How to do your best work, remotely: Tips for Managers, Contributors, and HR

Written by Mutuk Karpakakunjaram

Published on Mar 13, 2020

Remote work is not a new thing. But going 100% remote is still unprecedented for plenty of organizations. And though the option to work remotely is often considered a perk, the truth is, not everyone enjoys working remotely. Some managers don’t know how to manage a remote team and successful management guidelines for co-located teams don’t directly translate to managing a distributed team.

This is a moment for remote work to prove itself. If remote teams can remain connected and productive during the coronavirus crisis, no one will challenge its viability again. 

Here’s a list of remote working tips we’ve compiled, for leaders and managers, for individual contributors and for HR teams. We’ll update this as new resources are discovered.

 

Managing Remotely: Remote working tips for Leaders and Managers

  • Encourage your team to stick to a schedule. No, this is not to micromanage them but to help them develop a healthy habit. Overworking, or not knowing when to stop, is the biggest complaint most seasoned remote workers share.
  • Consider reimbursing their broadband and mobile phone expenses for a month or two or if the company can afford it, for as long as a remote work mandate lasts.
  • If they use multiple monitors at work, encourage them to take one home. Doing work on one monitor when you’re used to two is hard on your eyes and takes longer.
  • Encourage your People to set up a dedicated room as their home-office. At times this may not be possible, so be understanding if they get distracted or you hear background noises during a call, or you run into a situation like this. This situation is bound to increase if schools are temporarily closed.
  • Keep your sense of humor. It helps everyone to loosen up a bit. Remember, not everyone enjoys working from a remote location and this is no “vacation” for anyone.
  • Rely on the trust you have built and banked over the years. Understand that everyone is trying their best.
  • Clear the air and cut to the chase: This is the time to rebuild trust if you think it’s lacking.
  • Communicate often, but don’t micromanage. (It makes people think you don’t trust them.)
  • If teams are having a quick stand-up call every morning (yes, even the teams that are not natively “agile”), record the meetings if it is a video-conference or conference call. If that’s not an option, take notes diligently.
  • This is the time to embrace collaboration tools (G-Drive, Slack and Microsoft Teams are popular.  There are others out there too, just ask google).
  • Mimic offline routine where you can: If it fits your organization’s culture, assign a virtual coffee break time or virtual happy-hour. [BRB. Need to refill my cappuccino ☕]
  • Get fluent in internet-speak: think acronyms and emoji vocabulary, especially if you are new to instant communication tools.
  • If you have never tracked time when you were in the physical office, don’t start now. Instead, trust your team and make them accountable for their deliverables.
  • Check-in often to eliminate their road-blocks. But again, don’t micromanage. This is also helpful in managing morale during a crisis.
  • Don’t skip your 1:1. During this time, it is even more important to have 1:1 meetings with your team members. Emails and spreadsheets are not designed to track your 1:1s. All Elements is offering MeetingMaker™ for free to help teams like yours go remote.
  • Don’t forget to celebrate success. Recognize your People on a company-wide platform. Ensuring your People feel seen is a free way to keep them motivated. It’s also the right thing to do.
  • Identify who on your team has never worked remotely and pay extra attention to help them settle in.
  • Document. Document. Document. It’s easy to overlook a team member in your meeting invite or cc’ing them in an email.

 

Leading HR Remotely: Remote working tips for the People Operations team.

  • Ensure your critical functions continue to operate: That means recruiting and hiring, onboarding, payroll, and other compliance-related activities.
  • Update your policies: It’s probably a good time to update your remote work policies in your employee handbook. Carefully review them and communicate exceptions to rules that you would otherwise enforce for your remote teams.
  • If you don’t have a remote work policy, create and communicate one, now.  This should be your top priority.
  • Get ahead of harassment risks. Workplace harassment happens remotely too. It’s a good time to have your managers and team members review your harassment policies and review any missed training.
  • Create channels for managers to connect: If your organization uses a collaboration tool like Slack or Microsoft Teams, create a channel exclusively for managers.
  • Share best practices (like these): Regularly share remote working best practices in a company-wide email or in a general channel in your collaboration tool.
  • Encourage breaks: Encourage your People (and share through your managers) to take 5 – 10 minute breaks every 90 minutes.
  • Don’t let remote work make workers sick. Avoid remote-work injuries through research and communicating healthy work practices.
  • When remote workers fall sick, ensure they know they can take sick leave. If employees fall sick while working remotely, they are still entitled to their sick leave (if you don’t have a sick leave policy, it’s probably a good time to initiate one). Remind them to rest and stay away from work if they are sick.
  • Rethink reimbursement policies. Where possible, work with your leadership team to reimburse remote working expenses such as broadband charges, mobile phone charges, etc. Investigate how you can offset these costs – may be through savings from in-office supplies like office supplies and snacks which will not need replenishing.

 

How to do your best work, remotely: Remote working tips for Individual Contributors.

  • Publish your schedule: Don’t make people guess when you’re working and when you’re off. Set your schedule and then set expectations on your availability.
  • If you’re sick, stop working. Should you get sick, take time-off and rest well. Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you can’t take your PTO or sick leave.
  • Be open about your caretaking responsibilities. If someone you care for is sick, share the information with your team so they can be sensitive to your availability.
  • Stay up-to-date on security scans of your work devices. If you have been postponing that virus scan task (not the coronavirus), do it now. The last thing you want is to be stuck at home with a useless device.
  • Ask for clarity when you don’t understand. If you don’t understand certain policies, ask questions in your next 1:1 meeting or just use your favorite collaboration tool and fire away your questions. When you find the answer, share them with your community.
  • Take frequent breaks: You’re (maybe) less likely to be interrupted when you’re working from home. At least, less likely to be interrupted by a colleague stopping by your desk. Remember to take a 5-10 minute break at least every 90 minutes.
  • Stay hydrated: This may seem like a no-brainer, but keep water nearby and keep refilling it. When you are focused on work, you could easily get dehydrated.

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