watched that and recoiled at the lack of professionalism.  Let’s be real now, and I mean that. We’re all people with great big lives that reach far beyond what we do at the office. In the days and weeks to come, let’s share glimpses of each other’s kids and pets and spouses without feeling “unprofessional”. This is a great opportunity for connection.


For more helpful WFH tips, check out these posts: