The Dictator’s Guide: Managing Remote Teams During COVID-19

If you’re the type of leader who likes to micro-manage, oversee every action your employees take and ensure that they have no autonomy or sense of control, then you’re probably feeling a little disoriented by having everybody work from home as a result of your ‘COVID-19 policy’ being activated.

Perhaps you’re not quite sure how to rule with an iron fist while all of your loyal subjects aren’t centralised under the one roof?

If this is you then you’ve come to the right place — I’ve prepared the following list of twenty-one actions you should be taking today in order to minimise unrest among the classes and maintain strict order.

1. Schedule meetings throughout the day

It is imperative that you schedule meetings at the start, middle and end of the day. This prevents your employees from front-loading or back-loading work, and taking half a day off to pursue COVID-19 friendly recreational activities — such as watching Netflix or going for long walks in the park.

2. Use video-conferencing software to spy on employee stations

You don’t want to run the risk of employees pulling the wool over your eyes and taking calls from the beach. As such, you can use free tools such as Zoom, Google Hangouts or Skype for Business to run your remote meetings with video. This empowers you to observe your employees’ station to ensure that there is no foul play going on.

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This is not to be tolerated.

3. Set meeting duration to a default of one hour

Why take only 15 minutes of your employees’ time to communicate something, when you can take an entire hour to achieve the same outcome?

4. Set firm availability expectations

Insist that employees are online and available from 7am to 7pm. You can use instant messaging tools such as Slack, Microsoft Teams or Workplace from Facebook to monitor employee status and enforce this rule. Offline, away or ‘do not disturb’ mode is not to be tolerated.

5. Track employee movements via GPS

Add all employees to your Find My Friends app which works with iPhones, Android, and even Blackberries for the comrades of yore. This way you can ensure they are at home, and not stocking up on toilet paper at their local grocery store or market.

6. Mandate end-of-day reporting from all employees

Every employee is to submit a 1,000 word report by no later than 5pm on what they accomplished during the day. They are to stay online until at least 7pm ready to answer any questions you may or may not have. Protests from employees that it will take them all day to prepare this report should be seen as challenges to your authority and should be quelled quickly.

7. Use screen-logging to track employee time

Just because your employees are at home and online, it doesn’t mean that they’re actually working and not watching Stranger Things. You can use screen tracking tools like Rescue Time to determine how much time employees are actually spending on their desktops (you should expect no less than 10 hours per day), and what they’re doing with this time. Red flags — not of the glorious hammer and sickle kind — should be raised if employee time on social media is in excess of 15 minutes.

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Red flags abound comrade.

8. Track corporate AMEX card activity

AMEX cards should be tracked for evidence of foul play. Alternatively, you might want to suspend all AMEX card activity while your COVID-19 protocols are active given that there will be little justification for using said cards for work-purposes.

9. Stalk social media profiles

You should make a habit of checking your employees’ social media profiles. Doing so will give you an indication of when they were last online, whether they are mindlessly scrolling Instagram right now, and if they’re spending too much time re-tweeting #toiletpapergate and #flattenthecurve memes on Twitter.

10. Install email-trackers

Use tools such as Mailtrack or HubSpot to determine if and when an employee has opened an email, and how responsive they are. You should make it clear that emails are to be responded to not later than 15 minutes after receipt. It should make no difference if employees are in a meeting or not because they should still be checking and responding to email in meetings.

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11. Mandate that all work-related notifications are turned on

Employees shouldn’t miss a beat when it comes to new emails, instant messages and other work-related updates. Ensure that all work-related push notifications are turned — with sound and with volume all the way up — on both their smartphone and desktop.

12. Use Reply All in every email

By enforcing notifications and using ‘reply all’ to every single email, you are keeping your entire team on their toes. This one-two combination would make Ivan Drago proud.

13. Check in with employees sporadically throughout the day

You should make a habit of calling employees sporadically at different times of day in order to ensure that they are reachable and maintain a sense of impending doom or anxiety. Proceed with asking random questions that have little to do with their work.

14. Use plugins to alert you of every key employee activity

Instant messaging tools such as Slack and Microsoft Teams can be integrated with plug-ins that alert you to employee activities across the entire value chain. Take affirmative action should there be a lull between alerts. Under no circumstances are your employees to merely pretend to be working during COVID-19 social distancing efforts.

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Plug-ins like these give you full visibility.

15. Ensure you have full visibility and control of each and every employee’s calendar

The ability to not only see but block out time in your employees’ calendar is a hallmark of dictatorial management thinking. Not only that, but you should be able to delete existing entries in your employees’ calendars without asking or offering any explanation. They are your subjects and as such, they should not question your wisdom — after all, you rose to the ranks of leader because you are smarter, funnier and more attractive than them, it had nothing to do with tenure or nepotism.

16. Enforce mandatory break times

Every employee is to have one and one break only, from 1pm-1:30pm. The purpose of this break is to acquire and/or consume sustenance, sanitise their hands and disinfect equipment at their station. They are not to take breaks outside of this time.

17. Employees are to work from home, and home only

By having employees work from just one location, it becomes much easier to apply the above-mentioned measures. They are under no circumstances to work from a cafe or a private office, even if they insist that doing so makes them more productive.

18. Question everything

In conversation with employees, question every decision they have made to the nth degree. You must ensure that you are across even the most non-consequential of details.

If, after all of this, there is still a hint of unrest or revolution among employees then the following measures should be enacted:

19. Use keylogger to track employee activity in real-time

Install a keystroke logger such as Revealer Keylogger on every employees’ machine so that you can literally track their every step.

20. Set up a hidden webcam across the street from employee abodes

By setting up a hidden camera across the street, you can monitor whether employees are abusing the 30-minute-break that you have generously offered them.

21. Plant a Bluetooth tracker onto the underside of employee vehicles

This should be performed without employee knowledge in order to put them at some degree of rest and take unendorsed actions. This helps you to identify dissidents. You can use a Tile bluetooth tracker to do this. Create an alert for whenever an employee is further than 10 kilometers from their place of abode as they should only be going to the local grocery store during COVID-19.

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22. Dock pay

Finally, if an employee commits three strikes — that is, breaks three of the above mentioned rules — you are to dock their pay by 50 percent, effective until the end of COVID-19.

Dissidents are not to be tolerated.

Note from the author

Sadly, the above micro-management and hyper-responsiveness isn’t too far off how many organisations run today. To know how I really think organisations should be run, check out my forthcoming book, Time Rich: Do Your Best Work, Live Your Best Life.

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This book comes out during the now inopportune month of May, when both bookstores around the world will be shut, and conferences and events where I was planning to talk won’t happen — you know, those things that help you to sell books.

As such, if you represent a podcast, radio show, YouTube channel or online publication, then I’d love to speak with you about all things productivity at home during COVID-19, employee wellness and building high performing company cultures.

You can contact me on

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