In this unprecedented time, many employees have found it necessary to shift their work from in-person to at home. Working remotely has its fair share of benefits for both employees and employers. However, there are a number of challenges that come along with it as well. One of the biggest challenges that face remote employees is motivation. According to a study done by Harvard Business Review, employees struggle to motivate themselves when working remotely. If they were not given the choice and had to work remotely, they were even less motivated.
Employers have done their best to clear the hurdles of moving their teams to remote work. For example, ensuring they have the necessary technology and training, and setting up video conferencing. Not to mention the extra work around redefining processes and productivity goals. However, none of those things answer the question of how to motivate remote employees.
Adapting is essential for businesses, especially with the challenges of 2020 and a global pandemic. If you can successfully motivate employees and adapt to these challenges, your business will thrive. Here are five ways to motivate your remote team.
Your remote employees should know what they are doing is moving the business towards the goals and expectations laid out for them. But do they know why? It is easy to feel unmotivated when you don’t know why you are doing the work. Especially if the only motivation you have are things like deadlines and quotas. Remote work may require a higher level of innovative work and creative problem-solving. Ensure your employees’ understanding of their work is aligned to the company’s vision. This will help them to better think critically about their work and implement innovative ideas to their tasks and projects while working remotely.
By clearly communicating a compelling vision for your company, your team is more likely to feel motivation. It is important that employees know how they are leaving a mark on the world and why their work matters. When you lose the face-to-face aspect of working together, it is easy for those “why’s” to not be as clear. You can implement something as simple as an end-of-the-week email. This can communicate the importance of their work and how you feel your company is making a difference. You can even include customer feedback so they have evidence of how their work is impacting people’s lives.
Communication is perhaps the biggest key to successful remote work. Along with the big picture communication of your company’s vision, communicate individual feedback on a regular basis. Not only does it help keep expectations and objectives in check, it also shows that you are invested in your team’s growth and development, even when they are not in the office. This will encourage and motivate employees to be innovative. They may even find new approaches to things in the business that they may not have tried previously. Set up weekly meetings with individual team members, and show interest in their well-being as well as their work.
One thing to keep in mind is that your employees are individuals. Therefore, their preferences for receiving feedback may vary from person to person. One employee may prefer written notes they can refer to as they work. However, another may want to see a video screencast to help them visualize the feedback. Others may just need a quick phone conversation. By tailoring feedback in this way, you set your employees up for success. And, you also let them know that you care about their preferences.
In addition to one-on-one feedback, public praise should be included in the feedback given, as well. Remote workers may wonder if their contributions are going unnoticed. By providing public feedback during a meeting or in a company newsletter, you let them know that you appreciate and see their work.
As a leader, it may be hard to avoid reaching out for constant updates. You may feel the need to constantly stay on top of your employees’ projects and tasks when they are working out of the office. However, this over-the-shoulder approach to management can be incredibly stifling to your employees. It often does more harm than good when it comes to employee motivation. Rather, show your team that you trust them and empower your team to make decisions on their own. You may need to set up new guidelines and policies for remote workers to follow. But, also trust that once those are in place, your team will continue to deliver results. Periodic meetings can ensure that work is getting done and goals are being met. Just avoid daily check-ins, these consistent meetings will also help give employees a sense of ownership over their work. Also, consider promoting internal mobility to give employees a chance to expand their skillset.
Remote work may be the right time for a shift in perspective when it comes to productivity, as well. Rather than focusing on hours, look at how much work is getting done. If an employee is able to complete their project quicker than you expect, and the quality is up to standard, the hours it took them should be less important than the output they provided.
Company culture is an important aspect for employee motivation, so when workers go remote, it is necessary to build a new culture. Of course, get-togethers, team lunches, and watercooler talk is no longer practical. But, there are other ways to encourage company culture. Allow team members to have Zoom lunches, or set up a weekly recognition program that gives people a chance to be highlighted for small achievements. Working remotely doesn’t mean that employees have to cut off completely from each other. Establishing a remote company culture and having things to look forward to will help with motivation.
Regular meetings are a great way for employees to connect, and for collaborative projects to stay on track. However, avoid scheduling meetings just for the sake of having a meeting. Each meeting should serve a specific purpose.
When you work remotely, it is easy to forget to take breaks and work straight through the day. Without a clear separation between work and home life, employees can become burnt out incredibly quickly. Working in required breaks to your remote employees’ day can help with this balance. It’s important to unplug and step away from work, otherwise any motivation someone has can quickly go away. Small breaks can help energize employees and keep them motivated and engaged in their work.
Employees may be working from home out of necessity due to school closures and lack of child care. Rather than requiring every hour from 8 am to 5 pm to be accounted for, they may need to split up their days to deal with personal and professional responsibilities. Allowing flexibility in scheduling while working remotely can actually increase productivity and motivation by reducing stress and overwhelm.
This year required leaders and businesses to quickly adapt and enforce changes in order for their businesses to survive. If moving employees to remote work was one of those changes, it comes with its own set of challenges. By empowering remote workers, encouraging a new company culture and work-life balance, and initiating quality communication, you can improve your remote employee motivation and engagement.
Christine James believes that every customer has a voice, which is why shes the Community Manager at HissingKitty.com (a customer complaints website). She also loves talking to customers on social media about their challenges with Fortune 500 companies. Christine has work published on Huffington Post, Inc., SocialMediaToday, and Thought Catalog. Follow her on Twitter.