Managing Remotely

In the situation we find ourselves with Covid-19, we have many thousands of people working from home at the moment, and it’s something that most of those people are not used to. Admittedly, people have been working from home for many years, so managing people remotely is not new, but having the majority of your team working remotely is unusual for many managers If you’ve managed people remotely before, you will be familiar with some of the ideas I’m going to cover here, so this will be a useful reminder for some of you, and extremely useful to you if this is new

There are a few challenges in working from home if it’s something your team are not used to, it will undoubtedly affect their productivity. I’ve personally been working from home and managing other people working from home for most of my professional career, so here’s a few tips to help you along the way.

I will explore each theme in a little more detail, but the main tips are:

  • Ramp up the communication
  • Use technology
  • Schedule tasks and outcomes
  • Identify development needs
  • Keep people motivated.

Ramp up the communication

The number one employee complaint in the conventional workplace is communication, this can be worse working remotely, so one of the biggest challenges with leading a remote team is keeping them all in touch with what is happening. When people are all working in the same place, there is a great deal of ‘passive’ information sharing going on. Some of it accurate some not, but you’ll be aware of it. In the virtual workplace, you have to work harder at keeping people informed.

I suggest that you set up a virtual team huddle using a conference call or video conferencing facility at the beginning of every working day. Do the same at the end of the working day as well as this gives you a chance to thank everyone for their contribution through the day. Prepare an agenda for people to follow to ensure all the key items are covered during the huddle.

People can very quickly feel isolated from you and the team, so I suggest that you also have short 1:1 telephone call with each member of your direct report team and encourage your supervisors / team leaders to do the same with their direct reports.

Use of technology

Modern communication facilities like video conferencing are to such a high standard now that for a few pounds per month you can have access to tools which up until a few years ago were purely the domain of the larger businesses. Information drawings, diagrams, pictures can all be shared quickly, just like you are sat next to the individual. Most people engage better with visual information than they do any other so look to use these visual sharing facilities as much as you can.

Schedule tasks and outcomes

One of the difficulties that we face with a virtual team is that we can’t see what they are doing. In the workplace you can observe a person working in the virtual world you can’t. An important part of delegating a tasks is that you agree a time frame for when something will be complete and you agree an outcome which can be measured in some way. As long as the person delivers their outcomes on time, you don’t need to see how hard they are working. The results speak for themselves.

Development needs

In the recent Gallup survey on ‘The state of the global workforce’ employees indicated a very strong correlation between having development needs met and being engaged in their job. If a person is struggling with delivering on outcomes which you have set as outlined earlier, that may well indicate a development need, so setting clear outcomes is helpful in that aspect alone. When people have development needs which aren’t being met they can get frustrated very quickly, particularly when they can’t get a colleague to quickly show them how to do a task, like they would in the non-virtual world. This is partly why I suggest that you have daily 1:1 conversations because these issues can then be identified and dealt with quickly. This can be another good use for video conferencing as they can share information and solutions to problems on screen.

Keeping people motivated

Whoever coined the phrase ‘motivation is an inside job’ had got it right. So keeping people motivated in the virtual workplace is very much about keeping people in the right state of mind.

Much of what we covered earlier about communication applies here, making sure they can easily communicate with each other and setting up the formal business communication structures and routines help tremendously. In addition, I suggest that at the early stages of virtual working, that you agree what’s important about how you work with each employee in this new virtual world. Ask them first what’s important to them, and get 3-4 answers by repeating the question, then you add what’s important to you. This ‘mini contract’ sets the tone for your working relationship and should deal with any concerns early.

I hope the above was useful either as something new or a helpful reminder. If you would like to find out more about our online training sessions covering managing teams email me at