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How Do You Motivate A Team Working Remotely?

Last Modified On: March 15, 2024, Author: Amy Sanchez


Keeping a remote team motivated has its unique set of challenges, especially if the team had little or no advance warning before becoming remote. That's is why a lot of business owners often find themselves asking, "How to motivate remote employees?" Although it may seem glamorous to be able to work anytime and anywhere, it's very different from operating out of an office — where it's much easier to stay focused while in the company of peers. Indeed, one common problem that remote teams face is a lack of motivation. There are a lot of reasons for this and there are several ways to address this issue. To help you get started, we've prepared some tips to help you motivate your remote team. Follow these tips to get an answer to the question, "How do you motivate a team working remotely?"

Maintaining motivation within a remote team is indeed a challenge that many organizations face, especially when the transition to remote work happens unexpectedly. The absence of physical proximity and the constant distractions of the home environment can impact team members' focus and engagement. However, with the right strategies and support, it is possible to foster motivation and create a thriving remote team. Here are some tips to improve team communication among employees and help you get started around 'How to motivate remote employees?':

1. Foster clear communication:

Effective and transparent communication is crucial for remote teams. Keep everyone informed about the team's goals, expectations, and progress. Encourage open dialogue and provide channels for regular updates, feedback, and collaboration. Utilize video calls, instant messaging platforms, and project management tools to facilitate communication and strengthen team connections.

2. Set clear goals and expectations:

Establishing clear and achievable goals is essential for motivating remote team members. Ensure that each team member understands their role and responsibilities, as well as the overall objectives of the team. Break down larger goals into smaller milestones and celebrate achievements along the way. Regularly communicate progress and provide feedback to keep everyone motivated and aligned.

3. Promote autonomy and flexibility:

Remote work offers the opportunity for greater autonomy and flexibility. Trust your team members to manage their own time and tasks effectively. Encourage them to find a work routine that suits their needs and allows for optimal productivity. Granting autonomy fosters a sense of ownership and empowerment, which can significantly boost motivation.

4. Encourage collaboration and social interaction:

Remote work should not mean isolation. Foster a sense of community and collaboration by organizing virtual team-building activities, online social events, and casual catch-ups. Encourage team members to share their experiences, challenges, and successes, and create opportunities for cross-functional collaboration. Building strong relationships within the team enhances motivation and a sense of belonging.

5. Recognize and appreciate achievements:

Remote team members often miss out on the immediate recognition that comes with working in a physical office. Make a conscious effort to acknowledge and appreciate their contributions. Regularly celebrate individual and team achievements, whether through public recognition, virtual rewards, or simple words of appreciation. Recognizing their efforts and impact will reinforce motivation and create a positive team culture.

6. Invest in professional development:

Support the growth and development of your remote team members. Provide opportunities for training, skill-building, and career advancement. Encourage them to pursue their professional goals and provide resources that align with their individual aspirations. Investing in their development not only enhances their motivation but also contributes to their long-term engagement and loyalty.

Remember that every remote team is unique, and it may take some trial and error to find the strategies that work best for your team. Stay adaptable and open to feedback from your team members. By consistently prioritizing motivation, communication, collaboration, and recognition, you can cultivate a motivated and high-performing remote team that thrives in the virtual work environment.

Encourage Breaks

A lack of motivation is often an indication of a bigger problem. One of the most significant problems that remote teams face is burnout. The lack of boundaries between work and one's personal life is blurred when working remotely, which is what makes remote workers more susceptible to burnout. This is a serious phenomenon, with the World Health Organization declaring it as an official workplace syndrome. Burnout is characterized by a general feeling of exhaustion, mental distance from the job, and reduced productivity.

Since burnout is caused by chronic workplace stress, a great way to counteract it is by encouraging your team to take breaks and use their vacation time. Productivity experts agree that taking 50-90 minutes to power through work, followed by a break, allows you to be at your most productive. There's also a lot of evidence that supports the need to take longer breaks, in the way of vacation or extended time off. To keep your team fresh and productive, encourage them to use their vacation time. This extra reminder is especially important if your company is experiencing layoffs, when team members might be worried about getting fired if they make use of vacation time. Thus, assess the whole situation before taking any actions around motivating virtual teams.

To help manage the inevitable bleed between work and home life, you may set specific hours when it's OK to send work communications and times when it is not. For example, I've seen leaders tell their team that work communications are only allowed between 7am and 7pm. This eliminates the need to incessantly check and respond to emails at all hours of the night. Of course, if your team is global or operating in different time zones, you'll want to consider a system to takes this into consideration. Bottom line, encourage your team to pay attention to best practices in productivity by finding a good home/work life balance and taking breaks to recharge.

A lack of motivation is often an indication of a bigger problem. One of the most significant problems that remote teams face is burnout. The lack of boundaries between work and one's personal life is blurred when working remotely, which is what makes remote workers more susceptible to burnout. This is a serious phenomenon, with the World Health Organization declaring it as an official workplace syndrome. Burnout is characterized by a general feeling of exhaustion, mental distance from the job, and reduced productivity. Thus when finding the solution to 'how do you motivate a team working remotely?', you need to be very careful in terms of what is right and what is wrong.

To counteract burnout caused by chronic workplace stress, it is crucial to encourage your team to take breaks and use their vacation time. Productivity experts agree that taking 50-90 minutes to power through work, followed by a break, allows individuals to be at their most productive. Additionally, there is ample evidence supporting the need for longer breaks, such as vacations or extended time off. By encouraging your team to use their vacation time, you can help keep them fresh and productive. This reminder becomes even more important during periods of uncertainty or layoffs when team members might be worried about job security if they take time off. Motivating virtual teams requires a lot of regular efforts thus make sure that you enter this wheel with a rigid mindset of achieving success.

Managing the inevitable bleed between work and home life is essential for maintaining a healthy work-life balance. You can establish specific hours when it's acceptable to send work communications and times when it is not. For instance, some leaders have implemented a policy stating that work-related communication is only allowed between 7 am and 7 pm. This approach eliminates the need to constantly check and respond to emails during late hours of the night. Of course, if your team is global or operates in different time zones, it's important to consider a system that accommodates these variations.

In conclusion, it is crucial to encourage your team to pay attention to best practices in productivity by finding a good balance between their home and work lives and taking regular breaks to recharge. By addressing burnout and promoting a healthy work environment, you can help your remote team thrive and maintain their motivation and productivity levels.

Offer Funds to Create an Ergonomic Workspace For Motivating Virtual Teams

An underrated aspect of offices is that they're geared towards increasing productivity. So if a space is not conducive for work, this can quickly lead to loss of motivation. Everything — from the height of the tables to the comfort of the chairs — should be designed for comfort while working. Not all homes have spaces dedicated to work. So how do you fix this problem?

Health experts from Pain Free Working share that ergonomic accessories, such as a proper keyboard and mouse, can significantly put less tension on the body while working. They can also help promote better posture and alignment. This way, your teams are less likely to have problems like carpal tunnel syndrome, which will certainly put a damper on their motivation and increase their time out of office. Desks that accommodate sitting or standing can also offer many health benefits.

A good way to encourage employees to pay attention to their home office is by offering funding to help make their workspace ergonomic. A healthy employee will have less sick days and more motivation.

An underrated aspect of offices is their focus on increasing productivity. When a workspace is not conducive to work, it can quickly lead to a loss of motivation. Every aspect, from the height of the tables to the comfort of the chairs, should be designed for optimal comfort while working. However, not all homes have dedicated workspace, so how can this problem be addressed?

According to health experts from Pain Free Working, incorporating ergonomic accessories can significantly reduce tension on the body while working and promote better posture and alignment. Investing in a proper keyboard and mouse, for example, can help prevent issues like carpal tunnel syndrome, which can dampen motivation and increase time away from work. Additionally, desks that allow for sitting or standing can offer numerous health benefits. These tiny efforts sometimes prove to be the game change for motivating virtual teams.

One effective way to encourage employees to pay attention to their home office setup is by offering funding to help make their workspace ergonomic. By supporting their efforts to create a healthy and comfortable work environment, employees are less likely to experience health-related issues and will likely take fewer sick days. This, in turn, can boost motivation and productivity.

By acknowledging the importance of an ergonomic home office and providing support for employees to improve their workspace, organizations can help create a positive and productive remote work environment. I hope that based on the ideas shared until this point, you won't feel as intimidated by the question 'How do you motivate a team working remotely' as you were before.

Provide Feedback

Teams can become unmotivated when there is a lack of clear direction. Communication is key when it comes to remote teams, particularly since the hallway conversations are gone. As much as you’re able, you’ll want to keep the lines of communication open to make sure that you and your teams are aligned with the company strategy and expectations.

In addition, people need to know how their work is perceived. It's important to regularly provide feedback to each one of your team members. One of the largest reasons people leave companies is because they don't feel appreciated.

The feedback you deliver doesn't always have to be positive. In fact, it shouldn’t be. Suggestions for improvement are an important piece in helping employees learn and grow. Entrepreneur's article on motivating your employees highlights how giving honest feedback is a great way to motivate them, as it gives them a guide on what to improve, while commending what they do right.  You'll also want to provide feedback so employees can continue to grow so when you're ready for your next promotion, you have developed candidates who can step into your role. The key is in finding the right balance between positive reinforcement to encourage the good behavior and constructive criticism to reduce the number of times your team members miss the mark.

If you're look for more tips to help boost your team's overall performance, check out our article on How To Increase Team Productivity & Efficiency.

About The Author

Leadership Consultant and Coach Amy Sanchez

Amy Sanchez is a certified executive and career coach located in the Bay Area who specializes in helping mid- to senior-level executives achieve their full potential and build the lives they want.

She has an MBA from USC’s Marshall School of Business and 13 years of corporate experience.

She is a skilled coach and neutral partner who provides clients with tangible tools and effective guidance to successfully navigate the waters of this fast-paced, hyper-connected, high-stakes job market.

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