Home Office Mistakes That You Should Avoid
Natalie Ediger, April 29, 2020· Leadership
Don’t do the following remote work mistakes with your employees
With the right approach, remote work enables especially new flexibility, increased productivity and happy employees. But remote work definitely requires more than just a “Google Hangout” and some typing at home. Remote Work requires persistence, a smooth internal communication and a slightly different approach to managing people. To save you from unnecessary escapades and to make sure that you also belong to those hip “work from anywhere” employers, we have summarized typical home office mistakes below.
Setting no limits to the team
Of course, you want the employee to get everything done as quickly as possible and to be willing to work overtime. But what is physically no longer feasible, is well… no longer feasible. It is better to have an employee who works effectively and productively only in his 8 hours over the next few years than an employee who perhaps shows a lot of commitment, dedication and an extra portion of diligence from the very beginning, but who has to call in sick after a few months because of a burnout.
Remote Work means that everyday work and leisure time can take place at the same location. It is therefore your responsibility to pay attention to the well-being of the employees and to make it clear to the team that a regular work-life balance is important and that they should not skip any breaks.
The wrong equipment
Remote Work requires that the processes with all their tasks can be handled online. It must be ensured that all individual stages are digitized and that all individual tasks can be consistently completed from anywhere. Mixing analog and digital processes leads to misunderstandings and loss of efficiency.
It is important to set up a fully functional workplace for yourself and your employees. Apart from the obvious things like a fast internet connection, a laptop with enough storage space and online tools that enable smooth communication, the ergonomics of the workplace should also be considered. An accident at work does not necessarily have to be accompanied by a broken leg or a burning. Physical as well as psychological damage can also be caused by a permanent incorrect posture. Therefore, make sure that all employees have an ergonomically designed home office. This includes the chair, the correct positioning and size of the table, lighting, screen, room temperature, humidity and noise levels.
Not creating a structure
A consistent schedule is important to guarantee a smooth workflow and to complete tasks without much distraction. The creation of a weekly and daily adjusted to-do list is essential in the home office to achieve measurable results.
Many managers expect a prompt response to a message from the remote employees or want current tasks to be interrupted at short notice to work on something else. Of course, it can always happen that something unexpected comes up and you need the employee for a new task. Think carefully about whether the world is really collapsing or the task can at least be postponed until the next day. Perhaps you are now wondering what exactly the difference is if it is done in the same working time anyway?
In fact, an interrupted workflow has an enormous effect on our productivity and performance, especially in mentally demanding work. Forbes confirms that when a workflow is interrupted, it takes almost 25 minutes for the employee to return to the same productivity level as before. And that’ the case with short messages only. However, if you additionally bombard the employee with new tasks that have short-term priority, it can actually take hours to get to grips with the respective topic. As a result, neither the one nor the other task is completed productively. The employee can no longer structure his to-do list correctly and does not see any results in his work. In the worst case it ends in frustration, demotivation and great exhaustion.
So, just as you structure your home office workday so that it doesn’t end up on the couch in sweatpants all day long, you must also give the employee the chance to set up the day effectively and according to his productivity phases. Messages should also only be checked at regular intervals, such as shortly before a break or afterwards, to avoid being constantly interrupted.
Not creating a company culture
The culture encompasses the values, norms, customs and the entire company network and is the heart that keeps the company going. Only if the entire team represents the company values equally, it is possible to pull together in the same direction.
The company culture is what drives us, what motivates us to achieve something together as a team. If the team works decentrally, it needs even more this sense of community in order not to feel isolated. Therefore, the company values should be actively promoted and personal relationships should be consciously built up.
In the office there are many opportunities to meet the team on a private level and to build friendships with colleagues. But this form of team building should not be neglected in the home office either.
There are numerous possibilities for this, e.g. in the form of a virtual evening off, joint online coffee breaks or – very important – annual or semi-annual team retreats to get to know each other personally and without an interface. This way you can maintain social contact and give everyone the feeling of not working alone, no matter how many kilometers lie between us.
Even the best leaders need to do things a little differently in the home office. Home office means trusting your employees. Otherwise a functional relationship will not last in the long run.
“Just let it go” – but many managers find this difficult. Many managers, especially in the home office, tend to adopt a so-called “micro-management” style – a management style that controls employees enormously, regularly reminds them of tasks, puts them under pressure and does not grant them any autonomy. Micromanagers usually have a negative impact on employee performance and commitment. They only complete tasks out of fear of being fired, but not out of interest in the company’s success.
Working at a distance also means that things will happen differently than in the traditional office. As long as the employees do not make a concrete mistake, it is important to leave them some leeway so that each team member can find his or her own rhythm. Create a working atmosphere in which the team can unfold freely and develop ideas independently. Trust is the basis for effective cooperation and long-term business success.
Hiring the wrong employees
Even the recruitment of remote employees requires a slightly different approach than recruitment in the traditional office. Not only because you do not (usually) meet the candidates in person, but also because, in addition to the traditional professional skills, the candidates must be able to work from home in a disciplined and independent manner and therefore require completely different qualifications.
Not everyone is suitable for remote work. Important qualities for remote work include a lot of initiative and motivation, the ability to set priorities, being a good written communicator as well as being reliable.
Since it is also somewhat more difficult to train candidates in the home office than on site, there is also much less leeway and you should really only choose those who have both the hard and soft skills.
Besides the professional skills, the “cultural fit” must also be taken into account. Does the candidate fit in with the company’s goals and values? Does the candidate fit with the rest of the team? A centralized office where everyone can easily interact and exchange ideas makes it easier to enter such a culture, because more team presence also means a stronger sense of community. New employees can settle in more easily and grow together with the team more quickly. Of course, it becomes much more difficult when everyone is working in different locations. Therefore, it can be helpful to set up special exercises in the recruitment process to help us find out how well a candidate fits into the existing culture. Tools such as Saberr or ThriveMap are designed for this purpose.
Not building a personal relationship
The majority of remote communication is asynchronous and takes place in writing. As a result, conversation is usually reduced to exclusively professional topics and it is hardly possible to get to know each other on a personal level. However, personal relationships strengthen the sense of community and, in turn, the company culture. The well-known water cooler effect from the traditional office should not be missing in the virtual office either.
It refers to the phenomenon where employees gather around the water cooler in the office and chat. This is exactly why the water cooler is a symbol for meeting people and socializing at the workplace. But it is precisely this “water cooler” that we should implement in the home office either. Integrate special chat rooms or threads, even for completely non-work related topics, to encourage a little private information exchange.
Lack of recognition
The team works independently and personal discussions are mostly not possible. In order to prove oneself, it can quickly happen that especially ambitious employees work much more than they actually should resulting in a burnout as a consequence. Regular feedback discussions and especially positive feedback and appreciation are an important part of internal communication and should not be missing in remote work. A small thank-you would provide a real motivation boost for the employee in this distant, kilometer-wide remote relationship, but would also prevent the team from straining itself too much.
Neglecting internal communication
The tiresome topic of communication. Why tiresome? Because managers need to be reminded each time how important internal communication is and yet it is still mishandled.
Most of them already communicate too little on site and do not create enough transparency. Sometimes I even have the feeling that the managers assumed that all relevant information would reach the employees as if by a magical miracle. As if by the swing of a magic wand, with a little “wingardium leviosa” (if you remember the first part of the Harry Potter movies). So, what I actually want to say is: Communicate more often and better with your employees! In the home office there are even more obstacles to overcome. People communicate in writing as well as asynchronously and this can lead to misunderstandings. Many misunderstandings. The following points should be considered in internal communication:
Proper written communication****: Facial expressions and gestures are missing in the remote office. You should therefore express yourself clearly and concisely, yet get to the point and leave no room for misinterpretation.
Integrate video meetings: Regular face-to-face updates should not be missing on any account, on the one hand to promote social contact, but also to discuss more complex projects and to address questions. Written communication alone is not always sufficient.
Communicate transparently**:** Secrecy will only lead to problems. When working in a decentralized manner, the employee should be aware that he is being treated openly and honestly.
For example, instead of private messages, it may make more sense to create public threads so that the entire team receives a direct update. In general, the rule of thumb in the home office is “better too often than not enough.”
It is important to realize that working from a distance requires a different approach than working on site. Home office means to give a lot of trust, to communicate even more effectively with the team, to actively promote the feeling of community and team building. If you are open to this new way of working and also willing to adapt your own leadership skills slightly, remote working can have a number of advantages.
By the way, to help you succeed, we have recently published a remote guide to help companies transform into home offices – according to the motto #togetheragainstcorona. You’ll see, soon you and your team will also acquire a taste for the home office – even long after the pandemic.