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How to manage and motivate your remote team | The ultimate guide

Working remotely has been a big part of Quadmark’s culture since 2014. Having a distributed workforce has meant we can maintain operational agility and meet the needs of our global clients. We advocate giving our people flexibility to work from home, but also enjoy meeting face to face or heading into the office every once in a while.

Despite the 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, with limited opportunity for frequent 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? Check out our ultimate guide for managing and motivating a remote workforce.

Start with a great virtual onboarding experience

First impressions are important. Introduce the company culture and create clear virtual onboarding for newcomers that blends eLearning, webinars, and other online remote team building activities. Encourage team members with quizzes and activities. Create a sense of friendly competition with a leaderboard and celebrate the wins with prizes.

Virtual photo booth for team conference call

Kit out your remote team with a killer home working space

Enable your people to create a motivating and comfortable home working space where they can do their best work.

Inspire them with creative remote work kits that don’t include just a laptop and a uniform. Give them something more to work with, such as monitors for the extra screen space, extended keyboards to have more reach, ergonomic chairs and laptop stands to avoid bad posture, and maybe even a backdrop for those client video meetings. Ensure your staff feel welcome and motivated to start work with useful branded merchandise and enticing gifts. Send them a desk plant to name and live in their home office! This beautiful coffee plant is Boba 👇

A coffee plant named 'Boba' sits on a window ledge next to a Lego recreation of Boba Fett's Mandalorian helmet from the Star Wars franchise

Get to know your team - as a whole, and 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 life. Even if you can’t do anything to alleviate their challenges, being understanding of their situation will help.

Set up regular one-on-ones to make the space for these valuable conversations.

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.

Cultivate and nurture your community

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. These channels serve as support and encouragement lines to establish a steady work-life balance — with a sense of togetherness.

At Quadmark, we have created communities to bring people with shared experiences together and created several interest-based chats for like-minded individuals. We have a rich quilt of communities with chats dedicated to pets, plants, rugby, Wordle, and more.

Prioritize wellbeing to maximize your team’s potential

The key to managing a team successfully, whether you’re working remotely or not, is to make sure you consider your own needs. 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.

Rely on your peers for extra support

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

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.

Take real 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. Getting 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.

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 a holiday, shut your laptop, turn off your work phone and leave your virtual office behind. Respect this, and set a good example to your team.

Set 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 outside regular working hours.

Reintroduce the commute by exercising before or after work. Whatever it is that you enjoy doing to unwind and re-energize, make space and time for it.

Schedule in down time

Providing a stress-free environment is important for you and your employees and will gain you lots of extra points. Having once a month, or weekly celebrations and catch ups with colleagues to let them unwind gives everyone a chance to enjoy a shared experience. Recreate ‘water cooler moments’ by implementing informal video calls with just one rule: no work-related talk. It will lift your team’s spirits and help them get to know each other better.

Screenshot of colleagues toasting with wine on a conference call

Don’t forget face-to-face

Remote working has its perks, but socializing in person is invaluable. Meeting in-person allows for casual encounters and memorable occasions outside of the usual working structures or business etiquette. Off-site meetings can also revitalize teammates as they can engage outside of their professional roles.

No time to lose

The coronavirus pandemic has demanded the reconfiguration of workplace dynamics. In this “new normal”, we must consider how to gain higher productivity through remote working, lower costs through powerful web tools, and attract and retain talent through improved onboarding processes. With more and more people agreeing that remote working is the way forward, it’s time to embrace these new changes.

You can’t change the circumstances of the world, but you can adapt and evolve. Without action, teams will lose the motivation, skills, and mindset to keep moving forward. This is a time to enable your people on a local or global scale. With a general opinion of 86% of workers wanting to continue working from home, embracing a fully remote workforce seems to be the best place to start.

Looking for more creative ideas on how to manage and motivate remote workers? Download our guide to embracing a distributed workforce.

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