31Mar, 2020

How to keep your team motivated while working remotely  

The coronavirus scare, which has forced businesses and ordinary citizens to limit interaction and maintain social distance. This means that managers now have to do everything they otherwise did in the office, at home. This is hardly easy. Many corporates today are grappling with a new normal — of working from home for a sustained period of time. While India’s growing millennial population has advocated the idea of work-life balance and remote engagement for years together, for many others, work-from-home is a largely untested idea. 

Most companies have to be prepared technologically and the second aspect is of being psychologically prepared. As things stand now, the preparation is not complete at both ends. But companies are learning through trial and error. Companies like Google, Microsoft, and Twitter. Hitachi, Apple, Amazon. Chevron, Salesforce, Spotify. From the UK to the US, Japan to South Korea in the last few days rolled out mandatory work-from-home policies amid the spread of Covid-19 and now Indians have joined the tribe! Let’s face it, we’re facing an economic slump and an overall slowdown.  

The overall working sentiment is low and now more than ever, there is a need to keep employees engaged and motivated. The looming challenge is how? How do we keep our employees engaged while they work from home? Because of space or even time constraints and people finding it difficult to work from home, the overall working sentiment is low. Also given the rise of GenX and millennials in the workforce, it’s difficult to keep them engaged, especially when working remotely. However, a work from the home situation does demand special preparation and as leaders, we need to be better equipped to handle remotely working employees and keep them motivated and foster high morale. 


How to effectively motivate remote employees and keep them engaged and productive: 



This is the most basic expectation of the employee when working remotely. While there are some that have experienced work from home culture. There are also some who will be working from home for the first time. Which means figuring out how to stay on task in a new environment that may not lend itself to productivity. Though there are ways to deliver results and avoid going crazy. As a team leader, offer ideas to set up appropriate work stations and offer Flexi hours, as some may even be burdened with managing household chores. Express understanding and converse with your team often. Mind the tonality, you need to be understanding as well as assertive. Take frequent updates on how the team is settling and check if they need any help with getting on track. As managers and leaders, your roles just evolved a little bit more. Showing consideration and improving overall team morale is something you will need to do in a situation like this. 



Most of your team members spend their days in close proximity, making it easier to communicate easily and effortlessly. But that’s all out of the window with remote work, and communication breakdown is even more likely if your workplace isn’t used to remote working. As managers, this could be your first time managing people virtually, or your company might not have a ready-to-go suite of tools for remote workers, like the chat app Slack or video conferencing app Zoom. Even for those accustomed to it, working from home can feel unstructured in current times. Well Coronavirus or not, the key to working from home is clear communication. Telling the team exactly what is expected of them. Have clear-set expectations and ensure you take ownership for communications on a daily or weekly basis. Offer to do a quick 10-minute call to kick off the day Or wrap up the day. This keeps expectations aligned and you can ensure business goes on as usual.



Just because you can lounge around in your pyjamas doesn’t mean you actually should. Take the time to tell your teams to stick to the daily routine, it will help them stay productive. Encourage your teams to treat it like everyday routine as far as possible. Not having a well-equipped home office space when people begin remote working can cause a temporary decrease in productivity. Advice your team to set some boundaries, they serve as an important signal to those who live with you that you’re ‘at work’. “For example – ‘when the door is closed, pretend I’m not there,’” can be one of the many boundaries they can set. Especially those who live in bigger or joint families. This technique offers some respite and helps with the productivity challenge also. 



Even with these tools, the enforced and abrupt nature of the transition from an office to a home environment could leave some struggling to get accustomed to the change. The coronavirus is pushing everyone into this kind of extreme working from home,” says Nicholas Bloom, a professor of economics at Stanford University in California who’s given TED Talks about remote work. With coronavirus, it’s not clear how long people will be at home, which poses additional problems. Parents, for example, will find working harder if children are at home because schools are closed, meaning close communication with managers – who will need to be understanding – is vital. Prolonged isolation could also potentially impact morale and productivity. As team leaders and managers, you should try to normalize things as much as possible. Try to display support and camaraderie in unconventional ways, like virtual pizza parties or remote happy hours where people dial in and share a conversation on Slack or Skype. It’s a good way to bond – it’s kind of weird, but everyone’s feeling weird, so it’s fun BECAUSE “we’re all in this together”.  It adds a little bit of lightness to the otherwise difficult environment. 



Do not stop Celebrating birthdays, give public praise for goals reached and projects completed. Especially in times like these using engagement platforms are a great way to connect and give people a feeling that they are not alone and everyone is still working towards the common company goals. It also fosters a healthy work spirit and people don’t completely slide so into the work from the home slump. If you’re a manager, it’s on you to provide clear communication and it’s also crucial to keep up morale. It’s easy to be stressed out or depressed these days. But the role of a good manager is to acknowledge that there’s stress and NOT ADD TO IT. Your job is to be a cheerleader for the team. Don’t treat work from home as a free pass to ask for constant updates, under the pretext of keeping high spirits. You might just earn the resentment of your team and co-workers.   

Times are tough, but so are we! Let’s not treat this as a setback. Let’s take this time to pause, reset and reboot and come back stronger. Let’s go out of our way to appreciate people as it is not easy working from home. Use Buzzz to appreciate genuine efforts and employees that express company values, even when working from home! Let’s fight, survive and come out as a stronger team! Click here for a demo with Buzzz 

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