How to Keep Your Remote Team Motivated in 2021

By
on February 17#best-practices

Community and celebration improve employee retention, yet 63% of coworkers spend less time socializing due to COVID. As more businesses are moving to remote-only environments and the pandemic getting closer to an end, remote managers are facing new challenges. Remote work has endless perks, but it also has some downsides.

One, how do you motivate employees to stay engaged from a distance? Two, how do you keep a company culture strong in remote work? And three, how do you create a sense of belonging and teamwork within your team? Companies with engaged employees outperform by 202%, yet only 14% of employees feel engaged while remote.

We've compiled some tips and surveyed remote business leaders for their input to give you actionable steps to maintain motivation in your remote team this year.

Start with the right equipment

It’s hard to be motivated when you are working on a computer with a cracked screen, or in a coffee shop with spotty wifi. Set your employees up for success by making sure they have the equipment they need to do their job. The upfront cost of equipment will ultimately save you time and money in the long run. This doesn’t mean you need to spend a fortune buying computers, cell phone lines, and fancy headsets - just make sure to provide all the required resources your employees need.

Create a regular feedback loop & maintain communication

Just as employees need the right resources to get the job done, they also need the right support. Set up a regular schedule to provide feedback with your team members, so they always know where they stand. Whether it’s weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly - having a recurring meeting where you identify wins and opportunities to improve goes a long way in helping members see how their contributions affect the company. Plus, it gives them the knowledge to know how they can improve. 

*Bonus tip - declare it a “video’s on” meeting. It’s easier to build rapport and deliver feedback with both sides using their video functionality.

"The best and most effective way to keep your remote employees focused and motivated is to communicate with them. Effective communication in the workplace is an essential element of a business’s progress. Not only does it enhances employee engagement and the overall effectiveness of a team, but it also improves relationships.

Communication assures that team members understand what they are working towards and why. It empowers everyone to reconnect over the projects at hand and move forward with transparency. Positive communication is a huge part of employee commitment."

Reda Elmardi - CEO at StrongChap.com

"The way I see it, motivation comes from feeling valued, feeling supported, and feeling like you're meaningfully contributing; and that's true whether you're remote or in-person. In order to serve those first two, as a company, we place a lot of emphasis on perpetual feedback and frequent gratitude.

When feedback is seen as a gift, and when there's adequate space made for it, it becomes easier to ask for what you need. Then leadership doesn't have to make guesses about what you need to stay motivated or focused."

Alyssa Ruderman - Co-founder of Lantern

Foster a growth mindset

growth mindset for remote teams

Encouraging a growth mindset has been shown to increase motivation and drive. Establishing a growth mindset has been a popular trend for businesses the last few years, for this reason. Here's what these two leaders said about building a growth mindset.

"I believe the best way to keep your remote employees is to encourage a growth mindset among your employees. Employees when held at home and separated from the outside world due to lock-down, can appear uninspired. As a manager or team leader, you can motivate your remote employees by supporting them to go for professional and personal growth opportunities. Embracing a growth mindset means that irrespective of your position or where you are in your profession, there is always more opportunity to learn and grow. As leaders and managers, you can promote an environment where employees concentrate on their potential and not just their performance. Establish a learning culture and drive employees to test their limits and learn new abilities to grow professionally."

Maulik Patel - Founder & CEO of Click Matix

"A growth mindset is about tying the work to the big picture, finding collaboration opportunities, and celebrating successes are three ways to help team members stay motivated and feel connected. This can be especially important and helpful for remote teams who don't get to spend face time with one another in the office. And even finding small ways to celebrate successes or share good news can boost team morale."

Leigh Espy, Founder, Project Bliss

Utilize technology

With so many tools and apps created just for this purpose, it's hard to go wrong. For example, art classes can be a HUGE boost to morale within small-to-medium sized teams. Instead of the awkward Zoom chat-chat, online art activities help everyone get involved in a genuine way. Paint nite, trivia games, and other forms of play help to build morale, and there are a wide variety of other options. Here's what some of the entrepreneurs we interviewed had to say:

"I'd say that the workers who likely to stay motivated are the ones who are happy and satisfied with the job they are doing. To keep them motivated, we use an all-around app that they can use to upload the tasks, files, schedules, notes, and meetings all at once. "Workast" is an app that unifies them all. It is very collaborative, user-friendly and making it easy to track and complete work. Ideally, you have to define responsibilities, expectations, and deadlines and make sure to check-in with them. We empower our team to make decisions and take ownership and accountability for their targets, resulting in higher job satisfaction and collaboration within our company. To add to this, we use Zoom for meetings to keep track of what everyone's up to. It keeps everyone motivated when they know that we are working towards the same goal."

Courtney Quigley - Rize Reviews

(And yes, she mentioned Workast without knowing who she was being interviewed by. We love you Courtney!)

CompanyCam & ConnectTeam were recommended as well. Here's why:

"For our field staff, which are contractors, nothing is better than pictures. We implemented the use of CompanyCam. This allows each employee to upload the photos from their job site to a central app that everyone can see. You can annotate the photo, comment and download to share."

Dan Constantino - CEO of Achieve Holdings, LLC

"ConnectTeam has helped with maintaining day to day communication and collaboration within my company. It is easy to use, and its design encourages efficient and interactive participation between all levels of employees. Managers can effectively track progress without wasting time searching for information. It is all there, just a few clicks away. I highly recommend this tool for any business looking to streamline its communication and increase productivity."

Tyler Forte - Founder & CEO of Felix Homes

Allow getting into the nitty-gritty

In a survey conducted by HBR, employees that were allowed to problem-solve and do work that they considered to be meaningful to the organization were much more productive. Let employees get creative, and test new projects and processes. Let them break things. By allowing employees to use their intellect to solve problems, they will feel more appreciated and more motivated.

how to manage a remote team

"Motivation comes from feeling valued, feeling supported, and feeling like you're meaningfully contributing. That's true whether you're remote or in-person. In order to serve that, as a company, we place a lot of emphasis on perpetual feedback and frequent gratitude. We are sure to remind people of why the work they're doing matters. We make sure to have avenues for our employees to check out stories from satisfied clients we’ve had."

John Berry - CEO, Managing Partner at PTSD Lawyers

Incorporate play

All work and no play isn’t very motivating. Whether you create a Slack channel for jokes or you have a once-a-week Zoom “Among Us” gaming session - incorporate some level of fun into the workspace. There are a wide variety of tools and Slack integrations that make this easy. Here’s a few recommendations:

Vary it up

"Since making the move to remote work, we've introduced several effective ways to keep our team engaged. We've had the most success with an all-hands daily kickoff Zoom call at 10:07 AM and a daily wrap-up at 3:30 PM. Several times weekly, we'll play a crossword together, discuss what we're grateful for and what's holding us back. We've also hosted several events for our team and their families, including a Zoom-based cook-at-home taco-night with a themed bingo game."

Brennen Bliss - CEO at PixelCutLabs

Play games

"Every Friday we play games as a team. It is normally around an hour of Codenames. This helps our team have an experience close to being in the office, and really builds culture, and helps enable teamwork outside of our gameplay. We have seen significant boosts to morale and in turn motivation and output by having fun together as a team."

Zach L - CTO at PineappleMoney

A winning attitude

"The feeling of competition keeps many individuals encouraging as it makes them enthusiastic about winning. You can arrange a remote competition. For instance, I held 'The Best Home Desk Decoration Competition' in which I asked my teammates to decorate their desks and send the pictures. The employees actively participated in it and sent me their desk's images decorated with plants and paintings. Lastly, I gifted the winner with an Amazon gift card to motivate the employees who didn't participate in this competition."

Josefin Björklund - CEO & Founder at ToppCasinoBonus

Team reading

"At Goodwall, the entire team was recently sent a copy of a book to read at our leisure. Once completed, we head to our company's #lounge Slack channel to discuss, which gives us a great way to connect with our colleagues, especially those we don't often communicate with. An added bonus: the right read also helps the company, whether from an increase in related knowledge, a boost in relevant skills, or simply a nice improvement in team morale. If you're looking for book ideas to get started, our last book was Educated, by Tara Westover, and an upcoming read is Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger."

Christian Eilers - Goodwall's career and education expert

Trust your team

how to trust your remote team

It can be difficult not to want to micromanage a remote team, but instead, choose to foster a relationship of trust. Once you have clarity on job roles, expectations, and deadlines, trust that your team will follow through. Provide the tools and support that’s needed to your employees, and lead and manage from a distance. Motivated teams are happy to have you guide from the outskirts and know that you trust them to get things done. 

"Flexible work schedules and the separation of work from personal life are 2 of the greatest motivation tools to have in a remote work environment. Remote work can feel very unrewarding and has, as many of us have seen, catalyzed burnout. Allowing your employees to work on their own schedules as long as they meet deadlines and respecting their off hours greatly reduces the invasive nature of workplace stress into personal lives. My goal here is to keep my employees at their best at work and to not have issues follow them once they clock out."

Deepak Shulka - Founder of Pearl Lemon

"To raise morale you have to develop trust and compassion above all else.  As far as messaging goes, between the pandemic and the possible recession, leaders have an opportunity to further connect with anxious people and focus on the true relevance of their products or services. We have learned to acknowledge that now things are different so we need to communicate in a way that will give our audiences better focus, helping them to create a bridge from today to the future. We need to communicate in a way that combines information and need, synthesizing feeling and facts. I feel we have a tremendous responsibility because never before has communications had the power to help society in the way that it does right now.  Words are part of the healing process and we can see which leaders and brands are doing the best job every day with messages that touch not only the mind, but also the heart and soul.  There has never been a more important time to provide accurate, empathetic communication with transparency, truthfulness and timeliness. 

With social media and technology going 24/7 it can be tough at times to stay productive, energized and focused.  For me I know when I feel my creative juices drying up or I am often tired or unmotivated it is time to shake things up.  The key to productivity is to find ways to stay fresh and excited without being able to plan a vacation or break to get away from your job. Like most small business owners and entrepreneurs there are never enough hours in the day to fit everything in so when something has to give it is usually time I have allocated for myself to exercise or just relax.  A mentor once told me and I have come to appreciate and realize is that to stay sane and be successful “me time” is not a luxury or pampering, it is maintenance! The mentor  shared that respecting my time on the calendar and taking myself as seriously as I take my most important clients is the least I can do for self care because if I am not at my peak performance I am not going to be useful to anyone else either, specifically I have encouraged my team to:    

Give yourself permission to say no.  Whether it means sleeping in (no to an alarm clock), meditating, taking a walk, or just turning off my phone and computer (no I will respond later on my own schedule), simple acts of letting myself relax and enjoy the moment are the very best gifts I can give myself.  You can fill a calendar to stay busy but what matters most is having impact on people’s lives and  that has nothing to do with volume of activity, it is about touching people in meaningful ways which may mean being less busy not more.  

Disconnect from technology periodically and focus on cultivating human, face to face relationships (when not social distancing). Even meeting for virtual coffee or drinks can accomplish so much more than e-mail exchanges, social media posts, etc. and it is a great way to get to know people better, their interests, hobbies, and dreams.  I have found that building relationships is what drives my business and technology supports them once they are solidified.  Technology helps advance the conversation but it will never replace the human interaction that builds trust over time.  I used get out of the office 3-5 days a week which was a great way to stay connected, shake up my routine and get going before the virus hit.

Taking breaks with exercise --  I do something active every day to stay healthy and break up my day.

Practice gratitude -- I am so grateful I can work productively in my home office now with no commute."

Paige Arnof-Fenn - Founder & CEO of MavenMoguls

*Bonus tip to building trust: emphasize the positive results rather than focusing on the minutia.

Offer personalized incentives

Switching to a remote-work environment typically saves you money, which allows you to offer more for your employees. Personalized incentives go a long way to showing your employees you appreciate them. And the options for personalized incentives are endless.

  • Pay for a gym membership.

  • Pay for courses related to job development.

  • Implement flexible working hours for working parents and to promote a healthy lifestyle.

  • Have health and wellness challenges monthly where the winner gets a specific prize.

Here's some specific tactics LiteralHumans shared with us that they use:

- We celebrate wins in Slack, shoutout team members regularly

- Keep the conversation fun and lively in the #watercooler channel, share photos of cute dogs

- We have shared ownership of the company itself and are launching a profit share model this year

- Once travel returns, we'll do an in-person retreat somewhere with beautiful weather (all play, no work, just bonding)

Or, a fun spin on creating a "Wall of Fame":

how to manage a remote team

"Being a CEO of a company, I think acknowledging the employees for their efforts provide great motivation for them to stay positive and motivated at their workplace. Encouraging your employees with appreciation awards makes them feel contented and will surely boost their morale to work even harder.

The recognition can also be given by asking the employees to send nominations describing their achievements during a particular period of time. The best among the received nominations can be selected and rewarded. You can also create a recognition corner in the office, where you can frame the picture of the best employee/team and hang it there. It is one of the best ways to engage and motivate employees. Remember to keep the picture updated so that everyone has the opportunity to make the ‘wall of fame."

Chris Nutbeen - Founder & CEO of Nuttifox  

This founder knows what the people want:

" I offer my staff free Netflix and Disney Plus subscription, and have a group chat just for entertainment: Any chitchat on the best TV shows out there or what the most trending actors to follow. "

 Jill Sandy - Founder at Constant Delights

And this founder, took a stance with his millennial workforce.

"Millennials continue to disrupt norms in the workplace, and we can't deny that the future of our company rests on their fickle outlook. In my observation, being a millennial myself, I believe that it's the changing corporate culture that makes them want to experience and prioritize career fulfillment rather than money. There are startups that revolutionize the working culture for this new breed and millennials will gravitate towards them because they know they have a choice.  Growing compassion in one's workplace, for example, has a strong impact on the organization. When you prioritize diversity, individuality, and inclusion, significant cultural shifts can take place. Here are some of the ways I motivate our millennial staff.  1. I send them food delivery as a surprise gift for sticking with us in this time of the pandemic. The restaurant industry has suffered a lot from their closure due to the pandemic and now that protests are happening around the globe to condemn the death of George Floyd and so many other victims, it's time we raise the morale of the black community by supporting their livelihood. As a CEO of a startup, I advocate buying from black-owned enterprises to show our support in their struggle for equality and provide meaning to the lives lost in this struggle. Here's a list of black-owned restaurants, cafes, coffee shops, food trucks, and pop-ups compiled by the L.A. Times in a Google Sheet. 2. I enrolled them in online training sessions to upskill them despite working from home. This provides them with the assurance that our company is investing in their future. 3. I regularly organize online team building activities to inspire them to foster teamwork in these most challenging times."

Michael Hammelburge - CEO at The Bottom Line Group This CEO opted to let the team decide how to be compensated:

work-life-balance 39x22

"As the pandemic struck, we were putting the finishing touches to Experios - our new digital publishing software.  

As a reward, the CEO at 3D Issue - Paul McNulty - gave us a choice of a 20% pay-rise or working a 4-day week (for the same salary). Everyone chose the latter. It was a motivational masterstroke Now, everyone comes into work refreshed, with their batteries fully recharged, after enjoying a bonus day to themselves. The entire team is happier.. And isn’t that what life is all about?"

What do remote workers say?

Finally, we wanted to know what employees themselves say keeps them motivated. TalentLMS surveyed 1,000 remote employees and asked what can help boost their motivation throughout the day. 

Here are their top answers: #1 Listening to music (66%) #2 Chatting with a colleague (49%) #3 Exercising (46%)

So, there you have it - encouraging those three things in your teams is a sure-fire win! However you choose to motivate your remote team, we hope these tips help inspire your creativity.

Here's to having motivated and successful remote teams in 2021 and beyond! How does your remote team stay motivated? We'd love to hear from you. Send us a line or tweet us your story for a chance to get featured!

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