Last Updated on March 3, 2020
When I first decided to set up my own business, I looked around every for advice from people who had been down that same road. Ever since I wrote a history essay on the wrong King Edward at school and the teacher said to me ‘if you weren’t sure, you should have just come and asked me,’ I have never been shy about asking questions and seeking advice.
It has stood me in good stead thus far, helping me to get top marks in an undergraduate degree I never totally understood and build a successful career. Starting your own business is a huge risk and it is vital to get as much advice as you can before taking the plunge.
Since establishing my own successful VPN information page, I have been keen to help others take that step, and have mentored several individuals making a go of their own startup. I have also tried to share my advice online in articles such as this.
Which brings me to the issue of remote teams. Having staff working remotely is seen by many as a big risk or even foolhardy. For me, it’s an absolute no-brainer. It saves on many costs associated with running a large office space, and the various commuter perks most staff want written into their contract these days.
It also guarantees a happy and motivated staff who feel trusted by their boss, comfortable in their environment, being able to work the hours that best suits them, and not exhausted from hours spent crammed onto packed buses and trains.
For me, those opposed to remote working are living in a bygone age, but that’s not to say that establishing and growing a remote team isn’t without potential pitfalls. And I am speaking from experience here, being willing to admit to making more than a few myself along the way.
So for the benefit of anyone contemplating establishing and growing their own business, with a remote working element, here are my top 5 mistakes I made when growing a remote team (so you don’t have to).
The jury is still out on the merits or otherwise of micro-management. Within an office environment, there is no doubt that some employees will hate it while others will thrive under it.
When it comes to remote working, employees tend to be more free-thinking and independent, so micro-management is rarely effective. Yet the working arrangements make it a very easy trap to fall into, especially if the boss is insecure about the remote working arrangements.
Remote workers must have autonomy and not feel hen-pecked if you are going to reap the rewards of the arrangement. So rather than micro-management, encourage your staff to use tools like Trello and iDoneThis to manage their own workload, and also to allow you to keep an eye on what they are doing as well.
2. Failing to keep a birds-eye view of all operations:
Not to be confused with the first point, while autonomy of staff is vital, that doesn’t mean you can abdicate all supervisory responsibilities and just leave them to it.
It is still your business, they are working for you and it is vital that you have oversight of the work being done, and the opportunity to input where appropriate. This is where something like Trello really comes into its own. It allows workers to manage the progress of their own projects in as much or as little detail as required.
And in doing so, it also gives you the tools to have both effective oversight and the opportunity to input when necessary. Ensuring that your staff is trained and comfortable with Trello is vital, but after that, you can effectively leave them to it without the risk of them being ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
3. Wasted Weekly Meetings:
When I first started, I felt that a weekly meeting with each team member would be a great way for them to check-in with me, brief me on what they were doing, and ask any questions they may have had.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. What it meant was at least half a day wasted on a meeting which often had little content or purpose on either side. These days such meetings are just not required. Rather, there are numerous tools such as iDoneThis which I mentioned above that allow users to take control of their own accountability and let me have input when needed.
If a conversation is required, there are numerous web chat services which can allow you to speak face-to-face with your team individually or collectively, from wherever they are. Dragging them into the office for such meetings is just not necessary.
4. Not renting my own office sooner:
This may sound contradictory to what has come before but bear with me. When I first opted for remote working, I decided a physical office space wouldn’t be necessary. I couldn’t have been more wrong. This wasn’t a place to hold regular meetings, but rather a central hub that the team had access to if and when they needed it.
For example, two or three of my team would have to come into the city centre fairly regularly for meetings. Often they wanted a place where they could work for a couple of hours, and sometimes they needed a location for the meetings.
Another time a member of my team had building work being done to her house. She couldn’t work there and was forced into the corner of a noisy local coffee shop when actually commuting into the office for a couple of weeks would have suited her better and made her more productive.
Having a physical office is good practice, even if it is only small and used on an occasional basis. It’s a sound investment.
5. Not implementing the “12 Week Year”
The ‘12 Week Year’ has proved to be invaluable in making a success of my businesses. If you are unfamiliar with it, take a look at this site.
By breaking the year down into quarters, we have managed to instil in our remote workers a much more exciting sense of urgency with shorter deadlines and working windows.
It has also allowed us to do away with the old-fashioned ‘annual review’ arrangements many companies still cling to and employ a more regular staff review and development agenda which is beneficial to both the staff and the business.
Shifting to the ‘12 Week Year’ really was revolutionary and I cannot recommend it strongly enough.