How to motivate employees working from home

How to motivate employees working from home

Jacintha Verdegaal

When your company transitions to working remotely – whether it’s a deliberate choice or forced by a pandemic – it’s not just the employees that need to get used to the new situation, but also you as a leader. Things you used to do to keep your team engaged, don’t always translate to a situation where you’re not together in the same room. Remote employees or hired freelancers who do the work remotely offer a lot of opportunities, but also challenges. So what are the best tips to motivate employees working from home?

Put the mission first

It’s easy to get lost in all the practical things you need to take care of for remote workers. Sure, they need to access email, documents and use critical tools. But don’t forget to communicate the bigger picture. What is your team trying to achieve? People are more motivated when they understand why the team is doing what they’re doing. Don’t do this once as an onboarding exercise, but communicate it on a regular basis to show how they can contribute to your company’s mission. 

Offer the right tools for communication and collaboration

We just said that motivation has not much to do with tools. However, when your team is not in the same room productivity – and with that motivation – can slow down when there’s no communication. You may not be able to walk over to someone’s desk, but there needs to be a way to do that virtually. The same goes for brainstorming and working on a project together. To get things done you need tools for communication and collaboration.

These tools are also very important when only part of your team works remotely. Don’t only include them in the scheduled meetings, but dial them in when there’s an important conversation happening that they should take part in as well. Include them in the smaller day-to-day activities to keep them feel included. 

Think about your remote company culture

How would you describe your company culture? What is it apart from doing the work that makes your team want to work for you? Whatever it is, employees and freelancers should experience that every day, whether they’re in the office or working from home. Try to find ways to include remote workers in activities and traditions so that their physical distance to the office has nothing to do with how engaged and motivated they’re feeling. 

Offer opportunities to grow for employees working from home

When you’re working remotely, it can be more difficult to see opportunities or get senior people to notice you. As a manager it’s important to pay extra attention when it comes to the ambitions of your employees who work from home. Discuss if and how they want to develop their skills, what new challenges they’d like to take on. And then offer opportunities for them to grow and learn something new. This doesn’t necessarily have to be in the form of (paid, external) training, but can also be by asking a senior member of the organization to act as a mentor. Or maybe you’ve hired a freelancer for their expertise and get your team to learn from him or her.   

Never stop communicating

We’ve already mentioned the importance of communication tools for your team, but this tip is especially important for you as a leader. Without the distraction of an office floor, you might feel you can be extra productive and get a lot of work done. But open, ongoing communication with your team is really important to keep them motivated. Especially to motivate employees working from home who do not get to see you every day. Give them the feeling that your door is always open, even if that door is via an online tool. Take time to check in with every team member individually. Not only to discuss updates on the work that they’re doing, but also about other things that are on their mind. And when possible, always choose video over a regular phone call or email. Most communication is non-verbal which gets lost when you don’t get to see each other. 

Work on a culture of trust to motivate employees working from home

Does not seeing what your team is doing all day make you feel nervous? The fastest way to kill motivation is by starting to micro-manage your team with rules and processes. As long as your employees are delivering what’s expected from them, you shouldn’t focus too much on how they get there. Try to understand what drives them, how they prefer to work and give them the freedom and responsibility to do the work in a way that works for them. 

This also comes back to our first point of putting the mission first. Be clear on what the objectives and goals are and how someone is contributing to that. Showing that you trust him or her will make them more engaged and motivated to deliver great results. 

Recognize great work

People are motivated by different things, but everybody likes to hear that they’re doing a good job. Don’t take your team for granted and show that their hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. And when you’ve hit a milestone make sure to take time to celebrate these wins with your team. 

Take a break (together)

Keeping productivity high is impossible when you never take a break. How often didn’t you come up with a great idea the moment you went for a walk? But it’s also these in-between work moments with colleagues that make you feel more connected and engaged. At Tasker we realized that on some days we were all so busy that we forgot to look up and share what was going on. So we’re now having a short coffee break (via video for those working from home) twice a day to check in with each other, enjoy a nice cup of coffee and discuss whatever is top of mind. 

Back to the office or is remote here to stay?

When asked how they would prefer to work once the pandemic is over, many employees choose a hybrid form. Working from home a couple of days a week and going to the office on the other days. It shows that managing a remote team – whether entirely or for some members of your team – is here to stay. Just make sure to consider the items mentioned above to manage and motivate your remote workforce and you’ll be more productive and successful than ever!

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