How to motivate remote teams

The pandemic has seen a seismic shift in the way we work, and remote working is here to stay for many of us. How can you motivate remote teams?

Man remote working having a video conference call


Remote working is here to stay. Although many of us found it challenging to suddenly shift to a new way of working, businesses and employees have recognised its benefits. At the start of the pandemic many managers struggled to adapt to a different style of management – leading remote teams. There was no time for preparation or training and while most of us have found some kind of structure, how can we motivate remote teams for the longer term?

Here are seven tips to help leaders make sure they are getting the best out of their teams.

Clarity of vision

Working remotely can lead us to become more task-focused and lose sight of the bigger picture. Make sure that every member of your remote team is clear about what the wider purpose of their work is. Reinforce regularly the overall goals and objectives your team is working to and how your collective activity factors into your organisation’s overall vision.

Check your tools

We have all discovered new, collaborative ways of working, such as sharing live documents, using workflow management tools like Trello and Monday and communicating through Slack and Teams.

But now that these tools have been in place for a while, it is worth evaluating them. What are the frustrations? Do you have too many tools in play? Are there more efficient options to consider? Seek your team’s views, likes and dislikes to rationalise the systems you have in place.

Company culture

When you’re not visiting a physical office every day it is more difficult to feel that you are part of something bigger. Your team dynamic might be working well, but do you get enough visibility of what the wider organisation is doing? Do you hear from your head of department or Board as much as you should? Internal communications teams are learning too – share your feedback with them, or directly with senior leaders.

Catch up individually

Establish a regular one-to-one catch up with each remote worker in your team at a frequency that works for you both. This should be a session to discuss work priorities, feedback and personal development, and can be as formal or informal as you wish.

Bring the whole team together

Make sure too that your team has a chance to see one another. Remote working can feel isolating and the interaction with colleagues is ever important. Brainstorming or tackling a challenge together can be very motivating and helps remind all remote workers about how each team member likes to work and what their strengths are. If you don’t have a collaborative challenge to address, schedule a weekly social call for the team. This can be as informal as you like – the main objective is to get together as it is a great way to motivate remote teams.

Mix up communication channels

Many of us reached peak ‘Teams’ over the past year where a full day could be taken up with back to back video calls. Thankfully this has abated a little, but there is still the tendency to schedule an online meeting where a phone call could be quicker and just as productive. Do also try to meet in person if it’s possible – even if it’s only once every few weeks. There’s no substitute for face to face communication.

Encourage healthy work practices

While in 2020 most Britons were taking their daily allocation of fresh air and exercise quite seriously, have your team’s habits lapsed? Check that everyone is taking regular breaks, making time for lunch and ideally getting outside every day. We must never underestimate the effect of remote working on our mental health.

Encourage your teams to block out time and keep a couple of hours each day meeting-free. Question team members who regularly send messages and emails outside of working hours. Most importantly of all, lead by example. Keep your remote team performing well by showing them a healthy balance.

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