Remote work is on the rise, and we all know it. The United States has witnessed a surge of 173% in remote workers over the past 15 years. And with COVID-19 forcing social distancing, remote work has become the new normal. Even after the pandemic subsides, organizations will continue to rely on distributed teams.
For employees, remote work comes with a myriad of perks. They don’t have to incur travel costs. They can have flexible schedules. And they can work from anywhere.
But there are a few pitfalls as well. Remote employees face isolation, and they often struggle with motivation, morale, and productivity.
In this article, we’ll discuss a few things employers and managers can do to keep their remote team’s morale high.
It Begins with Hiring Right
Before the pandemic, only 7% of US employees worked remotely. Though the number was higher among European countries (10-23%), it wasn’t significant. Now, a whopping 60% of US employees are willing to quit their job for one that allows them to work from home.
However, that doesn’t mean they’re used to working in isolation, away from an enthralling office environment. Remote work surely has perks, but it comes with drawbacks, too.
Unless you’re a completely distributed team, your remote employees will feel disconnected. They’ll be distant from the office action, and they won’t understand the pulse of the office effectively. It may be challenging for these employees to keep a proper track of time.
As an employer, find employees who understand what it takes to work remotely. Set these expectations straight and pick people who would excel in such an environment. Look for self-motivated people who’re willing to give-up office perks and enjoy the benefits of remote work.
Don’t Try Too Hard
Many employers tend to go overboard with compensating their remote employees. Although it’s essential to acknowledge the limitations of remote work, it’s critical to understand that some of them are irresolvable. And trying too hard to solve them will only give birth to more problems.
So, don’t treat your remote employees as helpless children. Avoid jumping on an opportunity to call if a message or email would do. Let them take responsibility for their actions.
Focus on Effective Communication
As discussed, don’t give your remote employees special treatment. But you need to make sure your employees don’t feel completely disconnected.
In an office, there’s frequent in-person communication. If employees face any challenges, they can go to their colleagues or seniors promptly. But remote employees don’t have such resources. Therefore, it’s essential to establish effective communication.
Check on your remote employees frequently. Dropping in a text a couple of times a day asking how they’re doing can be a good start. But when in doubt, hop on a call. Written communication can be fast and efficient, but it lacks the expression of verbal interaction.
Also, pay special attention to employee wellness. It’s common for managers to treat remote employees as output machines, mainly because they’re not in front of them. Make sure to check in on them and see how they’re doing emotionally.
Host Games and Activities
Team spirit plays a vital role in boosting employee morale. Without team spirit, you won’t be able to realize and unleash your team’s full potential. Therefore, conduct team building activities regularly. Some of the best ideas include:
- Virtual happy hours where employees can connect and interact with each other
- Team building events like online games and Q&A sessions
- Remote talent shows to allow employees to show their hidden talents
Organize Physical Meetups
No matter how many team-building activities you organize, nothing can replace the sense of physical, face-to-face meetups. Perhaps physical meetings are the most impactful thing you can do to boost remote employee morale. So, invite your remote employees on-site and let them hang out with their teammates.
The importance of physical meetup is substantial if your company is in its early stages. By organizing an annual or half-yearly meet up with all your remote workers, you can energize them and improve their morale.
This is what happens in institutionalized corporates. When a new employee comes on board, the manager buzzes around them like a flying bee. He tries to stay on top of what the new hire is doing – every hour of the day. This micromanagement instinct can hurt your remote employees’ morale.
Instead, trust their abilities to get the work done. This will help them become more productive, 70% more, to be exact. An easy way to empower your remote employees is by letting them create their own schedules. Set realistic targets for them and let them clock-in and sign-off as they want.
You can further enhance your employees’ morale by letting them make crucial decisions. Conduct virtual meetings and ask them for their honest opinion. Let them make decisions that impact the whole organization.
Recognize and Appreciate
Humans love being appreciated. Research confirms it. Appreciation rouses the feeling of self-worth, which can catalyze motivation and productivity.
Here are some actionable ways to recognize and reward your remote employees.
- Celebrate small wins frequently
- Create rewards and incentives to motivate your employees
- Send thank-you notes
- Give shoutouts at meetings
In addition to appreciation, it’s equally important to point out mistakes. In the process of trusting your employees and avoiding micromanagement, you might overlook their mistakes.
To avoid this, communicate what you clearly expect from your employees. And if they make errors, hold them accountable for their actions. This awakens a sense of responsibility.
Respect your Employees’ Private Time
Most importantly, treat your remote employees like regular employees. Just because they’re working from home and have flexible schedules doesn’t mean you’ll call them whenever you want. Devise a schedule that works well for both of you, and adhere to it.
That said, of course, there can be urgencies that can’t wait. But don’t let it become the norm. When remote workers feel you’re respecting their private time, they’ll be more excited and motivated to work during office hours.
With remote work becoming prevalent, high remote employee morale is essential for your company’s positive culture. And it’s the small things that matter the most.
For instance, when your in-house team sits together for lunch, they can share pics with the remote employees. When there’s a celebration in the company, get them on the video call and make them a part of the party.
In all, treat them as if they’re working from the office.