9 Ways to Engage and Motivate Remote Employees

Andrew Buck December 9, 2021

To build a high-performing team, motivation is key. Businesses need motivated employees if they expect them to be productive, driven, or simply just present.

Motivation can be hard to develop, but motivating remote employees is even more difficult. The physical distance and lack of social contact can make it extremely easy for team members to lose motivation and enthusiasm for their job.

This article will outline 9 tips you can use to keep remote employees motivated, engaged, and producing their best work. We’ll also discuss why employee engagement and motivation is that much more difficult for businesses with remote workers, and why employee motivation is so important.

Why Motivation is Harder for Remote Teams

Remote working offers a range of enticing benefits. But it also comes with its fair share of challenges. Staying motivated (or keeping your team motivated if you’re in charge of a remote team or have remote workers in your team), is one of the biggest.

Human beings are social animals. That’s why, despite the inefficiencies of the office, it’s good in some respects.

Being in a social environment goes a long way towards keeping people motivated. We work better when we know and feel that we’re part of a team.

It’s common for remote team members to feel left out, or for fully remote teams, there may not be the level of closeness that there is when you work physically alongside another team member.

There’s also a communication barrier that sits in the way, and can easily lead to issues with motivation.

Despite the challenges of maintaining a remote workforce, remote work is here to stay. There is no doubt as to its popularity – 90% of remote workers would recommend it to a friend, and a whopping 86% of them believe it’s the future of work.

And in the future, there’s going to be a big gulf between the businesses who can effectively motivate remote employees, and those that can’t.

Further Reading: the biggest challenges of working remotely – and how to overcome them.

The Benefits of a Motivated Team

Why should you bother keeping your team motivated in the first place? Isn’t it enough that they’re getting paid a nice salary?

People thrive on encouragement, connection, and motivation. They’re going to perform better when they’re adequately motivated, and they’ll be more dedicated to the team as a whole.

Sometimes you can make up for a lack of motivation with a bump in salary – pay someone enough and they’ll get themselves motivated.

But this means that the team that motivates employees effectively can afford to spend much less to hire and retain their top people.

Motivated employees are also going to get more done, at a higher standard of work. When you’re engaged and excited about what you’re doing, you’re always going to put more effort and care into your work, which results in a higher quality of work.

As well as performing better, motivated team members are simply going to show up for work more often – you’ll notice fewer issues with absenteeism, such as one-off sick days or personal days.

That’s not to say motivated remote workers don’t need the odd sick day or day off for their mental health, but a lot of the time these absences are caused by the stress of working somewhere that doesn’t excite you.

All the benefits come together to benefit the entire team, by creating a culture in the business of excitement and positivity.

Learn More: The Importance of Mental Health Days in the Workplace

Summing up, properly motivating remote workers gives a range of benefits to the business, such as:

Sound good? Read on for a few ideas for how to improve employee engagement and motivation amongst your remote workforce.

How to Keep Your Employees Motivated

As the world shifts more and more to remote work as the norm, motivation is going to become the hot topic.

Some business will fail, and fall back to the in-office model, and lose out on the benefits afforded to remote teams and remote workers.

Others will struggle to keep their employees engaged, and constantly find themselves having to replace a remote employee who leaves the business, or doesn’t perform up to par.

The teams that nail the motivation conundrum will have an easier path to success than their competition. And what’s not to like about that?

Here are nine tips to help you make sure your remote team members are switched on, motivated, and firing on all cylinders.

1 – Create an Effective Onboarding Process for Remote Employees

Onboarding is a vital stage of an employee’s life cycle. It’s so important to start a working relationship off right – otherwise this relationship may be doomed from the start.

If your business is moving from office-based to remote, or you’re running a hybrid workplace with a mix of in-office and remote employees, consider how you need to adjust the onboarding process for a remote worker.

There are likely certain tools you’ll need to get them up to speed on, some policies that may apply just for remote workers, and some things that you would not have considered, as they come naturally to new employees in the office.

Think about things like:

If you try and shoehorn remote workers into your regular onboarding workflow, they’re just going to end up feeling deprived and left out.

2- Encourage Your Team to Take Regular Vacations

Optimal vacation time will improve your team’s happiness and morale. Contrary to what some people believe, taking frequent breaks from work can improve an employee’s productivity and job satisfaction. 

A common issue with remote workers is not taking enough time off.

Working remotely offers people more time for themselves and a better work/life balance, so they often feel like there’s less need for a vacation.

However, remote workers need time to be able to switch off and get away as much as any other team member. Businesses should not just provide, but encourage each team member to take time off on a regular basis, to avoid cases of burnout due to overwork.

Set up a clear leave policy that outlines how much time off is allowed, and also that employees are encouraged to take their vacation time.

Using Flamingo as your remote team’s leave management system makes it easy to ensure that team members get the rest they need to stay motivated and productive. The request and approval process is as easy as it can be, and you can view reports on each employee to make sure no one goes too long without a break.

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3- Provide the Right Tools for your Remote Team 

A remote team needs a number of tools to perform at their best.

These remote tools range from:

You don’t want team members stuck with ineffective software and hardware that jams up their focus and hurts productivity. Tech issues lead to frustration and hurt motivation. 

It’s a no-brainer for teams to provide software tools, such as Zoom, Slack or Trello, to facilitate remote working. However, a lot of the time, businesses don’t consider whether they should also pay for hardware and infrastructure.

Remote working is hard without a decent PC or internet connection. And while some people have this at home, a large number don’t. It’s within the best interests of the business to ensure each employee has all the tech they need to be productive.

How this is managed is up to each business to decide for themselves. You may provide the equipment directly to workers, or offer a yearly tech spend for employees to be able to buy any tech or software they need.

Learn More: the best Remote Work Tools for your remote business.

4- Communicate Regularly

We tend to not realize just how much communication goes on during the work day. From chats around the watercooler or break room, to stopping by someone’s office or cubicle for a quick word, it’s quite easy to stay connected with everyone.

Remote work lets us cut out the most inefficient and unnecessary communication. However, remote workplaces can easily take it too far and develop issues where colleagues don’t communicate enough.

Remote teams need to make a conscious effort to communicate, to avoid problems like this. Make use of a direct messaging platform like Slack or Discord for updates or check-ins between other team members, and ensure there’s a way for people to connect via voice call or video conferencing where necessary.

As a direct manager, schedule one on one meetings with your team as well, to keep them in the loop and make them feel like they’re not being left out.

5- Provide Clarity on Your Employee’s Career Path

The easiest way for someone to lose motivation at work is to make them feel like they’re in a dead-end job.

Most people want to learn, grow, and move up the ladder – and get the higher paycheck that comes along with it.

But outside of simply the chance to earn more, professional development makes people more engaged, and better at their job.

And while the opportunity for people to move up may be there, employees don’t know that if it’s not communicated to them.

Let team members know where their career path within the business can lead. It does wonders for your team’s motivation when they know their hard work could potentially lead somewhere – somewhere other than just more hard work for no reward.

6- Give Regular Feedback and Recognition

All your employees work hard. They invest their time and energy to do a great job for you. 

However, when people work hard and don’t hear anything back, it’s common to feel like our work is not being appreciated.

This is a particularly large problem with remote staff, as you need to be proactive in giving feedback, with fewer opportunities to communicate face to face.

It’s important to give each employee feedback on a regular basis. If they’re doing a good job, let them know. If there’s something they need to improve on, say so. Letting employees know where they stand does wonders for motivation, so a simple “thanks” or “good job” here and there may go a long way.

7- Set Up Opportunities for In-Person Meetups

If people can meet up in person, they’re naturally going to grow into a closer, more tight-knit team.

Regular meetups, like a weekly dinner or happy hour, can make your team feel much closer, and help everyone work together better.

It will help break down the isolation that most remote workers feel at some time in their jobs.

This may be difficult to do if your remote team is spread across different countries. However, you may be able to set up annual or bi-annual team retreats, to get a chance for team members to see each other and hang out in person.

This obviously takes some cost to put together, but it can have a big payoff in terms of team morale and motivation.

8- Give Your Remote Employees Space

Lack of communication is an issue, but so is over-communication.

With the distance of a remote work environment, it’s easy for managers end up micromanaging their staff.

Remote managers can often be overbearing, checking in constantly out of fear that nothing’s getting done.

A lot of businesses also use software to track employees’ workstations to make sure their team is actually working during the day.

While it’s understandable to have concerns when first giving your staff the freedom to work remotely, but realize how much it saps someone’s motivation when you don’t trust them.

Trust can be a risk, but it’s a necessary one if you want to get the best out of people.

Instead of stressing whether your remote workers are constantly working throughout the day, set up key performance indicators (KPIs) to act as a real measure of productivity.

As long as people hit their KPIs, it doesn’t matter if they work 8 hours a day or 2. The same amount of work gets done, and employees are likely to be happier for the freedom they were given to work on their own schedule.

9- Empower Employees to Make Decisions

Last but not least, empower remote employees to make decisions where appropriate.

In the office, it’s easy to pop into the office real quick to clarify something.

In a remote work environment, however, this is tiring for all parties involved, and results in big delays to your team’s workflow.

It also halts any momentum employees have during the day, which causes damage to their motivation in time as well.

While there may be some big decisions that still need to be cleared, let employees know what they can go ahead and decide on their own.

Not only will it boost productivity and efficiency, you’ll make employees feel empowered and more motivated to reach their performance goals.

Further Reading: How to Create a Positive Employee Experience for Remote Workers

Summing Up: How to Motivate Your Remote Workforce

A company’s workforce is their foundation. If that workforce is unmotivated and not engaged, the company is built on a foundation of quicksand.

It’s vital that any business – but particularly a business with remote employees – puts a focus on employee motivation.

Make a conscious effort to communicate (without micromanaging), provide feedback and positive reinforcement, and bring a social element to your remote business.

Also, make sure your remote staff have the tools they need, in terms of hardware, software and anything else, to be comfortable and productive working from home.

Finally, don’t let your team go too long without taking a break. Provide ample paid time off for employees, and check in with Flamingo‘s leave reports to make sure everyone’s getting a break to refresh and recharge every now and then.

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