Team Management

8 Ways to Motivate Your Remote Team from Afar


Work from home culture has been decades in the making, but with the recent pandemic, more businesses have had to embrace fully remote workforces for the very first time.

With so much going on around us, how do you keep your team on track? How do you maintain productivity and team culture in a completely remote setting?

I have 8 simple but effective ways to motivate remote teams during these tricky times.

1. Use software to enable your team

Being fully remote is already tough.

Being fully remote without the right tools can drain your team’s motivation, which is why remote work software is so crucial to a team’s success. After all, it wouldn’t be possible to work from home without software.

Depending on your business and its needs, the type of software you pursue could be different, but there are a few staples across many industries.

  • Video conferencing software: How else will you have face-to-face meetings without video conferencing software? These tools enable teams to connect remotely, allow managers to have one-on-one meetings, have screen recording and sharing capabilities, video interviews, and more. It’s a must-have for remote work.
  • Team collaboration software: For quick check-ins, brainstorms, and casual work chats, it’s important to use team collaboration software. A content collaboration tool can help your team reach all of the documents needed.
  • Time management software: This software is essential for organizing your digital workspace and keeping your team on track to finish projects.

2. Be patient with your team

As someone who has worked mostly remotely for more than 3 years, I can tell you that these are not your normal work-from-home circumstances, and I’m sure other remote employees would agree.

For this reason, you need to be patient with your team and understand that outside worries and distractions happen from time to time.

Even under normal work-from-home circumstances, it’s not uncommon for interruptions to occur throughout the day. Remember, your team members are at home or in a local coffee shop, not in an office building. Adjusting to remote work and finding a groove takes time.

And for remote managers, ask how you can help your team make the proper adjustments. Be a resource to get them on track.

3. Have trust in your team

Just because you and your team aren’t in a physical space together doesn’t mean you have to micromanage their every move. Instead, hold weekly standup meetings to go over everyone’s tasks. These could also be daily standups with a few bullet points if you’re using a team collaboration tool.

For keeping tabs on project statuses, use a time management tool and be transparent with deadlines. Some managers even use timesheets or time audits to hold their teams accountable. You can still be an active manager without tracking every move. 

If performance starts to slip, maybe you see numbers are low in your sales performance management tool, hop on a video chat to see what’s up. Again, outside distractions could occur and is a normal part of the adjustment process. It’s your job as a manager to instill trust.

4. Encourage flexible work hours

Remote work isn’t bound by the typical constraints that in-office work is, like commute times and the 9-to-5 grind. Because of this, it could be beneficial to your team to encourage flexible work hours.

Maybe Josh needs to get a quick workout in during lunch to stay focused. Perhaps Carol does her best design work in the evening hours. No two employees have the same work and productivity habits, but by encouraging flexibility, you allow more employees to play to their strengths.

According to a study from Stanford, remote employees are 13 percent more productive than their in-office counterparts. Having more flexibility plays a role in this.

5. Try to limit or condense meetings

You know the saying, “This meeting could have been an email.” The last thing you want to do to your remote team is to kill their motivation by loading schedules with lengthy meetings and check-ins.

As a matter of fact, experts say consistent video meetings are a contributor to remote work stress called “Zoom fatigue”. This occurs when too many video meetings overwhelm employees and reduce concentration. Zoom fatigue is also the result of more employees working fully remotely for the first time in their careers. Adjusting to video conferencing as opposed to in-person meetings can be tiresome.

As a manager, you need to set expectations on what merits a meeting and what merits an email or instant message.

6. Try to cap work hours

There is a misconception that remote employees work fewer hours than their in-office counterparts, when in fact they work 1.4 more days per month.

When you leave the office, the workday is typically over. When you work fully remotely, the lines between work and relaxation become blurred. An employee may find themselves easily working more than eight hours each day to tweak a design, write more lines of code, or finish an article. This is why one-third of remote workers say they struggle with maintaining a work-life balance.

Working well beyond the expected hours could lead to burnout for some employees, which leads to lower morale and motivation.

As a manager, you should keep tabs on team members working too many hours. Encourage them to step away when needed and take mental health days to refresh.

7. Have awards and shout-outs

One of the most classic ways to spur motivation is to offer awards or incentives. This could be as simple as a $10 Starbucks gift card for the top weekly performance or something more personalized like a new computer monitor for the top quarterly performance. Whatever works for your budget.

In addition to awards or incentives, you should also give shout-outs regularly. This is a more cost-effective and compassionate way to award your team members. It never hurts to recognize them for their hard work.

Or you can combine both. You can base the winner of these incentives on more than just performance. For example, if someone on your team went out of their way to help someone else complete their project, that’s worth shouting out.

8. Encourage non-work bonding

In-office teams have happy hours and non-work events all the time. Why shouldn’t you?

There are a number of ways to bond with your team remotely. The easiest way is through a virtual happy hour using your video conferencing tool. Use this time to check in with how your team is doing outside of work and do your best to mitigate work conversations.

Who’s watching what on Netflix? Who saw the game last night? What new hobby is everyone picking up? These are all conversation starters for happy hours. Get creative and get personalized with it.
Want to get more intricate? You can play virtual games like Cards Against Humanity and others with a little tech savviness and screen-sharing.

This is new to a lot of people

We understand. It’s not always to keep you and your team motivated when being fully removed from one another, especially in times like these. But if you practice at least a few of the points I mentioned above, you should have an easier time rallying your team and succeeding in the remote work landscape.

And if you find yourself burning out from work and non-work related stress, feel free to throw some “unproductive time” on your schedule.

Cover Photo by Gabriel Benois on Unsplash

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

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