This page provides advice, best practice tips, and resources specifically for managers who are working remotely.
Five best practices
Tips for managing your team remotely.
As a manager, one of your most important roles is providing clarity for your team. This is more important than ever when working remotely. Make sure you agree and implement any practices that are crucial for your team to function well while working remotely.
Understand your staff’s situation
During this exceptional time, staff may have additional, unexpected challenges or responsibilities. Make sure you know what your team are dealing with and the effect that will have on their work. They may need to work fewer hours (see University Covid-19 guidance for staff), start earlier or finish later with breaks in between, or need additional support of some sort.
Agree on work and projects
Make sure you are clear with your team members what parts of their role you expect them to continue doing whilst working remotely. For many staff, this may be all of their role. Make sure you discuss how they can tackle any parts of their role that are challenging to do remotely and what support they need from you.
Discuss any core working times
Depending on what work your team does, consider whether there are any times your team members need to be available. Remember to check the University’s guidelines on core meeting times, and bear in mind the personal situations your team members are facing during this time.
If you are the manager of a team where home working has not been the norm, it can be challenging to feel that you know what everyone is doing.
Focus on outputs
Having a strong communication and check-in schedule is key, but first, make sure your focus is on the results of people’s work.
Agree on metrics
How do you know your team member is doing a good job? Agree what success looks like so that you have a shared vision. It might be the number of cases resolved, the number of queries answered, or progressing specific projects.
Trust your team
A study by Stanford University showed that staff at Ctrip (China’s largest travel agency) who participated in a working-from-home experiment lasting 9 months were actually 13% more productive.
Agreeing how you will communicate as a team is a key part of leading your team effectively.
Agree communication methods
Depending on the team’s work, you may want to agree some practices on how different communication tools are used. For example, ‘We use email for most communications, but if it is urgent send me an instant message or a request for a Teams meeting.’
Consider setting up ‘open door’ office hours
As a manager, you may wish to establish some regular ‘open door’ times during your working day when your team can approach you for quick queries. Marking this in your calendar helps your team know when they can contact you with ad hoc matters, and helps you manage the time you spend dealing with these requests.
Set up an appropriate Team meeting rhythm
This may be a weekly meeting lasting 2 hours, a thrice-weekly meeting lasting 30 minutes, or a daily 15-minute ‘huddle’. You and your team know best how often you need to meet as a group.
Continue to check in with staff individually
Team meetings shouldn’t replace individual catch-ups, so schedule these on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Individual catch-ups are particularly important during this extended period of staff working from home because they help avoid feelings of isolation and provide space to discuss any personal challenges brought about by the Covid pandemic.
Running a virtual meeting is a different skill to running an in-person meeting, and getting the most out of them requires a little more planning and conscious monitoring.
Stick to meeting time limits
Be conscious of how many virtual meetings you and your staff now have to attend. Be respectful of your time and others’ by sticking to the agreed time for meetings.
Make sure everyone has a slot to speak
Consider whether everyone should be given a time limit for their update slot to ensure all the members of a team get an equal opportunity to talk. You will need to monitor this and move the conversation on if people go over their time limit, but people quickly get used to it. You’ll also need to decide how much time you as the manager should have – and stick to it.
Consider adding a ‘problem-solving’ segment to your team meetings
One of the most valuable aspects of working together in an office is being able to get input from all your colleagues, regardless of the focus of their role. This is often missed when teams work remotely. Consider asking team members to flag any issues on which they would value the team’s input and add a 10-minute segment to the end of your team meetings to provide space for these discussions.
Making sure that your team has what they need to do their job, whether specific skills, accesses, or tools is fundamental.
Check that your team members know how to use the technology they need to work from home. If they need support or training, help them to find that. This might be email, OneDrive, Microsoft Teams or another system. See details of IT training available within the University.
Make sure everyone can get to what they need and help them if they don’t have the right accesses to the right systems.
Agree how and where documents will be stored so that you and other members of the team can find them. Try to avoid creating duplicate existing folders on shared drives or duplicate document repositories – these can create a lot of future work consolidating documents and folders.
- A Guide to Managing Your (Newly) Remote Workers (Harvard Business Review)
- 7 Remote Management Best Practices (OwlLabs)
- No more coffee chat: The 5 conversations you should have with your remote team (Intuo)
- Remote team cheat sheet for managers (Intuo) - features a handy checklist.
- Managing Remote Employees - Managers Guide (CEB) - offers more details and tips for managing a team with a mixture of remote and co-located workers.
- Managing Remote Teams - workshop run by the University's Organisational and Staff Development Service (OSDS).