How to Keep Remote Employees Motivated

Even though you have been managing remote employees for the past three years, it's important to acknowledge that some leaders still encounter challenges in effectively navigating this setup.

Managing remote employees is a balancing act. Some employees are flourishing while others are struggling. Contrary to popular belief, remote employees are not struggling with productivity but rather with burnout and disconnection from their work.

Managing a fully distributed team in the aftermath of the pandemic presents its own unique set of challenges, with employee morale and motivation topping the list. According to Harvard Business Review, communication, coordination, and culture are the three most important factors for remote employees' success and satisfaction.

Here are 5 ways to help motivate your remote employees:

1. More Access

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 with 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. 

2. Collaborate Creatively

Zoom has become a household name, and it's no surprise why - 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 informed together:

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

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

3. Individual Recognition

What do we 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 if 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 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, a group email, or a trophy, recognition is best served up individually and often.

4. 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 a lack of work-life balance. The idea here is to provide support not report. 

5. Emphasize Company Culture 

In the midst of economic volatility and uncertainties in the job market, the significance of fostering a strong company culture and ensuring the security and inclusion of employees has become more crucial than ever. Recognizing the value of creating a supportive and inclusive work environment is essential for boosting employee morale, engagement, and overall well-being.

Look for ways you can help foster company culture within your organization and team virtually. 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, don't forget to gauge your team's motivation and engagement levels! Consider incorporating these questions into your next one-on-one meeting or sending out a team survey to gather valuable feedback:

  • Do you have all the tools and space needed to work effectively? 
  • Are there any specific changes or improvements you would suggest to enhance your work environment or processes?
  • Do you feel connected to your team?
  • Do you feel connected to the company as a whole?
  • How would you rate the level of communication and collaboration within our team/organization?
  • What challenges or obstacles are you currently facing in your role?
  • Do you feel recognized and appreciated for your contributions to the team/organization?
  • Are there any specific areas where you would like to grow or develop professionally?
  • Do you feel well-informed about company decisions?
  • Am I checking in enough? 
  • Do you feel adequately supported?  

As a leader in this era of remote/hybrid work, it's essential to prioritize communication, coordination, and culture to ensure your team thrives, regardless of their physical location. By prioritizing these aspects, you can cultivate a remote workforce that is not only highly productive and engaged but also equipped to tackle the dynamic challenges that lie ahead.

Looking for ways to unlock your team's creative potential? Check out these effective strategies for cultivating innovation within your team and unleashing their untapped creativity.