In a co-located office we have office managers, so it only makes sense that in a remote office we would have remote office managers.

The office manager is the voice of the organization to its members, and a voice of the members to its organization. The job description for a remote office manager is not a ‘one size fits all’—every company has different needs. Here are a few general tasks to get started:

General tasks

  • ENCOURAGE CONNECTION BETWEEN TEAM MEMBERS. Encourage connection between team members. Help the team find information and resources, and encourage people to ask questions publicly.
  • KEEP THE BYTES ORGANIZED, CURRENT AND ACCESSIBLE. Document the team processes, maintain the list of tools the team uses, keep the file structure organized, and consolidate frequently asked questions.
  • ONBOARD AND OFFBOARD TEAM MEMBERS. Be responsible for onboarding new team members as well as offboarding those who are leaving the team, and documenting those processes along the way.
  • SCHEDULE PROBLEM FREE MEETINGS. Make sure the agenda is set and that everything is in place so that people can just show up and be productive.
  • REGULARLY REVIEW THE TEAM AGREEMENT. Schedule team agreement review sessions, as they can go out of date quite quickly—ways of working change as we work.
  • SCHEDULE RETROSPECTIVES. Retrospectives are meetings held at regularly scheduled intervals where teams can reflect on how things are going to be more effective. Some typical questions are: What is going well? What could have gone better? What have we learned? What still puzzles us?


Desired skills

  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Excellent interpersonal skills
  • Excellent analytical skills
  • Good time management skills
  • Training and presentation skills
  • Professional qualifications in a relevant discipline

Original transcript

Welcome to the Collaboration Superpowers podcast. My name is Lisette and I’m interviewing people and companies doing great things remotely. Hello, everyone, and welcome to episode number 145. It’s hard to believe that I can think of topics to talk about regarding remote working all the way up to episode 145. You’ll probably notice during this podcast that I have an overactive song bird in my backyard and there’s not much I can do about it. So we’re going to just have to share this podcast space during today’s recording.

One of the tips that I teach in my workshop is that if you have the luxury, hire a remote office manager for your remote team. In a co-located office, we have office managers, so it actually makes sense that in a remote office, we would have a remote office manager too. And I want to dedicate today’s episode to talking about what does a remote office manager do. Now, of course, the job description for the remote office manager that I’m going to discuss today is not going to be a one-size fits all for every company. Each company has different needs. Thus the job description for the remote office manager is going to be different for every company, so remember that. Today is just going to be a collection of tips and responsibilities and thoughts around this. Most of you know that for the last three or four years, I have been the remote office manager on the Happy Melly team, and we’ve grown from a team of three people to now a team of 12 people. And the number has fluctuated over the years. But one of the great joys that I have is being able to take all of the information that I learn in my interviews and then applying them to my own, remote team, sometimes a little bit too much. I have been told like okay, enough tools already or enough experiments already. We really just need to get our work done. So yes, it has gone overboard. I do admit. But you know, you’ve got to practice what you preach. So having this remote office management position gives me time to practice what I preach. Okay, so in general, I think a remote office manager should encourage connection between team members pointing out like hey, Voranz has this information over here. Maybe you should ask him about it. Or reminding people that it’s okay to ask questions in a public channel rather than in direct message. I mean, of course, sometimes a direct message is appropriate, but often if we ask our question publicly, it gives others the opportunity to respond.

And the other general task of a remote office manager is to keep the bites organized and accessible to the team. And what I mean by that is documenting the team processes, maybe maintaining the list of tools that the team uses, keeping the file structure organized. So it could be Google Drive. It could be whatever content management system that you’re using. But making sure that files are in the right place and things stay organized so that the team can access the information easily.

A remote office manager might also be responsible for onboarding new team members and also offboarding team members that are leaving the team, and of course documenting those onboarding and offboarding processes along the way. Now on the Happy Melly team, we have a weekly all-hands meeting that we call the rainbow meeting. And we also have sort of this unstructured time where we just hang out together, and we call that kitten talk. So once a week, we have our rainbow meeting, and that’s where we discuss things that affect everybody in the company. And then we also have a kitten talk where we all just hang out together. So as a remote office manager, I would just make sure that the rainbow meeting is scheduled and that there is an agenda for that rainbow meeting. So we have a Trello Board where people can add agenda items for things that they want to talk about. If nobody adds those agenda items, then I just go and make sure that there’s something that the team can talk about. There’s always something. But it does take somebody to drive that. Now I may not need to lead every meeting, but I just make sure that the meeting is organized and everything is in place for it to happen so that people can just show up and be productive.

One of the things that I highly recommend for all remote teams is to put a team agreement in place. It’s just a very basic document that outlines your ways of working. How you’re going to share information? How do you know what each other are doing? And how are you going to communicate with each other? You can learn more about that on episode number 42.

On the Happy Melly team, we have a team agreement in place. And we review that team agreement every six to eight weeks. And as the remote office manager, I just make sure that those team agreement review sessions get schedule. What I’ve noticed with team agreements is that after two or three months, they’re usually out of date somehow. Something is changed because ways of working change as we work. So it’s meant to be a fluid document and a fluid process. We want to experiment with new tools and with new processes, so it has to be open for that. But an obsolete document is a useless document, so you really need to review those ways of working every once in a while, and somebody has to drive that also. Going along with team agreements is also regular retrospective sessions. Now on Agile teams, there’s a person on the team whose function it is to schedule those retrospectives. But on non-Agile or non-software related teams, somebody needs to do that. And again, the remote office manager doesn’t have to facilitate the meeting, but they just have to facilitate that the meeting actually happened. Somebody else can come in and actually facilitate or the remote office manager can do it. And a great way to learn a lot about retrospectives is to listen to the super power hour back in episode number 133. As a reminder, this remote office management position doesn’t need to be a full-time thing. It can easily be a part-time thing. And there’s probably somebody on your team who loves taking care of logistics and organizing things and making sure that everybody has the information they need. And it can be an addition to somebody’s job already, especially if it’s something that they enjoy. For instance, I love doing things of this kind for the Happy Melly team. It’s just something that I’m naturally good at and enjoy. And I bet there’s one of us on every team. So harness those talents, [inaudible – 06:33] talents. Harness those talents and involve people on your team.

Okay, so in general, the function of a remote office manager is to encourage the connection between team members and to keep the bites organized and accessible to the team. This can be done by keeping the file system organized or to facilitate onboarding and offboarding of team members, scheduling regular team agreement review sessions or regular retrospectives or just the regular team meetings and making sure everybody has the information that they need and that action items are getting followed up on. And really, in general, just making sure that the little things don’t fall through the cracks and that your team can perform to the best of its abilities.

I’d be really curious to hear from those of you out there who have remote office managers and the roles that they play. Or if you’ve been thinking about it for a while and this podcast finally pushed you over the edge to get one, if you’ve got a story to share, please do. You can find all the contact information at collaborationsuperpowers.com. And while you’re there, go ahead and sign up on the newsletter. Every other week, you’ll get great content, all the latest stories, best practices, and tips for remote teams, delivered straight to your inbox in the comfort of wherever you are. That’s at collaborationsuperpowers.com/newsletter. Hey, big thanks to the song bird who has joined us throughout this podcast. I hope you enjoyed the spring tunes. And another big thanks to our awesome podcast producer Nick Jaworski. He’s the one that makes us sound so pro, song birds and all. Thanks, Nick. You can hire him to make you a star at podcastmonster.com. And last but definitely not least, our dazzling designer, Alfred Boland. He’s the one that makes us shine so bright. You can hire him to make you look cool at bolanden.nl.

All right, everybody, until next week, get yourself a remote office manager and be powerful.


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