Remote Management. Work Schedule

Set up a work schedule for all locations. This advice may seem silly – everyone has an employment contract where working hours are stated. Why set up a work schedule?

Set up a work schedule for all locations.

This advice may seem silly – everyone has an employment contract where working hours are stated. Why set up a work schedule? However, we are in the IT industry where the concept of a flexible schedule is rather popular. Someone communicates with clients in the evening, someone starts working early in the morning because he needs to get the children to the kindergarten, someone works in the morning and in the evening and leaves the office during lunch breaks for some reason. In a distributed team, another factor is the time difference between locations. Consequently, the work schedule and tracking/understanding it for each team member become very important. Some aspects to consider:

  • Choose an overlapping “window”, i.e. the time when you and your team are to be in office (except absences approved earlier). It would be even better to have two such windows – one before and one after lunch. This will allow you to schedule meetings with more confidence that they will happen as planned (in situations where the calendar is free).
  • Set up a rule according to which employees may come to the office late or be absent from work. Employees often ask, “What should I do, if I am late?”, “What is considered being late and who should I warn?”, “What if it is very cold / hot today, or I’m waiting for a repairman...?” To avoid answering such questions every time, elaborate and announce certain rules – who, when, and how the employees must warn in case of absence or being late. Before giving examples of such rules, let's consider the principles on which these rules should be based:
    • First, you, as manager, should be informed when an employee is being late or is absent from work before the official start of the working day in the respective time zone.How much time in advance is determined by a concrete situation and established rules.
    • Second, the local manager (if any) should also be informed about the employee’s coming late or absence. 
    • Third, the team should know about that too.
    • And finally, this information should be formally recorded, so that it could be easily found and refreshed.

There might be force majeure of course, and if it happens, you, as manager, should “understand and forgive.” But remember that such force majeure must not become a habit.

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Taking these principles into account, the rules can be formulated as follows:

  • Don’t be late unless justified, and work in the office.
  • Once you realize that you will be late, immediately inform:
    • Your manager, via the selected communication channel
    • The team: you can do it by writing a message to the corporate mail group “Project X Absentees” (such a group should be created in advance and announced to all team members). The message must indicate how late you will be. In the case of remote work from home, indicate availability in selected communication tools. In spite of being seemingly simple, some of these recommendations (in my experience) are often neglected.

If there is a need to work from home, it is necessary to agree it with the manager beforehand, and notify the manager and team as stated in the previous point (to record the achieved agreement).

I’d like to note that an effective manager is always effective – managing either a local or distributed team. If you look at all the points described above, you can see that you already know most (or perhaps all) of them and use them in managing local teams. In fact, if you have managerial competencies, there is not difference for you what team to manage – distributed or local. The point is to find team members who are suitable for performing the required tasks. But recruitment is a topic for another discussion.

Vadim Kachurovsky

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