How to Help Your In-Office Team Get Used to Working Remote

home workspace stylized

As a former remote software engineer I understand first-hand how difficult it can be to get used to working remotely. While the world comes to grip with the COVID-19, more and more teams that usually work together in the office are being asked to work from home. This is a huge change and as a manager it’s your job to help your team navigate it effectively.

Cozy home workspace for a remote employee

More 1:1’s

Because your team is most likely used to seeing other adults everyday, it’s important to help them with that social contact. In some roles they’ll have this implicitly through meetings all day long, but other roles (software engineering for example) may not have any face to face contact at all in a given day.

Join Candid to keep track of your 1:1’s, action items, and notes.

Before going crazy and scheduling 1 on 1 meetings twice a week, start with once per week (instead of the usual twice per week). If after a few weeks your employee seems OK, you can go back to your usual cadence.

Ask the Right Questions to Remote Employees

If you’ve never managed remote employees you’ll soon find that the way you manage face to face doesn’t work quite as well. Body language cues are hard to read, latency might prevent quick retorts, and despite Zoom’s best efforts, you still aren’t in the same room with the person.

Over time I’ve found that being very deliberate about the questions you ask during your one on one makes a huge difference. It doesn’t have to just be a laundry list of questions to get through, but it can definitely help guide the conversation and help you understand how your employee is feeling about working from home.

For example, I use Candid to build out question templates for my remote employees. These questions are targeted specifically for their situation and determining how I can help them be more effective.

  • “What’s your setup like at home? Is there anything we can do to make it better?” – Most of your employees likely don’t have a great work from home setup. They may not even know what a good work from home setup looks like. As their manager your can help them figure out what would improve their setup.
  • “What is the most challenging part of working from home for you?” – Working from home is challenging for people who are not used to it. For each person it can be a different reason why it’s difficult. As a manager you should be empathetic to your employee’s concerns and challenges.
  • “How do you manage distractions during that day (spouse, kids, pets, etc)?” – This is the hard part about working from home. Some people may think that sitting in the living room on the couch is ok, but for most people it won’t work. Help your employees see that distractions are real and should be avoided if at all possible.
Remote coding from home

Get Moving

When you work from home it is really easy to not ever leave your desk. Sometimes you might not even talk to another human being for several days. One thing that I’ve discovered that helps with the isolation is to just get up from your workspace and move around. Even if it’s just a quick trip to the kitchen or a longer stroll outside, getting out of your workspace can help your employees find their center and return to work recharged and ready for action.

Be Deliberate with Your Remote Routine

One thing that your employees probably under value is the routine that they have. It probably goes something like this:

  1. Wake up
  2. Work out
  3. Eat breakfast
  4. Drive to work
  5. Work
  6. Eat lunch with co-workers
  7. Work
  8. Drive home
  9. Eat dinner
  10. Spend time with family
  11. Sleep

Once they move to work from home that entire routine get’s up ended. They’ll get up later (no commute!), maybe not shower, work out later, eat lunch at their work space, etc.

When I was a remote worker I treated my work day as I would if I worked in an office. I did get up a little later because of not commuting, but aside from that I still worked out at a regular time, took breaks for lunch, and had a hard-stop at 5pm for working. Humans crave routine, and keeping one when you work from home will help your employees stay motivated and sane.

Join Candid to keep track of your 1:1’s, action items, and notes.

Video On

I know that video conferencing can be kind of awkward sometimes, but when everyone works remote it becomes really important to encourage your employees to default to having their video on. There are always reasons not to and this varies wildly on a case-by-case basis, but in general having everyone keep their video on helps the work from home transition. Being able to see body language cues makes you feel closer to that person and helps with empathy. And during this time, empathy is going to be super important

Other Things

With your employees migrating to work from home, there are going to be a lot of other factors you need to consider. My advice is that take things one day at a time, have empathy, and be patient. As the new normal is established things should start to get easier.

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