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7 common pitfalls you should avoid when shifting to remote work

David Wippel

David Wippel

  • #remote
  • #digital business
5 min read

TRIGO shifted to an all-remote company this year. Although we could always work online, the pandemic and seeing employee productivity and happiness rise while working remotely — gave us that final push. Making the shift to remote is no easy task — especially for companies who aren't necessarily offering a service that can be produced and delivered remotely. So it's better to know bumps you might face along the road. Here are the 7 common pitfalls we've encountered and how you can avoid them when shifting to remote work:

1. Don't start from scratch.

A mistake we've seen companies make: go into panic mode and start reinventing new processes and ways of working — do yourself a favor and don't ignore all the resources available out there. Businesses worldwide like GitHub were ahead of the game and have been working remotely for years. Check out their guide here. Take whatever you can apply to your business and run with it. You can always iterate at a later stage.

2. Don't replicate the in-office/colocated experience, remotely.

Remote work is different from office work. By replicating the in-office experience, you're missing a lot of the benefits of remote work plus people working remotely might feel like they are missing out. For example; you used to provide office goodies like fresh fruit and herbal teas at the office to promote employee health. Try replicating this by giving your employees vouchers for a healthy fruit box from your local innovative startup or something similar. But the biggest pitfall of all that shouldn't be replicated remotely is...

3. Don't transfer all in-person meetings to virtual ones.

We've seen companies go from working and collaborating in an office to everyone being stuck in Zoom calls all day — and guess when the actual work gets done then? You guessed it, never or late at night.

Having online meetings back to back not only causes fatigue amongst your employees but is extremely inefficient. The first step to working online and efficiently is getting a project management system in place so everyone knows what they are working on and can also clearly see what colleagues are currently taking care of. You don't need a meeting to know the status of a task, a glance into your tool should indicate exactly where it's at. The second thing you can do is use asynchronous communication (async). A meeting (whether virtual or live) is synchronous communication; both parties receive and give the message at the same time. Whereas async happens out of sync, so if I send a chat message, you might read it later and act on it when you get a chance. The great thing about async communication is that we're no longer distracted and get to focus on a task intentionally. We also have a record of the message and can always go back and check what the person has written (how often have you forgotten something said in a meeting?). It's simply more efficient. If it's a more complicated topic, or you want to make the message more personal, go ahead and use a video tool like Loom to record your screen and yourself explaining the subject.

We've been using Loom for a long time now, and it's such a great way to get the message across while keeping things personal and efficient.

Generally, meetings shouldn't include a ton of people; it's extremely inefficient. Reducing meetings is somewhat of a mindset and a cultural shift. Top-down managers and c-level should be encouraged to question the purpose, importance, and goal. Request an agenda, try to limit it to 15-30 minutes, and have a mindset that we all value each other's time here.

To reduce meetings:

  • Set up a project management system
  • Use asynchronous communication; chat tool, emails and video tools like Zoom
  • Create a culture of valuing time and efficiency: every meeting should have a goal, agenda and no more than 5 people at it.

4. Do not assume that everyone has access to an optimal workspace or underestimate the importance of it

The Covid-19 pandemic came from one day to the next, and we all had to make do. We've heard of colleagues and friends working from their kid's room, the dining table — the lucky ones finally got a desk.

Don't assume that your employees have the equipment they need to work efficiently at home. With our generation, to be honest, there's not an insane amount of things an employee needs to be productive and comfortable. But these are the basics we believe every employee should have:

  • A desk that can be adjusted to a standing desk
  • A laptop stand
  • A second screen
  • An external keyboard + mouse
  • A mouse pad
  • An aerodynamic chair
  • A webcam
  • Headphones with an integrated microphone

Optional perks they'll thank you for:

  • A footrest
  • A fancy notebook + pen
  • A nice mug for their morning coffee
  • A jug for water and drinks to keep them hydrated
  • A diffuser to increase focus and keep the room atmosphere nice
  • A branded hoodie and/or t-shirt they can wear during work time

Not everyone has the necessary space and equipment to work from home. If you own a company, support your employees to set up a proper work environment. We at TRIGO give our employees — within a specific budget — the freedom to choose their equipment. Everyone has different likes and dislikes, and after all, these are the things they'll be working with day in and day out. A small something such as having a memory foam footrest makes their life and work that bit easier.

5. Do not assume that remote happens overnight.

Switching to remote work takes time; it will not just be roses and daisies — it's tough. It's an entirely different way of working, so be patient with yourself and your team.

6. Do not assume that remote management is drastically different.

All in all managing and leading a remote team is not drastically different. It all boils down to trust, communication, and shared goals.

But one thing you do need to watch out for is ensuring that you transfer these routines and tasks to the remote setting. Keep up those reviews, write down your goals for everyone to see in your tools, maybe even send a mission statement poster to your employees to hang up at home.

Leading people is no different in a remote setting. Over-communicate and be supportive, just as much as you would be onsite.

7. Do not assume your existing values can remain static.

Some values might have existed to support an office environment. Don't keep 'em just for the sake of it. Embrace change because a remote company is very different from a colocated one. Going remote can now mean you can offer a culture where you offer flexibility and efficiency for example. See this as an opportunity to grow as a company and become a part of the future of work.

Alrighty, that wraps up our take on 7 common pitfalls you should avoid when shifting to remote work. What has it been like for you? What are you struggling with? Drop our CEO David an email and continue the conversation.

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