Remote work has been considered by many to be less motivating than on-site jobs. In fact, according to Primed to Perform by Neel Doshi and Lindsay McGregor, a survey was conducted between 2010 and 2015 on more than 20,000 workers across 50 major companies which showed that people working from home are less motivated than those who go to the office (2015).
Therefore, remote work has not been favored among many companies; that is until the unexpected COVID-19 pandemic forced the world to quarantine for long periods of time making it impossible for businesses to escape the need for remote work. The amount of employees working remotely in the world has significantly increased to 48%, compared to 30% before the pandemic (O'Donnellan, 2021).
The HR Consulting firm, Mercer, revealed that 70% of US companies
have decided to adopt the hybrid working model after seeing
the huge benefits of remote work (Golden, 2021).
Remote work is a necessity in the “New Normal” and employers are transforming the workplace dynamics to ensure that their employees are comfortable, productive, and most importantly, motivated. So how do you achieve that?
Set Goals Based on Output - Not Office Hours
The classic work schedule where an employee punches in and out on a daily basis to record the hours spent at the office is considered an outdated process that does not fit with the nature of remote work. Adopting that kind of strict and inflexible schedule will likely result in your team losing motivation to work; therefore becoming less and less productive.
As a remote team manager, you should focus instead on your employees’ output and deliverables. Set the deadlines and evaluate the work received rather than micromanaging their time spent on said task.
Automattic, the company behind the well-renowned WordPress platform, perfectly embodies this approach when it comes to their remote employees. The company’s CEO Matt Mullenweg said that some of Automattic’s employees are “digital nomads”. He does not mind where they choose to work from as long as they have access to Wi-Fi and deliver on their tasks (Wilson, 2019).
Establish a Single Channel for Communications
One of the challenges for remote work is that communication is noticeably reduced. Unlike an office setting, remote employees cannot spontaneously come face to face with their coworkers to make certain decisions or even let out some steam.
For that reason, as a manager, you must provide a simplified and efficient solution for the absence of face-to-face communications: a centralized electronic channel for task management and documentation, follow-ups, and meetings, in order for everyone to remain on the same page.
This e-channel can also be used to strengthen the relationship among your team members and yourself. Employees work more enthusiastically when they feel part of a close-knit team. One example of that is seen in Buffer’s team building strategy. The social media company organizes fun Zoom activities with its remote workforce as a way for them to build a more personal relationship among one another and create a sense of team belonging. Buffer also focuses on their employees’ mental well-being with initiatives such as online therapy (Wilson, 2019).
Provide Clear & Realistic Expectations for Your Virtual Departments
When announcing a new project and assigning tasks to your team, make sure that you include them in the project’s goals and how these tasks play a part in achieving them. It is important for your team to know what they are working towards and why.
GitLab, the open-source software development tool company, has attained utmost productivity with its all-remote work environment with employees spread out across 37 countries. In order to do so, GitLab created the company’s “Handbook” in which they outline the necessary information on onboarding, project management and procedures, goals and objectives, as well as company processes. This handbook is accessible to all and allows everyone to add comments to further enhance it (Wilson, 2019).
Give Your Employees the Necessary Tools to Succeed
As a manager, you want to ensure that your team is confident when it comes to providing quality results with the right tools and equipment. With the lack of office boundaries, some managers choose to rely on the employee’s personal equipment to complete the job, and that is completely logical.
However, it is not safe to assume that all your employees have the right tools for the job. For that reason, you should have one-on-one discussions with each team member and help solve the obstacles that hinder their work performance. For example, Stipend, a computer software company based in Malta, offers their employees a dedicated amount of money per quarter or per year for purchasing technology or equipment needed to perform the job (computers, wireless keyboards and mice, computer chargers, laptop stands, etc.). Employees buy the equipment when needed and send the receipts to the company for reimbursement (Jay, n.d.).
Finally, Trust Your Team and Show Appreciation for the Work
The remote environment makes it harder for employers and managers to trust their team, resulting in a lack of interest from the employees to engage in ideas and provide solutions. A good manager lets his/her team in and trusts their input on the project. Take their feedback, implement their ideas when applicable, and show gratitude and appreciation for their hard work.
In order to do so properly, try to have one-on-one meetings with each team member, which serve as evaluation for both of you. You can also have an anonymous survey to collect your team’s input on the company and procedures. A great example of that is Virbela, a virtual world platform for remote work, which circulates a company-wide Employee Net Promoter Score survey (ENPS) every other month to get feedback on leadership and processes.
A recent study conducted by Intuition revealed that 78% of remote employees agree that working remotely reduces distractions and 83% report that they are more productive working from home (O'Donnellan, 2021). Working remotely has become a necessity in this modern world and the above tips can help you, as a manager, to make the most out of this situation by maintaining communication, accuracy, and efficiency wherever your team is based.
If you are interested in training yourself to become a great remote team leader, take part in lurning.eu’s workshop on understanding team dynamics in a virtual environment and identifying the right tools for boosting the motivation of team members.
Doshi, N., & McGregor, L. (2015). Primed to Perform: How to Build the Highest Performing Cultures Through the Science of Total Motivation (Illustrated ed.). Harper Business.
Golden, R., & Golden, R. (2021, July 14). Most US employers with flexible work plans choose hybrid work, Mercer says. HR Dive. https://www.hrdive.com/news/most-us-employers-with-flexible-work-plans-choose-hybrid-work-mercer-says/603304/
O’Donnellan, R. (2021, December 2). Remote Working Statistics You Need to Know In 2022. Intuition. https://www.intuition.com/remote-working-statistics-you-need-to-know-in-2021/
Wilson, A. (2019, October 24). Engaging remote employees: 10 companies leading the way | Workstars. Employee Recognition and Engagement Blog. https://www.workstars.com/recognition-and-engagement-blog/2019/10/14/engaging-remote-employees-10-companies-leading-the-way/