The Seven Most Common Mistakes


The seven most common mistakes of remote team working and how to avoid them.

Currently companies are investing significant amounts of money and time in distributed, mobile and remote workers with the aim of reducing operating costs. This article details seven common mistakes and suggests proven ways to avoid them which will result in significant returns on investment.

1. Now we have a mobile team, I am not sure if we are really any better off?

Many organisations get drawn to the glitter of working as a distributed team without asking how we are going to check that we are seeing cost savings and high productivity.'

Answer: Introduce benchmarks to assess/measure performance

It is key before undertaking any business organisational change to understand exactly what the objectives of the exercise are and to set targets so that progress towards objectives can be understood and measured. You should establish 'savings targets' as soon as possible, both for improvements in team efficiency, reduction of staff costs and cost of accommodation. During the course of, and after, the implementation you should regularly monitor actual against estimates to ensure that savings are being made and if not, where additional operational elements need to be introduced.

2. Everyone has a PC at home, so we can save money there to start with!

A common mistake is to allow your staff to use their own computer equipment and brush aside the responsibility of health and safety, not to mention security. Very often this is not a conscious decision but a slow drift of staff working out of the office at home for a few days a month, then a few days a week.

Answer: Have a policy and standardise your equipment strategy

A major issue for remote workers is the provision of equipment, computer services and technical support. We would always recommend a strategy of standardisation is adopted. In most cases we would recommend issuing equipment, but if you are going to allow your staff to use their own home PC's and equipment, have a policy and ensure the equipment is safe and fit for purpose. We also recommend introducing an asset register if your organisation does not already have one. This will improve your ability to support remotely distributed equipment and make it much easier to manage.

3. We have given staff a PC and mobile phone, what more do they need?

It is so easy to assume that changing from a fixed office location to a distributed team is just a matter of technology. Unfortunately it is not until the damage is done do organisations realise their mistake, as staff leave and corporate identity is lost.

Answer: You must understand it's much more than technology

To be successful requires both operational and business changes as well as technology. Any implementation needs to be mindful of the 3cs of successful team working. These are Communication, Collaboration and Control. For successful implementation management style, operational processes and use of technology must be combined in order to address all three. Get it right and you have a model and example to go from success to success.

4. Once teams get the hang of this way of working, we will be ok and it will all come together?

It is so easy to over look the fact that processes and the way processes work will need to change. The worst result can be the team are brought back into the office, because the model did not work, when in fact the processes supporting it are to blame.

Answer: Be prepared to remodel existing business processes

Currently your business will be organised around 'office based' business processes. The change from this model to one of distributed teams is fundamental and far-reaching and time should be given to ensure success.

5. Just get on with it and stop complaining!

Remember not everyone is the same, you will need to manage your staff in the same way. Each member of staff will coupe with the changes in different ways.

Answer: Remember it will not be right for some and ideal for others

Remember when embarking on any project of this type that every job role and every employee will not be suited to remote working. Not all employees will take to the change in work-style and associated responsibilities that distributed working teams face. Also remember that staff situations change and you may need to provide additional accommodation or flexibility within the team role.

6. We hold a yearly meeting for our teams!

We are social animals and need to work together and solve problems face to face. Sweeping this fact under the carpet will come back and haunt you, with poor performance and team spirit.

Answer: Maintaining business focus for team members on a weekly basis

Meet regularly as a team and ensure that team members are informed about how their contribution is adding to the corporate success. It is important to realise that the dynamic of information exchange, for example the chat over the coffee machine, will be reduced for remote teams. So you must enable, manage and monitored this in both directions for the team; from them to management and management to them. A lack of attention in this area is one of the main 'pain points' leading to remote workers feeling isolated, outside and not informed. Managers must understand that there must be an ongoing commitment to enable communication within their remote teams.

7. We can do this on our own, it's not rocket science!

We so often we see organisations that have tried to do this all on their own. Your expertise is in your business not remote teams, so get help from an expert in distributed teams, it will prove to be much more effective for your organisation in the long run.

Answer : Don't do it all on your own, seek advice from experts

From our experience, organisations who attempt to implement remote and distributed working strategies themselves are in for  an up-hill struggle. We would always recommend that businesses seek specialist expert advice regarding the implementation of these changes.

For further information:

We hope this paper has been helpful in giving you hints and tips to avoid the pitfalls and benefit from the many advantages of remote and distributed teams. If you would like additional support or advice, or ways of reducing your operational overheads - please contact us on [email protected] and our specialist team will be glad to assist you.



Don Cooke is a Technical Director, mentor, trainer and author. Don has delivered successful technology focused projects, first as an analyst/programmer, then as a mentor, trainer, technical team leader/architect. Don has worked with Powergen, Elf, The National Intervention Board, Reed Personnel, Intrinsic software and SAS Institute.

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