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How to manage and motivate your team when working from home

Team losing enthusiasm for remote working? Time for some motivational tips and sound advice to keep you, and your team, on the right track.

At Quadmark, working remotely has been a big part of our culture for the last five years. We are big advocates for giving our people flexibility to work from home, but we also enjoy meeting face to face or heading into the office every once in a while. We already knew a lot about managing remote teams, but the pandemic has definitely put our experience to the test. 

Despite the many benefits of working from home, research has shown that it is less motivating than working in an office. One study found a 20% decrease in employee motivation when working remotely. As a manager, you have the responsibility of motivating, supporting and strengthening relationships in your team, without the opportunity for face-to-face interaction. All while making sure you look after yourself and your needs. 

So what can you do as a people manager to keep team morale and productivity high, even when working from home?

Know your team

Get to know your team. Not just as a whole, but as individuals. It’s more important than ever to take the time to learn about their individual circumstances and challenges and to work to accommodate these. Offer flexible working hours or move meetings to help those juggling work and home schooling. Even if you can’t do anything to alleviate their challenges, being understanding of their situation will help. It can be hard to notice off behavior or to know how to tackle it when you do, and team members might feel embarrassed about admitting that they have an issue or need more support. Be open about your own struggles as well.

Virtual photo booth for team conference call

Respect your one-on-ones

Never assume that a team member will be okay if you skip a weekly one-on-one. Research reports that 65% of employees have experienced a drop in meaningful conversations with their managers since working from home. This weekly meeting is an opportunity for members of your team to relay any challenges—personal or work-related—that could lead to unfulfilled briefs, missed deadlines and extra stress later down the line. It’s also an important chance for you to build on your personal relationship, so make time for casual chit-chat and tell them about yourself as well.

Connect via chat

Working remotely can be isolating. But it doesn’t have to be. Have a chat system to send quick and regular messages to team members, just as your team would chat to the people next to them in the office. Make specific chats for people who want to ask work related questions, those who want to share funny and lighthearted content, or even chats to celebrate milestones like birthdays and engagements. 

At Quadmark, we’ve recently launched a communities initiative to bring people with shared experiences together and created several interest-based chats for like-minded individuals. So far we have chats dedicated to pets, plants, rugby and more.

Simone's catA snap from our pets chat: Kendo the cat

No meeting zones

Having emphasized the importance of keeping connected, it’s also worth noting the importance of downtime from calls. As a manager, the majority of your day can be spent hopping from video call to video call, with barely enough time for a loo break in between. Being in front of the camera all the time can be stressful and draining. 

Likewise, when you’re watching someone else, much more energy is expended understanding and interpreting cues like facial expressions, tone and pitch of voice and body language, compared with talking face-to-face. At Quadmark, we’ve adopted universal “No meeting Wednesdays” to ensure that people have time to focus on important tasks and to take a break.

Take proper breaks

Lunch al desko isn’t a proper break. It can be tempting to sit at your desk and browse the internet during lunch, especially if you’re working from your kitchen. Encourage your team to take proper breaks—and set an example by taking them yourself! 

81% of employees who take a daily lunch break reported having a strong desire to be an active member in their company.  Apart from attending to our basic needs, such as getting food and water, breaks are beneficial to our work and have been shown to vastly improve focus. Take time away from your screen by going for a walk or run, spending some time in the garden or a nearby park, or doing some yoga. The benefits are clear—one study found that walking increased 81% of participants' creativity.

At Quadmark, we have created a buddy system where team members in different locations go on a walk together. We’ve also initiated Walk for Wellbeing Wednesdays, a friendly reminder to get outside for some fresh air and vitamin D. 

Meadow of daffodils on a sunny daySpring has sprung! A Wellbeing Wednesday walk in the park

Set proper boundaries

When working from home, the boundaries between work and home become increasingly blurry. It can be tempting to check emails or respond to chat messages late into the evening, on weekends, or even when you’re on leave. Data from the European Working Conditions Survey shows that higher levels of cardiovascular conditions and musculoskeletal pain are reported by those who work more outside regular working hours. Reintroduce the commute by exercising before or after work. Get out of the house and on your bike or do some stretches in your living room—whatever it is that you enjoy doing to unwind, make space and time for it.

Look after yourself 

The key to managing a team successfully, whether you’re working remotely or not, is to make sure you put your needs first. If your days are rammed with meetings, with no time to take a breather, or you’re overwhelmed with deadlines and don’t have enough support, then you’re not going to be able to be there for your team. 

If your mental health is suffering because of work, then it’s essential that you reach out for help. And, if you or a team member are ill, don’t encourage them to continue working just because they’re at home. Regardless of where you are, rest is needed to recuperate. Take holiday, even if you’re not able to go anywhere, shut your laptop, turn off your work phone and leave your virtual office behind. Respect this, and set a good example to your team.

Screenshot of colleagues toasting with wine on a conference callThere's always time for a glass of wine on a Friday afternoon 

Rely on your peers 

Close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50% and people with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to engage fully in their work. As a manager, having other managers with whom you can exchange advice, solve problems and tackle team challenges is so important. 

One thing that works for us is managerial trios who co-manage a team and divide the workload between them. Each trio has regular catch up calls to check up on each other and to chat about their teams. This arrangement has helped managers to spot patterns across different teams and find company-wide solutions. 

Working remotely has its highs and lows, and motivating a remote team can be tough at times. But remember that the time and effort spent building your team up is worth it. 

Check out our whitepaper for more creative ideas on how to embrace the distributed workforce and get in touch with Quadmark to see how we can help you implement them.

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