Keeping a team engaged that you can be hundreds or thousands of miles away is tricky. When you cant physically stand in the same room as a coworker, it can be difficult to communicate and build relationships in the same way. We spoke to 6 industry experts who work with or manage remote teams to give you some ideas on how to keep remote teams stay motivated.
Marty Newkirk - Product Manager - Car Next Door
At Car Next Door, we continue to try a lot of different things in order to ensure our remote team is happy, healthy and productive. It is still a work in progress, however, there are three things that we currently try to do in order to keep our remote team engaged, communication, engagement and accountability.
Communication. Transparency with our mission, and strategy to achieve that mission, are the most important things in getting the whole team on board with what we are trying to do. This means not just having a clear mission, but communicating why it is important to your team, and ensuring they are equally as passionate about it.
Engagement. Once a clear mission and strategy is identified, the next thing to do is to engage with your team in planning out the projects and tasks required to achieve that mission. It's important that the remote team is brought into that process, either in person a few times a year, or very effectively online.
Accountability. Lastly, once the planning has taken place, the next challenge is keeping everything on track until the next planning cycle. This requires effective task management processes and tools. We use Asana in order to give broad clarity as to what our big goals are for the current period, and also to track what we should be working on now, today. As part of this we have regular accountability meetings to make sure we are all staying on track with our goals.
Nikki Thomas - Career Success Coach
As office space becomes more of a luxury, more and more companies are working remotely. I work with businesses all over the world and find the most important thing is to invest in is good quality equipment.
If the systems are substandard you encourage people not to use the equipment and instead try to do as much as they can via email. This is when the system starts to break.
By using good quality video conferencing you encourage people to get back on the phone / video more and even though you are working in different places you are able to still get that connection. A lot more can be sorted out in a quick 15 min video call than 2 days of back and forth emailing.
Gregory Golinski - Head of Digital Marketing - YourParkingSpace
To keep remote teams engaged, we try to include play in our work.
Every Friday, we vote for the team member who obtained the greatest achievement or came up with an idea that made a big difference. The winner gets to wear a Japanese bandana, like the one you see in The Karate Kid. He/she is the Samurai of the team for a day!
Remote employees vote via Skype, and they also get to wear the bandana when they win. It's really fun, we laugh a lot and it's a great way to get together.
David Lee - Managing director - CPD Online College
We work with a number of people remotely for both short and long term goals. It is a difficult situation at times as you cannot use traditional methods to motivate. We find the best thing to do is to continue to build relationships with the individual through email, video conferencing and other means so that they feel part of the organisation. This in turn helps them to develop ownership and become part of the corporate culture.
Ensuring that the the remote worker has clear lines of communication and a specific person to report to reduces the risk of mixed messages and we also try to keep the individual as busy as possible. A lot of the time it is hard to estimate the length of time tasks will take so we set varied deadlines to keep remote workers on their toes and ensure their workload is engaging.
Alexander Porter - Head of Copy - Search It Local
As an agency Head of Copy I work with remote teams on a daily basis.
But with the benefits that remote teams bring comes the greatest challenge - how do you keep remote workers engaged and motivated?
Most teams will use traditional tactics to foster relationships. Things like weekly video meetings, KPIs, and and on-boarding training programs.
But we prefer to go the opposite route. Rather than create a process where remote workers are brought into the system to encourage optimal performance, we provide them with a higher level of autonomy and the freedom to create their own system.
As long as the end goal is shared, we worry less about the journey.
Our remote workers are given responsibilities and the tools to shape their own path towards the goals set out. For example, in my role I require a set number of articles to come through our remote teams. While our in-house system divides this into a set number of articles per day, this is not the black and white rule for our remote workers.
If they choose to change the submission order to suit their schedule, I encourage this behaviour. As long as the final target is hit at week's end, why force a square peg into a round hole.
Instead of placing them in the company box that works for our in-house team, we appreciate and celebrate the fact they're working remotely.
We don't want them to feel like a cog in the machine. By assigning responsibility and letting remote employees set out their own systems, each individual feels valued.
We believe it is this feeling, more than any training or video meeting, that will drive results.
Instead of fighting against the distance and trying to minimise it, or pretend it doesn't exist through technology, we encourage a sense of self-motivation and have found this improves efficiency and streamlines processes in a way that constant meetings and catch ups does not.
Anastasia Iliou - Senior Content Manager - Medicare Plan Finder
Remote and flexible working produces healthier work/life balances and allows your employees to feel more trusted which keeps them engaged. Being able to work wherever and whenever you want means that your manager trusts that you are going to work at least a productive 40 hours per week. Remote employees can change up their work environment as much as they want, from their home office or a local coffee shop instead of sitting at the same desk day after day which boosts productivity. Working from home also allows your remote employees to enjoy life more and feel less stifled in your personal life by your professional life which keeps remote workers motivated.
My best advice for managing remote employees and keeping them in the loop and always part of the team is to have an excellent communication system intact. All your employees, regardless of whether they are remote or not, should always communicate in the same way. Issues start to arise when remote employees are treated differently from in-office employees. Everyone needs to be on the same page (sometimes literally) for effective communication. That means you should have one program (be it Slack, Google Hangouts, or something else) that you use effectively.
The best tip I have for remote workers is to have a closed-door office space. This is a way to block out noise both for yourself and for anyone on the other end of the phone during a meeting. Having a closed-door space with a desk and a comfortable chair will almost always increase production. You'll also want to invest in a comfortable pair of noise-canceling headphones so that anything from outside traffic to barking dogs or screaming kids will not go through on any conference calls.
With the stress and time constraints of commutes taken away, it can suddenly feel like there are more hours in the day! The U.S. Census reported that the average American commute time was just over 25 minutes, which means you're looking at anywhere from five to six hours per week that Americans spend driving to and from work. Saving those hours means more time for working out, cooking, cleaning, quality family time, or even working more hours. With the current state of technology, there is almost no need for most people to report to a traditional office. All you need is a strong Wi-Fi connection and an updated computer.