How to motivate your team remotely

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In March 2020, almost every company in the UK transitioned to remote-working. This shift in our working process has nudged (or should that be shoved!) us all forward to acknowledge that remote-working is practical for many businesses and should be seriously considered as an option within an organisation’s working processes.

Of course, there were always businesses who had a level of remote-working pre-pandemic, but this option was often reserved for ‘top executives’ who had earned their stripes or ‘on-the-road’ sales teams. For the rest of the UK, our human-nature pulled us back from anything that contrasted the traditional office set-up.

There are key benefits of adopting remote-working practices, from increased productivity (65% of workers feel more productive whilst working remotely) to a shift in profitability (lower overheads results in an increased net profit). As the UK emerges from lockdown 3, we are seeing more and more businesses embrace the change and adopt remote (or hybrid) working policies.

If you are unsure whether your business needs an office, check out our guest contributor piece on the thought process behind the decision. Generally speaking, this acceptance of a different model allows businesses to actually consider what is right for them, their operations, and their team members – rather than be stuck in following the status quo.

So, if your team aren’t with you in an office environment, what do you need to do to ensure the business keeps moving forward…

Set expectations

Starting with the overarching goals of the business to more specific individual responsibilities, as a business leader the long- and short-term objectives of your organisation will be very clear to you. However, you must remember that your team aren’t mind readers! Ensure that everyone understands these objectives from the very bottom up. Knowing key business objectives helps everyone row in the same direction.

On an individual level, redefine what ‘productivity’ means within your business and set clear goals during structured review sessions with each employee, so they know what is expected and how to support your business as it grows.

Also, check that your onboarding documents are up-to-date and represent what is required for each role and team (as this may vary across departments) and set those expectations from day one with new starters.

Equip your team

It is simple. Check that everyone in the team has the tools and training needed to effectively complete their day-to-day tasks.

First up is the actual equipment and hardware. Do your employees have suitable laptops or desktops? What about phones and handsets for customer service or sales teams? Speak to your colleagues and check that what they have is fit for purpose. Some organisations go as far as checking people have suitable WIFI connection or an appropriate desk space and invest a % of what would’ve been spent on a fancy office by creating a budget for ‘home working gear’!

Software for communication is a common need across all types of organisations. Use of these business critical tools saw a huge uplift when the pandemic broke out – Microsoft Teams users rose from 20 million in November 2019, to 44 million in March 2020, and again to 145 million in Q2 2021. Effective use of Zoom, Teams or Slack will make not being together in an office seem trivial through use of chat, call and video features.

Next up is project or task management. Platforms like Asana, Paymo or one of the many alternatives (see more here) allow you to keep processes and projects moving across teams efficiently. Some are better suited to creative collaboration and briefing, whilst other serve as operational or financial processing tools, so do your research and find what’s best for you. Most also offer free trials so take advantage of testing these out before committing.

Finally, and one that is often missed, is continued development and training. As your business grows, you will likely want some of your early-stage employees to grow with you on that journey. This growth needs to be nurtured and nourished through ‘on-the-job’ development and, sometimes, more formal training. Digital platforms, such as FutureLearn and SkillShare are useful tools here – with some courses even being free!

Encourage dialogue

Cross team conversation and dialogue is what fuels productive teamwork… and, cliché time… but ‘teamwork makes the dream work’.

No one member of the team can move your business forward alone, and creating a proactive, supportive and collaborative environment is key in reaching optimal operational efficiency.

Some organisations opt for full team morning calls/video calls to set up the day and raise any agenda notes, whilst others do this once a week or split across departments. These sessions are also a great opportunity to build relationships by simply catching up on what the latest ‘netflix hit’ is, and ensuring that your team don’t ONLY talk when on formal work calls.

Additionally, ensuring that you have 1-2-1 with everyone is important for you to stay close to the team and spot where additional nurturing may be needed. Feedback is a two-way street, so give room for open format feedback across your company. Some teams naturally feel comfortable sharing thoughts and feelings openly, but check that everyone is having their voice heard and it is not a case of ‘who shouts loudest’.

Trust & Encouragement

If you don’t trust your team members to work remotely – then this is a wider issue.

Dive deeper into why you don’t feel able to fully trust any (or all) members – is this a training gap, a personal issue, do they understand what is expected of them? Utilise your senior partners or board members to give you another view on any internal issues and work to fix the root of the problem.

Reality check – micro-managing is not conducive for anyone involved, so if there are issues in the team, fixing the issue is the only long-term solution!

Additionally, being distanced physically from the team mustn’t distract you from noticing which team members are working hard and are integral to your business’ success. Make sure you are taking the chance to notice and reward where possible, and creating a positive culture for people to develop in. Remember, the job market is one click of a LinkedIn button away, and staff that don’t feel appreciated with you will find somewhere else… quick!

Be Flexible and Focused

Flexibility is a great motivator and will make employees feel immediately appreciated and trusted.

For example, if you have parents on your team that have a surge of distraction when the kids come home from school at 3.30… or need to be the ones at the school gates… encourage this! Members of staff that feel respected will deliver that respect back to the business two-fold and, think about it this way, the work getting done while the kids are screaming for snacks and mum/dad’s attention will not be the best quality. So, work individually with team members to understand what their needs are and, within reason of course, schedule their work flow around that.

Alternatively, you don’t want your staff to be working all hours of the day… I know it seems great on paper – and a bit of extra overtime here or there is fantastic – but encourage your team to step away from the laptop when it hits end-of-day. As a founder, you will know that burning the candle at both ends eventually leads to lack of focus, mistakes, and burnout.

Motivation for many people comes from working for a business they feel passionately about, with a team that they enjoy working with. You will get the best from your team when you embrace the balance needed here.

Runway Recap

  • Check everyone knows what is expected of them, and they have the right tools to do the job!
  • Be open with your team and give members responsibility of their own deliverables… you may be surprised with the positive results you see here
  • Stay flexible and stay focused, check that your team have productive days and work-free evenings