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Common mistakes where
remote companies fail

It is easy to make mistakes, especially when you are trying something new. Oftentimes, there are iterations on a product or service until you get it just right. The same can be said for culture and integrating new policies (like remote work) into a company. Here are some of the common mistakes where companies that are integrating remote fail or miss the mark.

Common mistakes where remote companies fail

Hiring a great worker instead of a great remote worker

As you might be able to tell from the list of misconceptions around remote work, it takes a special type of person to be effective while working remotely. When hiring for remote, it’s important to look for a few things:

  • Self-motivated, maybe they’ve been their own boss, been a manager, or worked remotely before.
  • Communicative, as a remote employee it’s important to be extremely competent at communicating what they mean.
  • Brave, advocating for their own needs and being able to speak up about things they’re passionate about is necessary when working remote.
  • Flexible, oftentimes remote employees are hired to cover strange timezones, but even without that, remote employees need to be flexible with their expectations and communication with other team members.

Then, on top of those, you should be looking for whatever is in your regular competencies for a candidate. Many companies overlook the aspect of remote and assume that someone who is a good worker will also be a good remote employee. That is not always the case and can sometimes lead to great culture fits that end up being poor performers because they are unhappy or don’t know how to motivate themselves when outside of an office.

For example, we had to part ways with two great engineers who just couldn’t get used to working remotely and decided to switch back to working in a traditional office.

They didn’t hire for culture fit

On the flip-side, sometimes companies find someone that is so experienced with remote work that they hire them, thinking they’ll make an excellent impact on a remote organization. While sometimes this can pan out well, most of the time if you aren’t looking for culture fit, the hire will eventually churn out.

Even people that aren’t in your office impact your company’s culture. They are talking in your work chats, they are engaging with people over email or video, maybe the engage with your customers — it’s important that everyone who does any of those things be representative of your culture. Cohesion is king when it comes to building your company values and what you stand for. Don’t sacrifice that for anything.

Employees get burnt out

Boundaries can be hard to set, and it’s easy for remote people to work extra long hours because they don’t have to commute or leave home. It’s tempting to be the rock star on the team that gets everything done or comes in in the clutch when there’s an emergency. But, doing all of that and upholding all of those expectations can be exhausting, and employees can get burnt out.

The best way to combat this is to have managers specifically paying attention to burnout and depression in their team members. In one-on-ones, maybe have managers ask about things like routines, leaving the house, or directly about burn out. Employees might not feel comfortable outright saying that they are having a hard time, but when asked (especially if managers do it regularly) they may feel comfortable opening up. That way, it can be caught and fixed before they decide to just leave.

Didn’t focus on building culture or teams

This is especially true for companies that are entirely remote and do not have any in-office component. When building a company of people that are all fairly independent and self-driven, it can be easy to forget to pay attention and create a culture or a value of teamwork. That being said, surprising no one, culture and teams are just as important at an entirely remote company as they are at a company that is office-based.

Culture helps to provide a north star for everyone to orient themselves towards. Without it, there’s no direction or guidance to people’s projects and no alignment or trust between coworkers. Does that sound like a recipe for success? More like one for disaster. Without culture or a common guideline, people don’t know what to work on, and without that knowledge they might as well be working on nothing.

Poor communication processes and tools

Companies that employ remote workers need to be at the forefront of technology. The office of the remote employee is Slack, Zoom, Stride, and Trello rather than a desk and fancy ergonomic chair. So, when a company with remote people fails to implement the tooling necessary to support appropriate communication, it silences a whole important group of team members and makes it difficult for them to do their job.

If you are a company that’s looking to go remote, there are a few things that you should focus on building space for before you do:

  • How will remote employees be involved in meetings? How will they hear and be heard? How will they see and be seen?
  • How will people know remote employees work hours so they don’t get disturbed when they are off duty?
  • How will you loop in remote employees for office events, such as a day trip to a beach, and how will you compensate them for missing out?
  • What hardware do you need in the office to communicate effectively one-on-one with remote employees?

Having these things hashed out prior to bringing on a bunch of people that it will affect will make for a much better experience for your employees and the company as a whole.

No goals or accomplishments communicated

Because remote workers aren’t in the office, it can be difficult for in-office employees to see what they’re doing or recognize their achievements. It’s incredibly important to communicate remote workers successes (and failures) just as everyone else’s is communicated. 15Five’s High Fives feature is one of the great ways to do this. It allows every employee in a company to give props to the people that they work within a way that the whole company can see.

Strong management is imperative for remote employees, so being super clear on goals and expectations is also very important. Often times these come out and are reinforced naturally when working in an office, but that’s not the case when someone is remote.

Focusing on personal benefits rather than professional

Many people create remote functionality for themselves because they see the personal benefit of working from home instead of the professional benefits. So, for example, they see that they could actually travel anywhere in the world and work, instead of recognizing that they are afforded the mental space to really dive deep and focus every day, or that by hiring people remotely they are able to hire the best candidates available anywhere, rather than the best candidates available just in their city.

Focusing on the personal benefits takes you out of the value of what you’re doing. It’s a privilege to be able to work remotely, and when you start to lose sight of that you lose sight of your goals and all of the work you have to do to get there.

Overcompensating to appear productive

People are always afraid to be the one that isn’t doing enough. Because of the sometimes low visibility into what remote workers are doing as we mentioned above, they can be tempted to work and go above and beyond to prove their value and worth to the company. That’s awesome for the company, but for the employee, it’s a quick road to burnout. It’s important to train managers to watch for this and communicate often around the benefits of self-care. Leading by example is the best way to do this, so remote managers should be especially cautious about their actions and how they may be perceived by their direct reports. Do not over-aggrandize the work you have done, don’t pull 12 hour days because it makes you look like you’re dedicated. It doesn’t, and once your employees start to do it, it’ll be even more difficult to break their habits.

Assuming remote employees are always available

Just because a person works from home does not mean they are always available. While it’s true that their light next to their name in your company chat might be on, they might not be able to help you or talk to you at that moment because of something they’re working on. Be mindful of people’s schedules and try to respect them.

Companies can do a better job at this by actually tracking or documenting remote employee’s schedules and communication preferences. That makes it easy for both people in-office and remote people to know what the best way to communicate is and when to do it.