Remote work has taken the world by storm, whether we like it or not. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it forced organizations to find alternatives for employees working in the traditional in-person office environment. Enter in remote work; many workplaces implemented work from home procedures to quickly adapt to the changing times.
While remote work holds many benefits (think flexible work schedules and casual office wear), it had many underlying challenges. Setting up the logistics was one of the first obstacles facing the transition, from ensuring team members had the proper equipment to learning new technology to stay connected. Next, more abstract challenges such as blurred boundaries between work-life balance, team collaboration, and decreased engagement and productivity became apparent. Little did we know, all these challenges contribute to a larger problem: motivation within remote teams.
In a Harvard Business Review study, remote employees who had no say in their work environment were the least motivated, versus those who chose to work remotely. The most motivated employees were those who decided to work in an office. While remote work may be associated with low motivation compared to when we operated back in the office, there are ways to combat this. The answer? Emotional intelligence. Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the leadership superpower today’s managers need to boost productivity and employee engagement.
Emotional Intelligence Motivates Your Remote Team
EI is the ability to recognize, understand and manage your emotions. Once you name your emotions, you can tame them; this can help support your everyday actions and overall mindset, from managing stress to having empathy for others.
Motivation can be simple as a mathematical formula. When people feel connected to their team, appreciated for their efforts, and fulfilled in their job, it improves how they feel and perform at work. In order to stay motivated, it is crucial to master these three key areas. While it may be challenging to incorporate these critical areas while working as a remote team, we have compiled a list of activities that can boost team motivation even though physically apart!
1. Use Technology for Collaboration
While collaboration may no longer occur in the conference room, it’s time to stop reminiscing about the old times and begin envisioning how to recreate the same camaraderie. In a remote team, collaboration starts with a working wifi connection; we have many online tools available to us to kickstart teamwork and innovation.
Picture this – you have a strategic planning session over Zoom this week. Add some flair into the meeting by incorporating interactivity. Use the Zoom Whiteboard feature or Google Jamboard to mimic writing out ideas on the whiteboard, just like how you used to in the office. Instead of having ten participants on the call throughout the whole meeting, use breakout rooms to allow collaboration among smaller units, then come together again as a large team to discuss the new ideas.
Many leaders can leverage the tricks technology brings and start to see that there are far more options to online engagement. It can be as simple as voting anonymously in a poll to sharing thoughts and opinions through chat. Finding and utilizing new web-conferencing tools will keep your meetings engaged and collaborative.
One of the perks of remote work is the minimal commute required. This may open the door for further collaboration; perhaps a team member is interested in planning social events but never made it to the prior committee meetings, as they always needed to leave early to beat the traffic. Now, they can join the discussion with a calendar invite in a few clicks. Keep this in mind and open up more collaboration opportunities; this can motivate your team as they try something new, work with different groups, and may even find a new interest or passion!
2. Be Flexible Towards Needs
We mentioned that one of the challenges of remote work is blurred boundaries between work and personal life. Now that the office space has moved to your team’s personal home, everything connected to your personal life is also invited into the office space. Employers need to consider these conditions, whether that be caring for children or having a limited office space. Everyone’s office space looks different and is no longer as uniform as before. Have discussions with your team members to see how you, as a leader, can assist them in adjusting to their remote work environment.
In Leading Effective Virtual Meetings, we discuss how empathy and flexibility can go a long way. Whether it’s accommodating longer breaks so that a team member can have time to make lunch for their children or purchasing an office chair so that the team member has an ergonomic workspace, there are many ways that leaders can support their employees. By tending to these different needs, leaders are investing in their greatest asset – their team. In return, team members will feel valued and more motivated to excel in their roles.
3. Remember Your Core Values
An aspect of the office environment that many workers miss is the in-person interaction. With remote work, employees are now no longer able to see their teams in person. If this is left unaccounted for, this can decrease team engagement. To remind employees that they’re not alone, leaders need to take the first step and continue cultivating their workplace culture remotely.
Because your team is now remote, this does not mean you have to eliminate the watercooler talk that used to take place in the office. At the start of your meeting, you can ask your team members how their weekend went or their plans for the day. Even a simple question, such as “How are you feeling today?” can speak volumes; it shows that you genuinely care for your employees and want to strengthen your team relationship.
Think back to your company’s core values – these are the guiding principles behind your organization. Are they reflected in your online work environment? If not, what can you do to implement them into your remote workspace? For example, if your organization values continuous learning and development, make sure that your employees know this and are dedicating time for learning in their schedule. To instill this into your team culture, why not host a monthly company-wide virtual show and tell? At the end of the month, you can host a dedicated meeting where your team members each take turns demonstrating what they learned. Alternatively, you can have 1-2 team members share what they learned at the start of every meeting.
When transitioning to online work, we may have been too busy adapting to the change in our work environment that we dismissed our corporate values and vision. Remind your team members of the vision, purpose and core values behind the organization; it’s likely the reason why they joined the team in the first place! By reminding your employees of your shared mission and instilling it into your corporate culture, your team will be more motivated to achieve your common goal.
4. Feedback: Listen & Offer
Providing regular feedback helps to cultivate a culture of transparency and growth. It is easy to hide behind the screen in a remote work environment and sweep your problems under the rug. As a leader, you need to minimize this by informing your team members that you’re readily available to listen and will support them if they are struggling.
You may no longer have the ability to walk around your office and assess the room, but you can make it a routine to check in with your team. Set time for face-to-face communication when conducting check-ins, so you’re able to take note of their body language. Be intentional and set time for regular check-ins. Whether it be a monthly one-on-one meeting or weekly team meeting, a leaders’ feedback can be highly motivational to their team members; it shows that the manager acknowledges their employee’s hard work. A small gesture, such as telling your team member you appreciate them can go a long way. Feedback also allows employees to ask questions about their performance and pinpoint challenges and areas for development.
However, feedback should go both ways; leaders need to be aware of their strengths and areas of improvement. When checking-in with team members, managers should also ask for an evaluation of their leadership performance. For instance, a leader could solicit feedback from their team by simply asking, “What am I doing too much of? What am I not doing enough of? What am I doing just right?” Feedback will help the leader recognize what their team members need and can even identify areas they never thought of before! Leaders need to share that they’re open to receiving input, especially as they steer and pivot through these times of uncertainty. Make it known to your team that navigating through the storm is a collective effort!
The Checklist to Motivate Your Remote Team
In summary, here’s a checklist of activities that can help you motivate your remote team with emotional intelligence. These activities have been grouped under the three critical areas of Connection, Appreciation, and Fulfilment in order to boost motivation. Keep this checklist bookmarked!
Leverage technology to find new ways to collaborate.
Make time for connection – ask your team members how they are feeling.
Show your team members that you care – send a message to a team member stating how you appreciate them.
Ask your team members if there’s anything they need from you.
Provide feedback to your team members – set up a one-on-one meeting with a team member or a weekly team meeting.
Ask for feedback from your team member on what is working well and what needs improvement.
Looking for more ways to keep your remote team motivated? Check out our blog, How to Engage Your Virtual Team Using Emotional Intelligence, for tips on how you can keep your remote team engaged. You can also sign up for our Reconnect and Revive Your Team with EI package to help your team stay emotionally connected while physically apart.