Working remotely provides added benefits to employers and employees alike. This includes lower overhead costs, increased flexibility, and expanded levels of freedom. Nevertheless, there are some major challenges when leading remote workers.
How do leaders close the gap between the perception and the reality of team connectedness?
Below, find out the top methods for effectively motivating and managing your remote team by strengthening the bonds that make people feel valued.
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The Need For A Connected Remote Team
In the survey, “Deskless Not Voiceless: Communication Works,” 4,000 remote workers shared feeling a significant disconnect between themselves and their company leaders. Communication, perceived value to the organization, and receptiveness to new ideas ranked as the top three issues occurring among remote teams.
For example, only 3% of remote employees said they feel connected to C-suite executives. When it comes to team ideation, 90% of managers believe their employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas with them, while in reality, only 46% do. Additionally, more than half of people on remote teams said they feel voiceless, while 83% of managers expressed that they value their employees’ insights.
Understand Connectivity vs. Community
While many tools like Slack and Zoom connect remote workers, an app is only as good as the quality of connection among its team members. For this reason, it is up to leaders to create a sense of community within the group. In fact, research shows community-building increases both engagement rates and ROI.
Before in-person meetings, it’s common for leaders to engage informally with team members by asking questions such as “How are your kids?” or “What are your plans for the weekend?” When working remotely, oftentimes these important bonding moments get overlooked. However, jumping “straight to business” can negatively impact community-building by making work feel too sterile and rigid.
Instead, try starting or ending meetings by asking check-in questions, commending achievements or providing support. For example, use this time to vote for an employee of the week or spend 10 minutes expressing gratitude for one another. Exercises that foster a sense of community among remote workers strengthen the team. As a result, deeper connection is built within the group.
Maintain Face-to-Face Meetings
It’s tempting to bypass video conference calls when working from home. Turning off your camera and communicating voice-only can be easier for leaders guiding remote workers. But, showing up on video might be more important than you think.
When surveying their customers, video conference provider, Lifesize®, found “89% of remote workers said video helps them feel more connected to their colleagues.” Additionally, the company found 63% of people miss their co-workers’ faces when they can’t join via video. Most astoundingly, 98% said video conferencing helped with relationship-building.
Face-to-face meetings establish trust and feelings of connectedness among team members. Leadership strategy expert Carol Kinsey Goman explains in an article for Forbes: “We get most of the message (and all of the emotional nuance behind the words) from vocal tone, pacing, facial expressions, and other nonverbal cues. And we rely on immediate feedback—the instantaneous responses of others—to help us gauge how well our ideas are being accepted.”
Celebrate Mile Markers
As mentioned above, it’s important to maintain team spirit when leading remote workers. A large part of team building is celebrating the excitement and joy around fulfilling achievements together. Despite not being in an office setting, it’s still important for leaders to commemorate their team’s accomplishments.
For example, some great ideas for celebrating mile markers at a distance are:
- Developing a “show and tell” that commends individual employees
- Thanking people in one-on-one meetings
- Promoting team members
- Giving out bonuses
- Awarding gift cards
- Sending a personal “thank you” note or gift to their home
- Providing time off if a project is completed early
- Adding paid vacation days to a person’s benefits package
Establish Communication Boundaries
“Drop-in” communication can decrease a person’s focus and result in lower productivity levels. This is why setting a rhythm for communication is more important than ever when managing remote workers. Think about it this way: In an office setting, you wouldn’t consider barging into someone’s office without knocking.
Instead, establish with each individual an ideal time for questions and check-ins. To figure out these times, ask people when they typically take lunch or short daily breaks. Scheduling meetings before or after breaks decreases interruptions during peak productivity hours. Furthermore, honoring communication boundaries demonstrates respect for team members’ time.
Other practices of healthy communication boundaries include:
- Have a Virtual Morning Roundup (15 minutes)
- Identify the key objective of each employees’ day.
- Address any blocks on items they are waiting on.
- Determine what’s next after they achieve their goal.
- Finish by sharing 2-3 updates on progress.
- Follow by reaching out to individual employees for a lengthier conversation, if needed.
- Schedule a Longer Weekly Leadership Meeting (1 Hour)
- Meet once a week with the leadership team.
- Work through the “What’s Working, What’s Broken, What’s Missing” practice.
- Analyze what’s running smoothly versus where the team can make improvements.
- Communicate or delegate determined strategies or tasks with the rest of the team.
- Meet for an End-of-Day Round-Up (15 minutes)
- Establish these as needed.
- Ask each member to recall one high and one low of their day.
- Communicate one accomplishment.
- Have the team leader provide an overview of the day.
- End the meeting with a sense of motivation and encouragement.
Know Your Team’s Personality
Working from home still requires teamwork and regular interaction in a social setting (albeit an online one). Admittedly, these bonds can be more difficult to form over the internet. Understanding individual personalities can help increase effective communication among employers and their remote workers.
The main personality traits leaders should be familiar with are introversion and extroversion. In an article for positivepsychology.com, Elaine Houston explains: “In social situations, extrovert and introvert personalities display very different behaviors.” Extroverts show a preference for seeking, engaging in, and enjoying social interactions, whereas introverts tend to be reserved and withdrawn in social settings.”
Various personality traits affect the way people behave and act at work. For this reason, leaders will find that certain team members excel at creating their own structure while others flourish when structure is created for them.
For more insight into a person’s personality, try having remote workers take a:
Personality tests can help leaders understand what motivates each person and what tends to interfere with their productivity and overall work satisfaction.
Find Out What Motivates Them
One of the top ways for ensuring employees and contractors stay motivated is through engaging leadership. Additionally, making sure remote workers feel like they have a stake in the business helps maintain job satisfaction. Because of this, engagement positively affects productivity levels, goal achievement abilities and retention.
It’s important to sit down and find out what motivates individual employees. In Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, author Dan Pink says people responsible for completing complex tasks are primarily motivated by three things:
When determining each person’s motivating factors, ask questions regarding these three areas. Ultimately, the only way of determining what a person wants out of life is to ask them. As a result, leaders who know the needs and wants of their employees can engage more effectively by aligning company goals with desired personal rewards.
Lead Remote Teams by Focusing on Relationships
Working remotely doesn’t mean working in isolation. Without a doubt, leaders responsible for managing remote workers can strengthen their team by concentrating on relationship-building. In doing so, people working from home are likely to feel more of a sense of community within their company.
For more information on effectively guiding and supporting remote teams, check out: