Remote-Work for Startups

Author: Tim Lampe || Source: StartupValleyNews Magazine || 13.10.2020

Ensuring that implementing team flexibility doesn’t come back to bite you!

In the past, I have led several start-up teams in remote work and have experienced sometimes violent and unexpected demands. A particularly challenging case for me was the organization of a team of eight people in five time zones: from the Philippines to California. So today I would like to share how you can best set up your start-up team for remote work.

Don’t waste your time questioning remote work

The Remote Work model was considered a trend for years. Since Corona, it is now commonplace: You don’t need a fixed desk and face-to-face working hours to be productive. Many things have become clear for those who rarely utilized a permanent home office before the pandemic: It needs good organization and new processes. And it doesn’t help to just deal with the symptoms of remote working. Rather, it is much more important to actively shape cultural and work processes. My experience shows that remote work does not cause problems, but rather intensifies problems that are already present in the team or in the division of tasks.

By the way, questioning remote work seriously does not help either. Simply because of the potential that remote work offers (greater personal freedom, teams from different nations, etc.), the goal should always be to function as a team – even remotely.

Create the right conditions

The central aspects to successful collaboration are more than just formal procedures. It is important that your team has a strong motivation to work together. On a human level you have to function like clockwork. You need a common “Why”. From this, common values arise and you create a connection to each other. Without this common construct within your team, it will be difficult to create optimal cooperation.

Co-founders and/or managers should also try to build a strong bond between all team members. If you don’t know each other well, try to spend as much time as possible with each other at the beginning and personally – even after work. Create occasions and increase loyalty to each other through joint activities. Try to create situations that are as different as possible and that help you to get to know each other better. Simply hosting a ‘digital beer’ on Friday after work will not be enough to get to know eachother better. If you opt for something unique, like going on a rafting tour or to the amusement park together, it will be easier for you to trust each other when working remotely.

Set up suitable onboarding and plan your time

I advise everyone to take their time when introducing remote working, at least one week as a manager or co-founder. The normal reflex at virtually every start-up will now be: “I can’t take a whole week out of my daily business”. But I disagree: The time spent is worth it and saves a lot of money afterwards. I have tried it myself. One week helped to iteratively test and optimize workflows on site. One thing that should not be underestimated is the onboarding of all “non-digital-natives”. Many of these employees can be helped in 1:1 meetings to transfer familiar workflows to the new tools.

It is precisely the digital competence of “digital natives” that gives rise to a certain “presumption of competence” among managers and team members – which quickly makes them appear much more competent in terms of content than the actual technically competent colleagues “who just can’t find that one button”. As a result, the dynamics between older and younger team members can quickly become tense. Dedicated onboarding of employees in a protected environment can help to improve the usual team dynamics and thus the feeling of security and acceptance of the processes and the overall system.

Picture: Vlada Karpovich

Validate, Validate, Validate!

It is important that you realize that remote work has to adapt to your team and not just the team to the remote work. Put simply, structures and processes must be iteratively adapted to the needs and culture of your team.

Discuss this clearly with your team right from the start. You need feedback, and honesty. For example, you may find that certain tools or processes do not work at all. Be courageous and question them after a certain time. But at the same time, don’t relent too early, because every good automatism needs time to get used to it. Take your team to task here and see it as a joint project so that remote work can get up to speed.

Conclusion:

You should create lean processes and the necessary structures for remote work. It is important that you plan enough time for yourself to actively lead your team in the new environment. I usually plan most of my time in the first three weeks for the introduction and adaptation of the new processes. After that, I continue to use about a third of the week for this task in the following weeks. Don’t forget that remote work must work for your team. Develop the processes together, iteratively and openly with the team. Keep your goals in mind and define the framework for your team.

About the author:

Tim Lampe heads the Programs Team of the Campus Founders and, with the support of his team, develops the offerings and teaching formats that accompany the start-up teams on their entrepreneurial journey. Prior to joining Campus Founders, he was involved in several start-ups in the areas of consulting, SaaS, education and co-living and also spent a year in Silicon Valley.

Statements made by the author and the interviewee do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial staff and the publisher.

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