How we work together - remote line management

I started at the Marsham Street office in London in September last year. Before I took the role, I learnt that my line manager would be based in Manchester. I thought having a remote line manager was going to be tricky – one year on, here’s what I learnt.

The phone (or in this case a headset) is your friend

Generally, I am a person who doesn’t really love the phone. As an adult, I’ve never had a phone plugged into the landline in my home, and with the prevalence of nuisance calls I tend not to pick up my mobile if it’s a number I don’t recognise. Perhaps it’s the combination of these things has made me a bit phone-phobic.

When you sit a few desks at most away from your line manager, or indeed the rest of your team, not using the phone doesn’t tend to be a problem. However, when you’re based in different cities, you really do have to embrace it.

It took me a little while to get used to giving my manager a call when I had questions or needed input, but now it’s second nature. Just because you can’t wander over to someone’s desk to have a chat, it doesn’t mean you can’t communicate as often as you need to. At the RSH we mostly use Lync (Skype for Business), which makes communication very easy. As well as making voice calls, you can use the video link, share your screen, present a document, or send instant messages when you just need a quick answer. It’s also integrated with Outlook so you can see when someone is in a meeting or on another call.

Sometimes a face-to-face meeting is better

While technology makes remote working very easy, sometimes there is no substitute for actually sitting in the same room as someone. At the RSH you’ll often find people travelling between offices for everything from training to team meetings, or sometimes just a one-to-one. Booking trains through the online system is really easy and generally you can travel as often as you need to. My team gets together in person for an all-day team meeting about four times a year, sometimes in London and sometimes in Manchester, which gives us the opportunity to get to know each other better.

Remote working is part of the culture here

In my previous jobs I’d very much come from a working culture where most people come into the office on most days. At the RSH, I can often go several weeks without seeing my line manager (or some other members of my team). For me that took a bit of getting used to, but because remote working is so ingrained in the culture here, my line manager made it really easy. I’ve never felt like I couldn’t pick up the phone to her, or put time in her diary when I’ve needed guidance or a sounding board. And on top of that, I now really value the flexibility of being able to work from home when it suits me. When I have a piece of work that requires a lot of space to think I prefer to work from home, whereas if I have lots of shorter tasks or meetings I prefer to come into the office. I think the key thing I’ve learnt from this cultural shift is that it’s amazing how quickly you can adapt when you’re properly supported to do so.