How to Keep Remote Employees Motivated

Ready or not, here you are managing all your employees from home. For some, managing remote employees isn’t anything new, but for a lot of us in leadership this is a first. 

Managing remote employees is a balancing act. Some employees are flourishing while others are struggling. Despite what we once imagined, it’s not lack of productivity, but burnout and disengagement that employees are facing in their work from home transition. 

Managing a fully distributed team in a global pandemic comes with its own unique set of challenges; employee morale and motivation being chief among them. According to Harvard Business Review, communication, coordination, and culture are the three most important factors for remote employees. 

Here are 5 ways to help motivate your remote employees:

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The best managers over-communicate during turbulent or uncertain times. We can all agree that when an employee has the opportunity to understand the state of business, gain insight, or is provided the opportunity to ask questions, they feel more secure. By contrast, employers who ONLY contact employees when there is a performance issue set the stage for their employees to live in a “fear” or “disengaged” state where they will not actively reach out for guidance. 

When managing your work-from-home employees, it may be more time-efficient to just jump on a quick call, hammer them with edits and click off, but in the long run, you’re killing your team's performance. While this type of call is sometimes needed, it is also important to take an extra 5-10 minutes to continually build rapport and see how your employees are doing mentally (some helpful questions are provided below). Building rapport builds trust which is essential for continually driving outputs. 

Collaborate Creatively

We’ve all seen Zoom stock spike and there’s a reason - with 60% percent of communication being non-verbal, video chat helps add that extra layer of context that often gets missed on phone calls or emails. However, you shouldn’t just stop there, keeping all team members in-the-loop is essential for morale and productivity. They need to communicate and access one another easily. 

With everyone all over the place, communication can easily drop off or be shut off. While it’s important to not overwhelm employees with video meetings, it is essential to get creative and keep everyone engaged and in-the-loop together:

  • Slack 
  • Google Hangouts 
  • Whiteboarding software like Miro
  • Weekly email updates
  • AMA company webinars

The list goes on, but these are all tools you should be leveraging. 

Individual Recognition

What do I mean by this? Not simply a mass email calling out Jordan for a job well done - instead, recognize the need for recognition to be personalized to the individual. For instance, some personality types will be over-the-moon they were called out for their work via a company-wide email while others will cringe in embarrassment. 

Recognition is needed now more than ever as you cannot walk across the office and give them words of encouragement. Giving more positive feedback more often is needed, but It is essential to consider your employees’ personalities and tailor the recognition to best suit them. Whether it’s a gift card, a personal call from the CEO, group email, or trophy … recognition is best served up individually and often.

Trust Through Autonomy

Everyone likes to feel in control of their schedule and have agency in their working lives. When was the last time you heard, “oh everyone loves this boss because they are such a micromanager.” Probably never. While it’s tempting to try to keep tabs on work performance and schedules, it’s important to remember this is a new way of working for most people and adjustment takes time. 

Allow employees to build their schedules and manage their timelines only stepping in when you notice a lack of engagement or lack of work-life balance. The idea here is to provide support not report. 

Emphasize Company Culture 

With social distancing, isolation, and lack of connection amongst employees, the importance of company culture has never been needed more. Look for ways you can help foster company culture within your organization and team. Host an AMA (ask me anything) and allow other teams to join. Work with HR to provide staff with links to free online fitness, meditation, or stress management programs. Whatever your company culture is, find ways to work that into your process and interactions with employees.

Last but not least, not sure where your team is in terms of motivation and engagement? Try adding these questions to your next one-on-one or even sending out a team survey: 

  • How has your daily routine changed since working from home?
  • What has been the best and worst part of this transition? 
  • Do you have all the tools and space needed to work effectively? 
  • Do you feel connected to your team?
  • Do you feel connected to the company as a whole?
  • Do you feel well informed about company decisions?
  • Am I checking in enough? 
  • Do you feel adequately supported?  
  • Post-COVID would you like to remain remote or rejoin the office? 

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