Meetings, Management Tips | March 21, 2020

Transitioning to “Work From Home” People Management

image representing Transitioning to “Work From Home” People Management

Did COVID-19 just make you a newly minted Work From Home (WFH) manager? Welcome to the club of remote leaders, there are a ton of us now! Though at Strety we’ve been working remotely for nearly two years, I asked Todd Kaufman who is the CEO of a 50 person remote software agency (TestDouble) to share his advice. This is what he said:

"You will need to focus and prepare more as a remote manager than an in-person one. You won't be able to rely on body language and the stronger relationship that comes from working side by side with your direct reports, so you'll need to up your game."

He’s right and we want you to help you up your game. Here are 5 tips to implement right now for your new “Work From Home” team:

1. Start from a place of Trust & Compassion (i.e. do not micro-manage)

Everyone will be going through an adjustment period right now, even you. Deep down you may be experiencing the thought of “when the cat’s away, the mice will play” and have the urge to micromanage your team all day. Especially now with 24/7 online and tv coverage of COVID-19. Stop yourself and start your journey as a remote team manager from a place of trust and compassion.

Your team is full of good people (that’s why you hired them) and they will settle into this new normal and get their work done just as they had done in the office sitting near you. Micromanagement and distrust is a surefire way to add more stress and less focus to this transition. Even if you can’t see them, they will get their work done and you can keep the team humming, focused, and accountable.

2. Set up Daily Check In Process

Once #1 is done, you can now put the processes in place to keep your fears at bay of whether someone is working or not AND provide a lightweight way for employees to feel connected to you and the team. Two ideas to implement:

  1. Team Morning Check in Call - This may feel heavy to start (it is) but during the transition it will be helpful. After a few days, move this to a check in via email, slack, or a people management product. This simple check is where everyone shares what they’re up to for the day and gives a general vibe check in.
  2. Daily Summary Write Ups - Have your direct reports write up a quick blurb of how they felt today, including what they accomplished and what they struggled with. It will give you peace of mind knowing what happened each day and provide a daily incremental coaching and course correction opportunity. And it gives your direct report the opportunity to reflect on their day.

These two simple daily check ins will give your direct reports a sense of normalcy; a feeling of a start and end to the day and a cadence to check in with you so you know how and what they’re doing.

3. Schedule 1:1s Weekly Over Video Call

1:1s are important always but during a transition like this, they’re critical to do weekly! We suggest doing them over a video call (Zoom is the clear winner as a tool). This is your informal catch up to see how remote work is going, what can they be doing better, what you can be doing for them, etc. Stick with consistent and simple agenda items that you share ahead of time. This is a learning experience for everyone so encourage collaboration and transparency about everything going in the lives of your direct report.

4. Feed the FOCUS!

Your job as a remote manager (heck, as any manager) is to ensure your team stays focused. Do your part by limiting instant messages to your direct reports and remove pointless meetings (great sketch The New Yorker put out). Some of your direct reports will have major distractions at home during this crisis and you can help them by being supportive and giving them time to adjust. For others, you will likely hear “I get so much more done remote” so don’t be surprised. That means you’re hitting the sweet spot!

And lastly….

5. Watch for Burnout

This is a stressful time for everyone. Working from home is going to bring enormous challenges for many workers, especially those with kids or elderly parents. You need to manage everyone’s emotional state, be extraordinarily supportive, and help avoid burnout. Not only for their mental state, but for that of your teams.


If you read our blog, you already know: It starts with you. Make sure you're adjusting well, communicating frequently, and protecting your own distractions. 

There are lots of resources out there for remote work. We found these two resources most aligned with our beliefs and success in working remotely.

REMOTE Livestream Q&A with Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson



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