Remote & Async Work 4 min

The most common mistakes companies make when going remote

October 23, 2020
Preston Wickersham


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Teams working remotely should be as close and collaborative as teams working in the same building, if not even more so. Unfortunately, some companies approach remote work with the idea that working remotely is mostly the same as working under the same roof.

After the 2020 pandemic sent workers home, businesses tried to adapt office-first strategies to fit the new remote reality. While some succeeded, many continue to struggle with the change.

Leaders of newly remote companies (and companies with new allowances for employee flexibility) should not settle for the half-measures they adopted during the pandemic. Remote work is supposed to be empowering and productive, not debilitating and difficult. If your company has struggled with the shift to remote, evaluate your organization to see if you are committing any of these common mistakes.

Failing to create a culture of documentation

People who work remotely often work asynchronously. Some employees work in different time zones. Others depend on the flexibility of remote work to take care of other matters during the day so they can work odd hours. Even when employees work at the same time, they can still miscommunicate when they don’t write their conversations down in a way they can review later.

Establish a culture that obsesses over documentation. At Remote, we use Notion and GitLab as our single sources of truth for different functions. If it’s not documented and available for others to review, it didn’t happen.

Limiting recruitment to local areas

Companies now have access to an entire world’s worth of incredible talent. Why, then, do so many insist upon limiting their searches for employees to their local neighborhoods?

Leverage your position as a remote company to find the best person for every job opening no matter where that person lives. Remote makes it easy to onboard, pay, and manage employees all over the world, and technology now makes it simple to collaborate across oceans. Don’t settle for local options alone when you have all the talent of the world at your fingertips.

Assuming others assume what you do

People in remote-first organizations quickly learn the value of over-communication. Assuming others have the same information you do, or that they did not make any incorrect inferences based on your last Slack message, is a short road to disaster.

When speaking over text, use positive affirmations early and often to ensure people know you’re collaborating and not criticizing. At the end of every conversation about a project, confirm the next steps with your conversation partner. Share documentation and links to relevant data at the beginning of every discussion so you can be sure the other person is working off the same information.

Not actively pursuing diversity

When recruiting new candidates and interviewing for open positions, people tend to be attracted to others who remind them of themselves. Remote organizations thrive through diversity of cultures, experiences, and abilities, so don’t let your natural inclination toward sameness prevent your company from building a diverse team.

At Remote, we have team members from a variety of backgrounds who live all over the world. Any time we have an open position, we do not fill that position until we have interviewed a diverse pool of candidates. When we advertise our jobs, we specifically encourage members of minority groups to apply. The benefits of diversity are enormous, but to realize them, you must be proactive.

Hiring workers as contractors instead of employees

Ever gotten into legal trouble with the government of a country you have never even visited? By hiring all your international workers as contractors, you could set yourself up for major (and expensive) legal problems.

Different countries have different definitions for contractors and employees. An employer of record like Remote can help you hire your international team members as full-time employees instead of contractors or convert remote contractors to employees. Not only does this insulate your company from legal troubles, but it can also ensure your overseas workers feel like the valued team members they are.

Going remote-friendly instead of remote-first

As countless company experiments have demonstrated, there is no such thing as a truly remote-friendly company. There are remote-first companies, non-remote companies, and companies that put their remote team members in uncomfortable positions.

What’s the difference between remote-friendly and remote-first? Remote-first organizations take conscious actions to include remote workers in important conversations. Documentation helps with this, as does the example set by leadership. Remote workers deserve the same chances for promotions and the same inclusion in cultural events as their in-office peers.

Guilty of any of these mistakes? Don’t worry -- the age of remote work has just begun. Check out more of our resources on remote work and culture to get started.

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