Making the leap to manager of a remote team can be tough. If you’ve spent the majority of your career learning how to lead a team in a traditional 9-5 office environment, then shifting to a hybrid workplace can be a shock.
You might feel like all your managerial skills you’ve carefully honed over the years have become redundant.
Learning how to manage and motivate a remote team is a whole new skill to master; get it right though and your team will thrive. More and more studies are demonstrating the power of the hybrid work model, one Stanford University study found that remote employees are 22% more productive working at home.
Clearly employees are loving the option to work remotely, and hybrid work is here to stay. Which means managers should be prioritising learning how to motivate remote teams virtually.
Motivating your remote team goes beyond ‘funny’ memes being sent in the team chat though, it takes constant upkeep to maintain a healthy level of motivation throughout the year.
Fortunately we’ve done the brainstorming for you and have rounded up 16 easy and effective ways to motivate your remote employees, from 5 minute energiser ideas to how to keep morale up during difficult times.
Difficulties In Motivating A Remote Team
Is motivation all that important though?
Worryingly, if you don’t motivate your employees then they might experience a drop in job satisfaction and ultimately disengage from work. Yet, even if said employees continue working in your team, they will drag down the motivation of other team members so your overall output will suffer leading knock-on effects in the rest of the organisation.
Clearly motivation is imperative to a thriving, productive workforce. In order to really learn how to successfully motivate and inspire remote teams, we should examine what makes maintaining motivation difficult in the first place.
There are two main factors contributing to difficulties in motivating remotely, communication barriers and technology issues.
Let’s face it, even with the highest resolution or even virtual reality headsets being used in meetings, nothing beats human connection that comes from face-to-face interactions. Humans are social beings, we all pick up on the energy and presence of our colleagues. When we’re working alone at home, it can be easy to sink into a hole of depression.
Which also leads on to the second difficulty of boosting motivation remotely, technology. There’s always going to be technical issues that arise when we are located hundreds and even thousands of miles away from our team members. Mishaps and misunderstandings are all too easy when most communication happens virtually.
Relying on technology to connect us also means that the frequency of interaction with remote teams is significantly reduced. This makes it ever more difficult to monitor morale and keep motivation levels up.
How do you energise your team virtually?
Trying to inspire and motivate virtually doesn’t mean you have to completely makeover your managerial style. The most successful companies that have made the shift from the traditional office space to a remote model have learned to adapt and evolve.
We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel and become someone that you’re not. Learning how to motivate remote team members will most likely be a case of just a little more effort from you.
Ultimately, the best way to motivate people is by being authentic and showing you care. Any manager worth their salt already cares about the wellbeing of their employees, but you might just not be the best at showing it.
When working through this list of easy ideas to motivate and energise virtually, be careful to pick and choose the ways that truly resonate with you. If you’re not the kind of manager who enjoys a virtual quiz, then don’t do it. Your team members will see right through any forced attempts to boost motivation. They want to be seen and feel valued.
Remember, authenticity wins every time.
16 Easy Ways To Motivate Remote Employees
The first step you’re going to want to implement if you’re keen to motivate remote team members is scheduling in regular virtual one-on-one reviews with each team member. Ideally these would be on a weekly basis but do what you can manage consistently. You don’t want to end up cancelling at the last minute.
Performance reviews are there to motivate people, so keep any feedback constructive and avoid evaluating the person. Focus on the results of their work to keep them feeling motivated.
Be sure to ask how they are doing and really listen to their answer. We all like to feel valued and like our opinion matters.
Weekly or Daily Team Check-Ins
Keep your team on track with virtual team calls. You could do them daily or perhaps just on a Monday and Friday of the week. The Monday call would be to fire them up for the week and get everyone on the same page, while the Friday team check-in would be more of a review of how the week went.
The idea of team calls are to keep everyone feeling like they are connected and working towards a common goal. If you keep reading, we’ve got some great ideas on how to energise people during Zoom calls and meetings.
Focus On Job Satisfaction
Making sure your employees are experiencing high levels of job satisfaction is an effective approach to ensure they will stay motivated.
Find out what makes each employee tick, do they respond to intrinsic or external factors better? Once you’ve done the detective work, you can then devise a plan to keep them happy in their roles.
People become bored when work is monotonous, keep your team members motivated by constantly challenging them and pushing them to the edge of their ability.
Keep Things Fun
Organisations that take themselves too seriously can be a real drain on energy levels. Maintain a level of perspective at all times that unless your work is actual brain surgery, chances are you don’t need to be 100% serious all the time.
Work can be fun! The happier your employees are at work, the more motivated they will be!
Virtual Podcast Club
If podcasts aren’t your thing then feel free to sub in book clubs, film clubs or even meme clubs here. The aim of this idea is to find a common interest that your team can connect over even when working remotely.
You could put out a poll to your team before starting the club on what they would most like to do together! See our further reading post with lots of ideas for virtual team-building activities and events.
How do you motivate your team in Zoom calls?
We’ve looked at general motivation strategies and principles but what about quick, tangible ideas you can action now?
During your team meetings try and bring up a point to celebrate each time. By doing this, your team members will come to associate the virtual Zoom calls with positive feelings and start to look forward to them as a motivating factor!
Let Someone Else Take the Lead
Switch the tables and keep things interesting by letting more junior employees take the lead on meetings sometimes. This could be a great upskilling exercise for them to develop their own managerial skills and they will feel appreciated that you trust them enough to lead a meeting.
Get them talking
There’s nothing worse than talking to a blank screen where everyone has muted their microphones and turned their cameras off.
Try and encourage everyone to keep cameras on and get them contributing to the meeting. We want to foster that sense of belonging to keep motivation high. For that to happen, all team members need to take part in meetings.
What’s Inspired You
If you’re a fan of personal-development and you think certain team members might respond well to it as well, then don’t be afraid to think outside of the box and share your inspirational stories!
The important thing here is to make sure you read the ‘virtual’ room. If your motivational pep talks or inspiring YouTube videos fall flat, then don’t try and force them. There’s nothing worse than an overly keen boss!
Question The Status Quo
To keep motivation up remotely, you’re going to have to find ways to keep your team connected even when they don’t have constant interaction. To do this, you could ask for their opinion on a controversial question or issue at work in the morning, encourage them to think about it during their working day and come to you with their thoughts later on.
How To Energise Teams in The Mornings?
What about those chilly, winter mornings when you’ve organised a call with your remote team but when you join the chat, you find everyone is sluggish and lacking in energy?
We’ve established the importance of virtual team calls to keep motivation up, so let’s take a look at easy 5 minute energiser ideas to ensure those morning meetings are effective!
5-minute energiser ideas for remote employees
Get them moving
Short of asking your teams to join in on a PE With Joe Wicks livesteam, you could at least ask your team to take the call standing up. However, if your organisation happens to be in the health and wellness sector, then perhaps a group workout might go down a storm! Get to know your team and what would they respond best to.
An easier way to get everyone moving in the morning might be by initiating a walking team meeting. Ask everyone to take the call on their phone while getting outside and taking a short walk around the neighbourhood or local park.
A walking team meeting isn’t just a good way to boost motivation it is also a great way to boost Vitamin D levels, boost mental health levels and get their physical exercise in for the day!
How do you motivate your team in difficult times?
It might be easy to motivate your remote team during the good times when the business is seeing record sales and everything you touch turns to gold. But what about the tough times like a sudden tragedy or a sustained down period in the organisation, what are some strategies to maintain morale and keep spirits high virtually?
Regularly Check Ins
While going through a tough period at work, your team is going to be looking to you for updates on what’s happening. Make sure you keep those regular check-ins going so that everyone feels like they are being kept in the loop.
People appreciate honesty, and in a remote setting, people will appreciate it even more. Of course, it’s important to protect your team members but use your common sense and if you feel they can handle the blunt truth of a situation, then tell them.
Keeping them involved and aware of what’s happening will help keep motivation levels high.
Focus On Bigger Goals
If the team’s received bad news, take some time to mourn or feel down before grouping together again to make a plan on how the organisation can bounce back. Keep looking towards the bigger picture and the overarching goals of what the business is trying to achieve.
As you can see, motivating remote employees revolves around trying to keep everyone connected through technology even when working miles apart.
It might take more effort than a quick catch-up in the office kitchen, but motivation levels are extremely important and should be prioritised if we want to keep productivity high.
Graham Joyce is co-founder of DuoMe, a flexible working advocate and a frequent panellist/commentator on the issues of flexibility or hybrid working.