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How to manage employees remotely

Amal Ravindran
December 19, 2022

Remote wasn’t built in a day, and we’re all scrambling to work out what the future of remote and distributed working looks like. Remote working and its close sibling distributed working have presented lots of opportunities for recruiters, from expanding the hiring pool to greater employee retention through the apparent health and wellbeing benefits. But managing a team remotely is not without its challenges, so we thought we’d share some key insights from hiring leaders who’ve been thinking about this very topic.

We all know some of the main pitfalls of remote working, from keeping a team motivated to the difficulties in on-boarding junior staffers in a virtual environment. But in addition, a tweet by Gergely Orosz lifted the lid on a underreported problem:

The bright new dawn of remote working may have its benefits, but there is a phenomenon brewing where some engineers are working two or more jobs on company time. Increasingly, hiring managers are interviewing what seems like the perfect candidate, only to find that their new recruit works at a snail pace under the cover of remote working darkness.

So how can hiring managers and founders swerve this remote working roadblock? Orosz says it’s imperative to “pay attention during onboarding”. There may be warning signs you can pick up. For example, has the employee mysteriously disappeared from LinkedIn? Are they reluctant to share screens, or insist on having their own computer? Vigilance is key, but Orosz also stresses the importance of avoiding intrusive processes that make all staff feel like extras in a spy movie.

But even if you don’t fall victim to a remote worker horror story, there are lots of ways to implement better WFH processes across a team. Job van der Voort, the co-founder and CEO of Remote, offered some fascinating insights on how to manage people remotely. @Jobvo was the VP of product at GitLab, the OG remote working company, so his thoughts are note-worthy to say the least.

In summary, here’s a run-through of Job’s tips:

  • Have regular 1:1 calls with all your reports. Check in with the person, not the work.
  • Do 1:1 meetings weekly (30-60 minutes).
  • Reduce the meeting length and frequency based on the preferences of either party.
  • Always have a meeting agenda, but keep it light.
  • Set an example by working and communicating in public (including channels like Slack) for everything but personal matters.
  • Regularly check in on the workload and working hours of all your reports.
  • Document things yourself… No one is too big to write documentation.
  • When you find that people are overtired, overworked or just need a break – give them that break.
  • Limit the number of reports. ‘More than 8 is really hard to manage well’.
  • A good manager is available to their team. That means they can make time for everyone.

In addition to these rules of the road, other leaders have extolled the benefits of certain remote working rituals. Julie Zhuo, co-founder of Sundial and former VP at Facebook, shared some of the remote team traditions that she and her colleagues have found effective.

How are you preparing for life where remote working, at least for some of the week, becomes the new norm? We all know that remote working is replete with opportunities for businesses, but remote working without rules is no post-pandemic paradise. Hopefully some of the tips we’ve covered here can give you the confidence to embrace WFH as an option, whatever the future may bring.

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