Whether you have always planned to have a remote team or have been forced to adopt this model due to Covid-19, many leaders have now streamlined their tools and processes for working from home en masse. Creating a remote working environment that works for both you and your employees can be a tricky process and if it isn’t quite right, you might be starting to see motivation levels beginning to drop.
This is especially important during periods of crisis, like the Coronavirus pandemic, when workers are likely to be experiencing higher levels of stress. The novelty of working from home will have worn off and it’s crucial to avoid a sense of fatigue setting in amongst your workers.
Here are some ways that you can keep your team motivated while working remotely.
You may notice that when working from home, your team members feel pressured to prove that they are actually doing something. They might be more focussed on ticking things off the list and prioritising quantity over quality so they can show you that they are getting through tasks. If this is happening, your team risks losing sight of the bigger picture and won’t be adapting to the new challenges the business is now facing.
You can prevent this from happening by keeping the project’s overarching goals top of mind for your team members and prioritising this over box-ticking. This will require you to create a simple, yet compelling vision for the project which answers questions like, ‘why is this important?’ and ‘how does this fit into the goals of the business overall?’. Make sure this is central to all of your discussions and meetings.
This may sound obvious but it’s very easy to lose sight of the bigger picture when you don’t see your colleagues in person every day. You no longer have the constant visual cues that you’re part of a team and it’s very easy to start working on your tasks in isolation causing things to become disjointed. Keeping your vision for the project top of mind will not only motivate your team by providing a purpose but guide that energy in the right direction.
These meetings are now more important than ever for keeping individual team members motivated. You don’t want them to feel forgotten about or isolated or that their work isn’t as valued as it was when they were working in an office environment.
You may want to allow more time for these meetings now as their contact with you is likely to be more limited than it was in the office. You’ll also want to come prepared with feedback that demonstrates how they are contributing to the overall mission or how they could contribute to this more. This will help them visualise how they fit in with the team effort.
This feedback should also have a focus on their development as an individual to demonstrate that you and your business are still invested in this. Being able to see a clear route of progression for their own professional development can go a long way in keeping an employee motivated.
Additionally, you may want to ask about how they are adjusting to remote work and if there’s anything that you or the business could do to help with the transition. Getting feedback from your team is the best way to find out how successful your move to remote working has been and will help you to keep improving.
Foster an atmosphere of trust
Your team will produce their best work when they believe in themselves, their ability and the project. Once they’ve bought into your vision of the project, they need to feel that you trust them to bring this to life.
Micromanagement is an easy trap to fall into when working remotely. Managers suddenly feel more pressure to stay on top of progress and start demanding increasingly frequent updates. This will start to make team members feel like you’re watching their every move. This will only encourage the box-ticking behaviour mentioned above and decrease motivation.
You may need to simply take a step back. While communication is key, your workers need the time and space to think and work in a way that will get the best results from them. Sometimes, all you need to do as a manager is to provide some inspiration and motivation and then get out of the way for your team to do what they do best.
Many remote workers have struggled with this one and it can be tricky to get to grips with. When working from home, it can be very easy to let the lines blur and start skipping breaks and get into the habit of doing too many hours. It’s very difficult to set a boundary between home and work when they are physically in the same place. Being unable to switch off can lead to exhaustion and motivation will plummet.
Make sure your team knows that you realise the importance of time away from their desks. If you’re concerned, you could try timesheeting. Make sure the team knows this isn’t about you checking up on them but rather a tool to make their schedules work better for them. As well as highlighting areas where staff may simply have too much on their plates, this will encourage your team members to think about how much time they are spending at their desks and what tasks this is spent on.
While not overstepping any boundaries, take an interest in their home working environment. Encourage them to set up a space which is dedicated to work and ideally in a room where they can shut the door at the end of the working day. This may not be possible for everyone, so for those that use their living room as an office, encourage them to pack up at the end of the day and switch everything off when it’s ‘home time’. If they have sufficient time and space to decompress at the end of a busy day, your team members will return to work the next day much happier and more motivated.
Moving to remote work at short notice may well have upset your training and development plans for your team. With training days no longer possible in the office, make sure you don’t just cancel these sessions but try to adapt them. There may be online alternatives already in place or you may have to change an existing internal course so that it can be completed by team members at home.
Make sure each team member has a personal development plan in place so that they can clearly see the steps they need to take to get to the next level in their careers. This sort of structure can do wonders for motivation in a climate of uncertainty.
When you’re in the office it’s much easier to share and celebrate achievements within a team. It’s really important that exceptional work is still recognised within the team to keep everyone motivated. You may want to create a place online where you can post about achievements so that the whole team can give their teammate a virtual slap on the back. Or, if you have a regular catch-up with the team, reserve five minutes to talk through the big achievements of the month. Not only will this spur the team on, but it will also keep the emphasis on quality over quantity.
As ever, with remote working, communication is key. It’s down to you to effectively communicate your vision to your team so that they know exactly what they’re working towards and why. Once you’ve done this, channels of communication need to stay open so that they need to know that they are trusted to do the job and that they have the support they need. Shout about it when a team member or even the whole team achieves something great to keep that momentum going. Finally, show them that while working from home it’s not a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ and that you’re invested in their future with training opportunities and a clear path for progression.