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Tips for Managing Remote Teams During COVID-19

Is it just us, or is it harder than usual to be a manager these days? Throw in a pandemic and work restrictions from the government moving your team to remote creates new challenges. Here are some tips and HR best practices for managing remotely during COVID-19.

If you’re fortunate enough to be able to work remotely, you might have questions about how to handle the transition. Managing remotely for the first time can be daunting. It’s even harder when the shift is prompted by a crisis. Here are tips and best practices our HR consultants are sharing for getting results while taking care of your people.

1. Manage your expectations
Disruptions in life and work are par for the course during challenging times.
Here’s the hard truth: even if everyone on your team grasps the technology quickly, it will not be business as usual.
This situation creates anxiety, hardships for you and/or your team members, and can really impact on your work and results. This doesn’t mean you can’t do your best to keep the work on track. It does mean that you’ll have to make hard decisions, ask for and extend grace, and enlist your staff to collaborate to overcome challenges.
Honest and open and frequent communication is key.


  • Review and set priorities together as a team: Look at your team’s goals and work plans for the next few months and consider what can be adjusted and what absolutely needs to be prioritized. Ask your staff for their input. Then, communicate the changes in a team meeting.
  • Meet one on one: Ask how they are being affected by this situation. Work with them to reassess and adjust their work plan as needed.
  • Make weekly (or even daily) time on your calendar for responding to the situation and supporting your team. Give yourself permission to shift priorities and renegotiate your time.

2. Check in with each staff person about their remote work set-up.

Everyone is different how they work best.  Help each of them work through how to be most productive in their new environment. Make sure they have everything they need to work effectively.
Consider asking:


  • Do you have everything you need to be productive and comfortable while you’re working remotely?
  • Is there anything about your remote work set-up that might present challenges or that we may need to work around?
  • Is there anything I can do to support you? Then, offer solutions where possible.

Continue to check in about remote work in your one on one meetings.


  • What am I doing well and what I could be doing better to support you in working remotely?
  • What are you doing well and what you could be doing better to work effectively?

3. Focus on output over activities.

As a manager, your main responsibility is to get results with and through your team. Our HR consultants often see first-time remote managers sometimes fall into the trap of micromanaging by focusing too much time and energy on monitoring the activities of their staff, rather than the outcomes they produce. When you emphasize results over activities, you’re showing that you trust your staff to manage their own time and workload and it is an HR best practice.

  • Start a daily email (or Instant Messaging) thread with your staff to share priorities for the day.
  • Report back at the end of the day to celebrate your wins and plans to get to the priorities you missed.
  • Set up a 30-minute team meeting at the end of the week to share outcomes from the week.

4. Set and respect work hours.

Setting and respecting boundaries around time is the key to maintaining trust and balance while keeping the work going. Set norms around how you use your calendar, and use yours as a model. Note: Be flexible and don’t expect that people’s work hours will be the same as when they were in the office.


  • Block off time on your calendar to indicate when you will be working, and have your staff do the same.
  • Use your calendar to show times during the workday when you will be less responsive (such as if you have an appointment or will be doing a focused work block where you won’t be checking email or chat).

5. Review communication practices.

If you’ve been working in an office, you’ve gotten used to having many opportunities to connect with your team throughout the day. The sudden shift to a remote can feel lonely. Avoid this by setting communication practices that encourage connecting (formally and informally) and clarify what channels should be used for what types of communication.



  • Create guidelines about when to use chat/messaging apps, email, and phone or video calls. For example, chat is for quick questions and informal chatter; Email is for longer-term planning or items that require more thought.
  • When you send calendar invitations for meetings, state how the call will be conducted in the description (for example, “A will call B at 555-555-5555” or “via Google Hangouts”).
  • Create fun virtual events. Lunch, coffee, happy hours.  Maybe add a theme for a fun twist.

6. If remote work is new to your company, set guidelines and expectation through a remote work policy.


  • Are they permitted to work from anywhere or do they need to notify you in advance if they would like to work elsewhere?
  • Remind them that all policies still apply.
  • Must they work the same hours as before?  Do they need to coordinate breaks with the team to provide adequate coverage to clients?
  • Do they need to login and notify the team of their status throughout the day through systems?
  • How will they secure private company information?
  • Share tips on how to best be productive.
  • Contrary to popular practice you cannot legally require an employee to have childcare for their kids, but you can measure productivity/results in meeting objectives and suggest best practices for productivity.

We recommend business owners and managers consult with an HR professional to discuss their specific challenges with remote teams and create HR policies.

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