10 mistakes leaders should ditch in order to rock remote work in 2021

A global pandemic proved that most companies are able to work remotely. Now, people not only can, but want to work from the comfort of their home. It also proved there are many challenges regarding company culture and psychological awareness when it comes to working from home. 2020 seemed like a long year full of nuances, but it also came as an opportunity to adapt, learn and evolve. We want to share 10 attitudes we learned team leaders should ditch if they want their remote company to increase its efficiency and retain the best talent out there in the year to come. 


1. All work and no play  

Maybe you are having one or two zoom meetings every day, and that could make you think that employees feel involved and close to each other. But the truth is that most of what made employees entail good relationships in the traditional office were the non-work-related conversations, the time spent in between tasks or the out-of-office fun activities. Without that quality time, workers can only base their relationship on work. This has increased the employee’s sense of loneliness and isolation.

The way leaders can avoid this is by providing a space and time where teammates can engage in conversations or activities besides work. There are many ways to do this. One way is encouraging team members to create a chat room for informal talk. Another way is leaving a little space after some video meetings to talk about their lives and the circumstances they’re facing. Some companies even have a weekly or monthly remote activity with teammates (remote coffee, cocktails, cooking class, games, etc.). There are companies like TheGoGame or Donut that are creating these engaging experiences for you and your team! 

2. Assuming everyone has an adequate space to work in

Make sure your team is not working from their bed, couch, or from any uncomfortable space full of distractions that doesn’t let them separate their time and space between work and home activities. Leaders should make sure their team members have a nook specifically set up for work with all the equipment they need: a good computer, a comfortable desk (preferably a sit-stand desk), an ergonomic chair, fast and reliable internet connection and high resolution headphones, at the least. Leaders need to push their companies to sort these requirements out and not let employees to their own devices. Remote engaging platforms like Terminal and TenSpot are already offering this type of perks.

3. Assuming everybody is living under the same circumstances

Some employees will automatically thrive in a work from home scenario, while others will find it challenging. Isolation or homeschooled kids are both obstacles for remote workers and leaders should be aware of every team member’s situation and be able to identify and help those who are not coping. 

Empathy is one of the most important values in a remote work world. Getting to know each one of your team members and letting them know you understand their context will provide a sense of security and belonging. You can use tools like Lattice or Great Place To Work to get a good sense of where your team is at and what you can do to improve. 

4. Ignoring psychological safety

According to Saberr, one of the biggest mechanisms that impacts the way teams perform is the degree to which they have “psychological safety.” Amy Edmondson, the academic who can be credited with pioneering our understanding of this principle, defines it as follows:

 “Psychological safety is broadly defined as a climate in which people are comfortable expressing and being themselves. More specifically when people have psychologically safety at work, they feel comfortable sharing concerns or in mistakes without fear of embarrassment or retribution.” 

So, how can you increase the sense of psychological safety at your company?

a) Set really clear expectations

People are more relaxed when they know what they are expected to do or how they are expected to act. It reduces the level of uncertainty and gives them a goal to aim for.  

b) Get to know your team on a personal level

People trust each other the more intimately they know one another. Amy Cuddy’s research indicates that. Trustworthiness is the most important factor in how people evaluate you, ahead of intelligence or talent.

c) Use technology that encourages conversations

Tools that make it easier to have structured conversations can have a significant impact on the quantity and quality of conversations between peers. 

5. Using long texts instead of visual communication 

Workers find long texts overwhelming, boring and ambiguous. Videos and screenshots have proven to be easier to understand and increase productivity and engagement.

Every organization can benefit from increasing knowledge, internal information, and by communicating in a visual way critical to your business, because it ensures what you’re trying to convey is clear and concise, that everyone has a shared and consistent experience and allows the information to be delivered and then reused or viewed multiple times.

Some ideas of documents that can turn into visual communications are on-boarding and training videos for the company, recorded webinars and events, information delivery (updates, results..) and feedback for team members.  

There are many great and user friendly apps and resources like Canva you can use to start communicating visually right away! 

6. Not allowing team members to give you feedback

When your employees see that their feedback is being read and—more importantly—responded to, it starts to build a culture of feedback that will help you improve your remote work engagement. Modern workers like to be heard. The first thing you need to do is set up avenues for feedback. Find channels that allow you to respond quickly. Slack, Zoom, and new tools like Yuzu or Lounge, allow you to create dedicated, private channels that you can use for feedback.

The second thing that you need to do is create a culture where your employees will feel that their feedback is valuable. This is especially critical if you want to find out what’s working and what isn’t with your remote work strategy. The way to get this done is to respond to their feedback in a real and tangible way. Veer away from the positively scripted corporate-speak and talk to them like people—be honest and realistic in your responses.

7. Not communicating EVERYTHING 

In his book Social Physics, Alex Pentland wrote "Poor communication is crippling for performance and productivity. It is better to overcommunicate than to keep information from the team". 

Even the smallest details can help others understand their team context. For example, if anyone is in a meeting and can’t answer an email at that exact moment, try replacing “Can’t answer right now” with “Can’t answer right now, I’m in a meeting.” These tiny changes can help avoid misunderstandings or tone misreadings. You can read more about remote communication tips and resources here.

8. Scheduling meetings inefficiently 

Not everything requires a video call. These kinds of tools require the team members to be fully present and sometimes that means losing time that could be invested getting work done. People need to know that their time is valuable. As a leader, you need to ask yourself: Can I turn this meeting into an email or a Loom video recording? Of course, some meetings are absolutely necessary, but leaders should make sure everybody knows about them ahead of time and specify what will be discussed, how long it will last and if it’s the case, how each team member needs to prepare. 

9. Using the wrong communication tools while working with synchronous and asynchronous teams 

There are two types of remote communication: synchronous and asynchronous. Synchronous communication happens in real-time and asynchronous communication doesn’t require all parties to participate at the same time. 

Each type of remote work requires a different type of communication and not having the correct communication strategy can hinder your team’s progress and lead to frustration. According to an article by TechSmith, here are the different channels of communication you can use:

Common types of remote synchronous communication

 Common types of remote asynchronous communication

  • Project management apps.
  • Wiki or Sharepoint site.
  • Informational or instructional videos.
  • Quick-reference guides.
  • Screenshots with markup.
  • Slack or Microsoft Teams chats. 
  • Trello or Monday 

10. Assuming that remote work means employees will be available all of the time

Imagine you turn off your computer after working all day, you put on your pajamas and turn on the tv and suddenly you get a message from your boss telling you to respond to an email ASAP. Either you ignore the message and feel like you are not working up to your boss’ expectations or you do as they say and resent them later for not respecting your time. Neither option is good for the company. 

Even though remote work should be flexible, people need some type of structure or guidelines they can adapt to. Feeling that they need to be available all day can make them anxious. Make sure you establish a clear schedule or time frames for different types of tasks for team members and stick to it. Notion is a great tool to get your team organized and task-ready. Workers will feel that their time is valuable and will try to be effective during work hours. 

Talent, and especially remote workers, appreciates empathy and closeness. They need to feel their work and time are valuable and that their input is being taken into account. They need to feel that they are a part of something great. That is what will make them develop a sense of loyalty and commitment. If you want to rock 2021 as a remote leader you must let go of traditional micromanaging, square tactics, and understand that your team is the most important resource your company has. The future of work requires leaders that know how to listen, empathize, communicate and adapt.


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