Managers have always been reluctant to manage remote teams because they are just used to managing by face time.
However, over the past few weeks many organizations have shifted to remote workforce arrangement because of the ongoing global crisis. According to one US medical expert, things may not turn to normal until the end of next year. Up till then, most of the companies will have to continue their operations remotely but doing so comes with a bunch of challenges that managers need to proactively deal with.
One such challenge for manager is to keep his remote team happy, productive, and engaged. While working in office setting, it’s not much of a challenge to boost employee’s morale and make them feel connected because they get their fair share of their water cooler chats and office buzz to keep them connected but now that workers are working from home, they might feel isolated, detached, and over-worked. This may also lead to lower productivity and lower performance which can serve as a great cost for the company. Hence, it’s of paramount importance for managers to take steps to boost the morale of their remote workforce, keep them on same page and create a positive work environment.
Here are some tactics on how you can keep your remote team feel connected, valued and engaged.
✔Keep Everyone in the Loop
While working with a remote team, one of the most crucial matter is to keep the communication lines open and accessible. You need to make sure that all communication channels are in place and everyone feels connected because without it, virtual team will fail to be effective due to decreased engagement and morale. In remote communication, one of the most convenient way to stay connected with your team is through chats and texts but you should not over rely on use of texts as it can be quite exasperating for your team to respond to.
Other than that, communication through video or voice calls is also a great idea as it helps you feel more in touch with your team and you can avoid the issues of non-synchronous communication and misunderstanding that happens on text chat. Video calls are especially effective because your team get to see body language and facial expression of each other and feel more connected. You should have daily meetings of about 15-20 minutes where each team member is given some time to run through their to-do’s list for the day and tasks completed on previous day. This will help you have a finger on the pulse of your team. You should also arrange regular video meetings to check up on your team and discuss news and fact related to the pandemic. Having open communication within your remote team will nurture positive relationship, boost morale and keep the team bonded while helping you to remain on top of everything.
✔Create a Shared Virtual Workspace
In order to keep your team on the same page and ensure collaboration, it’s important to create a shared virtual workspace. Thankfully, there are so many online tools available to you on internet that can help you create a single space where all of your team members can interact and collaborate on common tasks. These tools help you set up a virtual office where your team can have private & group chat, have remote meetings, do brainstorming, share documents, discuss timelines and collaborate on work with each other quite seamlessly. With this level of interaction and engagement, it’s very likely that your team will not miss their cubicles and they will stay engaged.
“Next to Excellence is the Appreciation of it” – William Thackeray.
One best way to boost your team’s morale and keep them high-spirited is to regularly appreciate and recognize their efforts. It’s the perfect pill for happiness when one’s hard work is recognized. When working remotely, employees apprehend that they may get out of their manger’s sight and their efforts may get unnoticed but put their heart at ease by being a manager who keep an eye on everyone’s effort, publicly recognize their work and tells them how well they are contributing toward the success of the company.
✔Schedule for Some Personal Chatter
Another important way to boost your team morale is to maintain a personal relationship with them. All of your talks do not have to be all about work, instead check up on your team on how they are doing and talk on common non-work interests. Share visiting hours with them when you are free to be approached not as a boss but as a person to talk with. To do best, don’t wait for them to come to you, rather, you yourself proactively approaches them. At office one’s need for belonging and personal touch is well met because one is psychically connected with colleagues and boss but while working remotely your worker may be missing that one-to-one chats with you. So, it’s very important to have those one-on-one chats where you discuss non work-related interest.
✔Foster Personal Growth & Learning
While working in physical office setting, employees get to network with people and get to find new opportunities for growth, but they may not be able scratch this itch while working in isolation. They might feel that they are lacking the opportunities for learning and their life is becoming a constant. This of course will lower their morale and engagement with work. In such situation, it’s important to make sure that your employee need for personal growth and learning is met by creating different learning opportunities for them. This can be done through online training sessions, webinars or letting them get certification or join some online courses. This will show them that the company cares about their personal growth and consider them valuable enough to invest in them.
✔Be Flexible and Considerate
Working from home can be very challenging for employees especially those who have families. At home there are kids, household chores and many other distractions that can interrupt the smooth flow of work. Similarly, some of your workers might be suffering from coronavirus inflicted illness or one of their family members might be affected by the pandemic. Some might be working in a different time zone than yours. In all these contextual factors, it’s your job to be considerate and flexible enough with any changes related to the working arrangement. It will give a great boost to their morale and commitment when they see you acknowledging their circumstances and be open toward accommodating them.
✔Ensure Work-Life Balance
It’s is normally considered that ‘Work From Home’ is quite fun as there is no stress of commute and one get to spend more time at home but you should be aware that the thin line between work and life get even more blurred when a person is working from home and that might negatively affect his/her morale and productivity .
Most of the times, there is no clear schedule making it difficult to shut down and unplug from one’s work ultimately leading to burnout. If your team is working 12-hours long, they would probably wear themselves out pretty soon. So, make sure that you try to maintain some schedule and ensure that your team stick to it. Your team will feel more motivated and committed to work if you show interest in their well-being and respect their boundaries.
✔Encourage and Appreciate Team Feedback
For many companies, remote work might be something quite new and they still might be trying to figure out the dynamics of remote working. In such scenarios, new problems and new issues may arise which needs to be well communicated. Your team should be welcomed for any kind of feedback related to how can things be managed in a better way at your virtual workspace. Listening to their feedback will make them feel valued and involved. They can give you good ideas on how efficiency of processes can be increased. If there are facing any problem, there should be some feedback channel available to them where they can share their issues and you can take timely decisions on them. Making sure their opinion is heard and their issues are resolved will give a much-needed boost to their morale.
✔Let the Fun Continue
As we all know that no man is an island and human beings do badly when isolated from others. It’s in our nature to seek social contact and build relationships. In physical setting, it’s easier to have that as everything is face to face, employees gather around snooker table, have a chit chat over kettle to learn about each other. But now that office work has shifted online, employees are missing the social element of their work life and this can poorly affect their morale.
Being a team lead or a manager, you need to understand this and make sure that they continue to get their share of fun. If work can continue remotely, so can social activities. It might not be same as face to face social activities, but something is better than nothing. Employees should be given opportunities to have fun by letting them have online group video calls for having chit chat about fun stuff, creating separate channel for them where they can socialize, allowing them to play online games together (e.g. on Kahoot), letting them watch an event together, having them participate in prized quizzes, host their birthday celebrations and so much more. The key is to keep them mentally stimulated so that their morale is high and team bonding is maintained.
During these uncertain and difficult times, we need to be stronger and closer than usual. Keeping your team in the loop, appreciating their efforts, having a work-life-balance, etc. are among the few ways of boosting your remote team’s morale. Follow this but also keep your eyes and ears open toward any other need of your team that might affect their morale and act accordingly.