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Managing a remote team requires a new playbook

Posted by Neha De

July 30, 2021    |     4-minute read (1154 words)

Remote working has been in full effect since the coronavirus pandemic hit last year. In fact, according to one Stanford researcher, 42% of the U.S. workforce is now remote. And while most business leaders have managed to cross the initial barrier of moving their workforce to a work-from-home setup, by clearly defining their processes for the staff members, ensuring that they have all necessary tech (and other) tools at their disposal and are permanently signed into their Zoom accounts, many are having a tough time keeping their remote employees motivated, in these continuing trying times. 

Remote work is here to stay. In order to get the most out of remote workers, it is essential to keep them motivated. This is pushing leaders to use different communication and collaboration strategies to help employees stay engaged. 

Why it is important to keep remote employees motivated

Research says that 44% of employees under the age of 35 believe that lack of motivation has been hindering their performance at work since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in March 2020. Workers, remote or otherwise, who are unmotivated are less productive and can have an adverse effect on the motivation, enthusiasm and productivity of other staff members, too. And, underperforming employees can cost a company dearly. According to a Gallup report, disengaged employees cost the U.S. between $483 billion and $605 billion each year in lost productivity. 

Here are the three main benefits of having an engaged and motivated workforce: 

  1. Increased productivity: One of the main advantages of having highly engaged staff members is that it helps enhance their efficiency levels significantly. When workers are motivated, they automatically feel inclined to put in their best efforts and contribute more, thus increasing their productivity. 

  2. Reduced absenteeism: Motivated employees are committed to their company’s mission and care about its success. They are likely to be more inclined to be willing to work, rather than staying absent. Research says highly engaged workplaces are 41% less likely to stay off of work.

  3. Lower employee turnover: Motivated employees are more efficient and productive, and therefore, more satisfied with their current employer. This sense of satisfaction reduces their desire to look for a job elsewhere. 
Top 4 signs that remote employees aren't motivated

While there are some obvious signs of disengaged employees, such as absenteeism, lack of enthusiasm, reduced productivity, low energy, minimal contribution in group discussions and so on, here are some telltale signs that remote staff members are not feeling motivated enough:

  1. They stop pitching in: When an employee feels motivated, they will speak up, in the form of new ideas or questions. They will also be excited to learn and be willing to come up with solutions to problems. But if they are not feeling fulfilled, there will be a drop in communication; they will typically follow orders or communication will just be one way. 

  2. They are more reactive than proactive: When staff members feel dissatisfied, they struggle to make progress because they feel like they cannot control the things happening around them. They start taking preventative measures to avoid certain situations and end up being more reactive about situations, not proactive.

  3. They start making more errors: Lack of motivation can cause employees to make more and more errors. Unmotivated employees usually approach tasks half-heartedly or may even forget to complete assignments. This can demotivate other staff members who are putting in genuine effort in managing working from home. 

  4. They have difficulty focussing: Remote working can take a toll on even the best of us. Distractions in the form of housework, family members and technological issues, and the monotony of working in a nonstimulating environment can cause dissatisfaction among employees. This can greatly affect their ability to focus, which can cause a drop in productivity and performance. 
6 strategies to keep team members motivated remotely

Here are six strategies that can help business leaders motivate their remote employees and keep them focussed on work.

  1. Set clear roles and responsibilities: If an employee doesn’t know what is expected of them, it could lead to a lot of confusion about expectations. It can be hard to stay motivated about work in the absence of clearly defined goals and expectations. So if you expect an employee to, say, provide status updates at the end of each day, make sure they are aware of it. Expectations may also include the kind of behavior you expect from them. 

    And from your side, ensure that you are available to answer any queries, especially during working hours 一 and if you have employees working in different time zones, you can may be set time aside during certain times of the day that work for both of you.

  2. Stay connected and communicate well and often: Collaboration is an essential part of building a successful team. Apart from ensuring that your staff members have all the tools needed for their work, such as internet access, also initiate regular check-ins with your remote workforce, in the form of phone calls, video calls, instant messaging, group chats and so on.

  3. Explain to the employees how they contribute to company goals: It is crucial to show staff members why their work matters and how it contributes to the larger business goals. You can do this by talking to your employees about the importance of their role as well as by sharing company achievements via employee dashboards, company-wide meetings or internal reports.

  4. Recognize achievements: According to a study by Harvard Business Review, “40% of employed Americans say they would put more energy into their work if they were recognized more often.” Recognition of accomplishments also increases retention and loyalty.

  5. Trust your employees: Understanding that working from home can be tough on some because of all the distractions, as well as not micromanaging and second-guessing how much time employees spend in front of their computer is one of the fastest ways of pushing your motivation efforts in the right direction. Once you assign some work to an employee, allow them to finish it without interfering — unless they ask for help

  6. Invest in an employee wellness program: Every successful business understands the need for an employee wellness program. It’s a known fact that motivation takes a dive when staff members are unwell. To fix this, businesses need to come up with a strategy for taking care of their team’s health. According to UnitedHealthcare’s 2018 Wellness Check Up Survey, most employees with access to workplace wellness programs say that such initiatives have had a positive impact on their health, as these programs help them identify and prevent diseases, and pay more attention to their overall health. 

Remote working is not going anywhere, and the sooner businesses put together a plan for it, the better. And once you understand managing and motivating remote employees requires the same basic approach as a traditional office environment, the job at hand will not seem so daunting. 

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