Advice for managers new to remote working

I originally posted this to twitter, but figured a more permanent home might be useful.

A quick post on managing remote teams for anyone new to it amid the fast-evolving Coronavirus/Covid-19 situation:

Be intentional. You can’t rely on ad-hoc office chitchat to stay on top things. Have regular check-ins and catch-ups with your team.

Cameras on. It feels really weird at first, but being able to see people helps to maintain social bonds and provides useful clues for when people are about to speak and so on.

Environment is rarely important. If your team are also new to remote working you may find them working from kitchen tables, sofas, cafes etc. In most cases this is unimportant. Not everyone has a the luxury of a home-office to retreat to.

Have no-agenda agenda social sessions. When a team is remote, they don’t necessarily engage in the kind of water-cooler chitchat that people in offices do. Schedule 1-2-1 or team meetings with the express purpose of having a coffee and a chat. Don’t make it about work, make it about the people.

Life happens. In remote work the focus is less about the time someone spends at their desk and more about whether they’re productive or not. Kids occasionally burst in in the middle of meetings and some people are more productive late at night. Embrace your new-found flexibility.

Trust your team. Remote work is built on trust. You have to trust that your team are working. The office paradigm of seeing people “working” no longer applies.

Be present. Make sure your team know how and when they can reach you, what to do in emergencies and so on.

Set expectations clearly. Ensure that the whole team fully understands the rules by which you’re now working. What forms of communication and tools you’ll all be using, core hours and so on.

Be patient. Some people struggle with remote work initially. With no colleagues around and the distractions of the home environment it can take time to adjust. Your job is to help them succeed.

Do what you can to help. If you’re new to it, chances are your team is too. Take the time to find out what they need, or where they’re struggling with the situation and do what you can to help.

Remote working is great and for many people, it’s the only way to work. It’ll be hard at first and it can feel alien and isolating, but if you put some thought into your interactions in particular, it really pays off.

And who knows, maybe you’ll come to love it as much as I do ;)