Suddenly no one in the office to manage? 5 dos, 4 don’ts and 3 things to do right now -

When you are in the office you normally talk with those who are around you. As a human you are influenced by proximity, among other things. When individuals are working from home a number of things can happen:

  • Communication among employees focuses only on tasks. People will fail to build relationships with their colleagues and end up feeling like a bunch of strangers working on a random task.

In the current situation brought about by covid-19, people who do not live alone, have to work in potentially less than ideal situation. Think about working parents, couples living in small houses, people with bad internet connection. If your workforce is suddenly forced to work from home or you split your workforce into different groups to reduce the number of staff members and create the possibility for social distance, you will experience that managing employees is different. The main difference is that your managing needs to be more intentional. If you rely only on your gut judgements and feelings you will see the consequences of your actions very soon. The distance, physical and temporal, between the employees means that unclear communication will have bigger negative consequences than usual.

What is the purpose of communication

Communication has two main functions in companies:

  1. Share information with employees so that they can make work-related decisions.

The first function is work related. The interaction between colleagues is purpose driven. You are seeking feedback, discussing performance standards, brainstorming ideas, solving a problem, exchanging your views about a potential vendor. The point is that the interaction is focused and work related.
The second function is not-work related. It’s not about getting work done, but about simple human interaction. It’s the type of interaction you have at the water cooler. It’s talking about human stories, what your colleagues did during the weekend. With my NUIG colleagues, Friday’s we talk about the weekend driving the kids here and there, dinner with the in-laws. That kind of stuff. Monday’s we again talk about the weekend, the stuff kids did. Whatever happened. While this interaction is not work related it builds familiarity. That is important for work-related communication. It lays the foundation.

3 things you should be doing now

  • Adapt your KPIs, objectives, performance standards, whatever you call them. This creates breathing room for your employees. It also sends a clear signal what you expect. It creates certainty for your employees. It also shows that you are a human being and can empathize with the situation your employees find themselves in.

Suddenly remote: 5 do’s

Now you know how important communication is for your employees and you know that you need to step up how intentional you manage your team. Below is a list of more resources about managing remote teams. Read the ones that are relevant for you, and take notes.

  • Clearly communicate to your employees that you don’t expect them to perform at the same productivity level than before. Make it explicit — write it down — what the minimum is that you expect. This creates safety.

4 Don’ts

  • I said it before, but do not keep the same performance standards. Just don’t. Your employees are already burdened by the situation, they don’t need your pressure. A good friend of mine is struggling keeping her young son occupied while maintaining an 8 hour shift, and making sure that her house is not a complete mess. She was told to do as much as she can, but as a perfectionist this is not enough. She needs clear standards about what is expected. Setting clear and lower standards helps your employees get a feeling of accomplishment.


Of course, these resources are biased by my recent interaction. Some names are always on my mind or in my social media feed. Point is there are a lot of resources. Take care that you are not being exploited through your sudden need and the urgency of the situation.

  • There are several people who are doing a lot of great work in the field of remote work. Important is to keep in mind that working remotely and suddenly having to work from home isn’t the same thing. Gonzalo Hall is among the many who have written about why this sudden move to working from home is not the same than becoming a remote company.

Originally published at on March 21, 2020.



Behind every problem is a web of connectors and links. I look for patterns and offer solution. — I’m also raising 4 humans: I know problems can be solved.

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Behind every problem is a web of connectors and links. I look for patterns and offer solution. — I’m also raising 4 humans: I know problems can be solved.