Internal Communication

15 Common Mistakes that Remote Teams Leaders are Making

Have you ever considered having remote employees in your organization? Or maybe you already have a few? In any case, having remote team members enables you to make some significant savings, to increase the productivity of the entire team, and to have access to talents that all over the world.

The remote team trend is on the rise, and there is a lot of good examples of how fantastic it can work for both – the company and employees. Unfortunately, there are also the ones who didn’t make it. There are a lot of reasons why some businesses decided to cancel the remote option altogether, and there are also a lot of lessons to learn from their experience. And this is what we will be talking about today - what were their biggest mistakes and how you can avoid making them.

1. Looking back on bad examples – yes, some companies tried to apply the remote practice, but it didn't work for them. One of the most famous examples is Yahoo. But, your business is not Yahoo, and it might work for you, just like it works for Buffer, Basecamp, Toggle, or hundreds of other teams who are successfully implementing remote work methods. Use them as your role models.

2. Hiring people who are not good remote workers – when you decide that you wish to give the remote team a try, make sure that you hire people who are suited to such a way of work. Someone simply knows how to work only in an office, or don’t have where to settle to work elsewhere. The best remote employees are people who have already worked in this way or the ones who used to be freelancers or run their own projects.

3. Hiring talent, not culture fit – just like hiring anyone else, when hiring a remote worker, you should always have in mind how will she fit with your company culture and the rest of the team. If they seem troublesome in any way, better skip the opportunity no matter how skilled and talented they are. Even if they are not in the office, they are still a part of the team that need to work and click together.

4. Weak team spirit – a person who is not in the office all the time is not part of the usual water cooler jokes, office pranks, and lunchtime conversations. She cannot fit in that smoothly because she is not physically there. In other words, she is not a part of the team. To change that make sure to share as much of informalities with her and even create some harmless jokes just for her. It will make remote team members feel more accepted.

5. Unclear project details and instructions – one of the excellent ways to prevent traps of micromanagement is planning and making clear project details and instructions. So, when the team (including remote members) needs to start working on something new take some time and explain what they should do (and how, if necessary) and when it should be over. Precise information lowers the risk of having unfinished projects.

6. Micromanagement – when you want to see what your team is doing you just need to move your head or take a walk through the office. And when you want to see what your remote team is working on you need to call or email them. And it’s okay to check on them occasionally (once, twice a day). But, don’t be too pushy and too bossy. Have faith that they will do the job. Avoid being the annoying micromanager who sticks his nose everywhere.

7. Poor communication with the remote team – you have probably noticed by now that communication is one of the key reasons why some of the previously mentioned mistakes happened. Poor communication is one of the main challenges that you need to overcome.

People who are not in the office are often neglected and forgotten when critical information is shared. Don’t allow that to happen to you and include them in everything. Here's a tip: a tool that can help you with that and bring you closer to your remote team is an internal blog.

Internal blog on BlogIn 

8. Using wrong communication tools – even when there is a will to include your remote workers in the communication process, it can go wrong when using unsuitable tools.

Email can be one of these tools, especially when there is an important message that you need to deliver. If the conversation is personal, or real-time, use Slack, or even better Skype or some other tool where you can make live calls.

For sharing a more permanent, long-form content, to all employees, an internal company blog or company intranet is probably a better choice.

Or use your better judgment and think about the way you would want to hear such info.

9. No one-on-one time – face-to-face conversations with team leader helps people see how appreciated they are. As a team leader, take some time to speak in person with all team members.

You surely do that with the crew in the office, at least when they came to ask you a question, so do the same with remote workers.

Choose a day in a week and ask them all individually how they are doing, let them know on the latest news from the office, and encourage them to ask questions. You will be surprised by how pleasant and useful it can be.

10. Big gap between people in the office and remote team members – it’s tough for people to build bonds and have some meaningful relationships when they don’t see each other. In case they are not quite open to new people, it can get even worse.

To prevent that from happening in your team, be creative and think of the new ways of connecting two groups. Some of the things that work for others are online chat hangouts, an internal blog category where everyone must share “the craziest thing that happened that week,” weekend events where everyone gathers.

Maybe you can apply one of these techniques or get the idea of how to develop one that will fit you best.

11. Delay in communication – this problem usually affects teams who are working in different and distant time zones. If the time difference is just a few hours it can be overcome quickly, but if it’s more than 5 hours it can be a big problem.

It such cases someone will have to change working hours and be flexible. It is usually the person who is remote, but don’t insist that it always should be her. Make an exception from time to time.

12. No access to company culture – company culture represents your values and displays how you do things in your organization. Do you have it in writing yet? A piece of advice: write down your company culture before you hire remote team members. Place it somewhere where everyone can read what you stand for and how they should act. It will help people to blend in.

13. The remote workers over burn - instead of working less, these people can often work more, skip the usual workday breaks, and experience overburn.

Just imagine this situation: just when you get up from the computer to stretch your legs or to have a bite to eat, your boss is calling to talk to you and you miss the call. And, since the Murphy law is in place, it happens a few days in a row. What will you do? You will skip the breaks and start working continuously.

Such a thing happens to remote workers quite often, and it creates a wrong image about them. To resolve this issue, we suggest you try to talk with your team members about their routine and encourage them to have standard brakes during working hours. They will be much more productive afterward.

14. Delegate wrong task to a wrong person – remote team members are often hired because of specific knowledge they have. So, if you have hired a remote Java programmer, don’t assign him JavaScript-related tasks. It’s a silly example, but it illustrates that you should not expect them to do things that they are not qualified for.

15. No opportunities for personal growth - remote workers want to attend conferences and seminars, and to perfect their skills as well. So, don’t miss them when planning something like that. One of the major issues with people who are not in the office all the time is neglecting their desire for further development.

Personal growth is an excellent subject that you can discuss during one-on-one conversations with your remote team members. It will help you remember them when a new conference is scheduled.

As you can see these are not some things that can’t be resolved with a little bit of organization, a lot of communication, and an open mind willing to accept the change. If you have all of these and you are ready to say “Yes!” to a diversified team, welcome to the world of remote work!

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