According to research, as many as 36.2 million Americans could be remote workers by 2025. So if your organization is going entirely or partially remote, you've picked a good time to start recruiting.
At least on paper.
As a hiring manager, you've seen the savings. You've heard all the telecommuters talk about how they don't miss the rush-hour traffic. And you know, deep in your gut, that remote work is the way forward for your organization.
Despite your best efforts, however, there's a problem you can't seem to escape from.
Learning how to motivate remote teams is way harder than it looks. But fortunately, we've got your back.
We'll break down the benefits of remote teams before explaining why employee engagement is so essential. Then, we'll give you 10 of our best tips for motivating employees and supporting your remote team.
Sound good? Keep reading.
Here’s Why Businesses Are Increasingly Going Remote
"Remote work" is a phrase that has been gaining momentum in recruiting circles. But when you're struggling to keep morale high in a team, you may be wondering if going fully remote was ever a good idea in the first place.
By our count, there are at least four compelling reasons why companies often do better when they go remote:
1. People Like Working Remotely
You could have the greatest office of all time. You might have a fully stocked fridge, fresh fruit, and all the latest equipment. But when you give people the option of a hybrid or remote work schedule, 87 percent of employees will say, "Sign me up!"
And when you look at the state of work today, you can't really blame them.
In 2019, the average commute was 27.6 minutes. That's almost an hour of time that your staff members are spending in the car either reaching or leaving the office. If your team tends to take public transportation, those commute times can become even longer.
When you factor in the fact that workers will typically spend $44.4 billion on commuting, the financial benefits of remote work on the employee's side become even more palpable.
On a personal level, you've probably enjoyed the benefits of extra sleep and a leisurely, commute-free morning. Your team is no different than you in this regard.
If employee satisfaction is a metric that matters to you, remote work is a perk worth offering.
2. The Savings Are Undeniable
We've mentioned how remote work can help your employees save money. But did you know that remote work can make your business more profitable as well?
It's said that 88% of organizations offering remote work options have saved money on real estate. However, when you expand the timeframe from three months to three years, that number could go up by as much as 92%.
The economy is unpredictable. Digital marketing is as competitive as ever. To give your business a better shot at making the elusive 10-year mark while turning up your margins, you can benefit directly from going remote.
3. Remote Workers Are Extremely Productive
Go back to what we said about employees being able to skip out on the morning commute. It turns out that there's another perk associated with letting people wake up, make coffee, and sit down to work in their pajamas.
Remote workers get more done.
But don't just take our word for it. According to research, remote workers are 47% more productive than their commuting counterparts.
Maybe it's the benefit of taking a leisurely breakfast. Maybe it's the fact that remote workers don't have to spend their first 20 minutes orienting themselves and sorting out their tasks.
Either way, however, the proof is in the pudding. If you want performance, remote teams are hard to beat.
4. You Can Recruit More Talent
According to the US Chamber of Commerce, employers attempted to fill 3.8 million jobs in 2021. However, within the same timeframe, many Americans left the workforce. Today, the American labor force has shrunk by 3 million since February 2020.
For recruiters and HR departments around the country, these numbers are spooky.
If you've got a highly specialized role or if you're an organization that prioritizes culture and fit, you may have a hard time recruiting A-list talent in a small local market.
When your team is remote, however, you can expand your search to a national or global level. You don't have to ask people to relocate. And better yet, you can allow people to move closer to family.
No matter which way you slice it, remote teams can literally and figuratively allow your organization to expand its horizons.
4 Reasons Why Effective Employee Engagement Matters
You may have read all of that and wanted to know just how important employee engagement really is. After all, if you're paying people to work from home, isn't that enough?
As it turns out, the answer to that question is, "Not necessarily." Here's what you need to know about keeping employees engaged:
1. It Helps Keep Employees Sharp
What do software development, marketing, and customer success have in common? They all need staff to be on top of things. When employees are tired or bored, it's easy for people to start making mistakes.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, engaged staff members are less likely to get hurt on the job.
Why? We're not exactly sure. But the reasoning is that engaged workers are often more attentive to workplace safety protocols.
When your team is working remotely, you don't have to worry about anyone getting hit by a bus on the morning commute. But your team still benefits from being at the top of its game. If you want your remote staff to deliver their best work on a consistent basis, you'll want them to be fully engaged.
2. It's More Profitable
If your executive team could flip a switch tomorrow and boost profits by 25%, they'd be reaching for the controls before 11:59. According to Gallup, companies with engaged employees are up to 21% more profitable.
While it may not be a full 25-percent improvement, it is pretty darn close.
The business world is always chasing trends and promoting phrases like "workplace culture" and "employee satisfaction." But these intangibles don't always translate to dollars and cents.
In this case, however, there's a clear relationship between team engagement levels and the company's bottom line. If you want to make more money as an organization, you'll want to make employee engagement a top priority.
3. It Encourages Employee Satisfaction
In 2021, CNBC reported on a shocking fact: 93% of Americans didn't feel like they were pursuing their dream career.
Think back to when you were a kid. Some of your classmates probably wanted to be doctors. Others talked about being teachers, soldiers, or firefighters.
But when you log into Facebook, how many of those people are pursuing the jobs they dreamed of as children?
Now more than ever, people have been talking about a Japanese concept called "ikigai." At its core, ikigai is the combination of what you're good at, what you can get paid well for, and what society needs. When these three features are present, the reasoning goes, people can be satisfied and happy with their lives.
You might not be able to give people the career they've always dreamed of. But you can promote happiness and satisfaction in your workplace by increasing employee engagement levels.
4. It Helps You Retain Talent
Whether you're building a team from scratch or you've been working remotely for a while, there's one aspect of managing remote teams that never seems to change:
It takes work to get new employees up to speed.
You could be hiring the most experienced person in their field. This person could have singlehandedly held down entire departments at other firms. But because companies have their own way of completing tasks, it can take time for new hires to settle into their roles.
And that's not just us talking. By the numbers, it takes three to eight months for a new staff member to reach their maximum productivity level.
We've already established that lack of engagement can lead people to seek other opportunities. And if your team members are handing in their resignations every few months, your team might never achieve peak performance level.
Of course, when you've got quarterly targets to hit and a laundry list of daily tasks to get done, employee engagement-related activities can feel like yet another item being added to your to-do list. Depending on the time of year, it's enough to make a manager shake their fist at the sky and say, "When did employee engagement become my responsibility?"
But before you start advocating a return to the office, there's a key fact that you can't escape:
Employee turnover is expensive as all get out. Meanwhile, happy and engaged employees will typically stay longer. If you can retain more talent, you'll be able to spend less time training new hires and more time taking names and crushing it.
How to Motivate a Team Remotely
Let's face facts.
Even when you've done your best to create an employee-focused workplace, burnout is a real risk for remote teams. And even when people aren't burned out per se, focus and motivation can wax and wane.
We've covered the reasons why remote work can be a fantastic choice for your organization. And we've discussed why employee engagement should be a priority for your leadership team. But keeping employees engaged in a remote workforce takes a certain amount of next-level finesse.
Here are 10 ways that organizations can engage their remote teams without forcing anyone to come to the office:
1. Offer Career Development Opportunities
Let's go back in time for a minute.
You're a new grad. You've got your shiny credentials and a brand-new interview outfit. And you've just landed your first career-building position.
To break into management and become responsible for a remote team today, you probably spent a few years:
- Perfecting your craft
- Going above and beyond to finish projects
- Developing leadership skills
- Getting to know upper management
- Taking on increasing amounts of responsibility
Reflect on all the blood, sweat, and tears it took to land that first promotion. Think about the late nights and overtime hours you put in to make it happen.
How satisfied would you be with your career if you did all of that work and had all your present-day skills but never got promoted? How happy would you be if you were still in the same job that you were working as a new grad?
Most people would be a bit miffed at the lack of career progression. And research shows that 76% of employees are interested in expanding and progressing their careers.
In most organizations, there are only so many management openings available at a time. On top of that, many team members may not be fit for leadership. Even so, however, most of your staff members will be excited to explore fresh opportunities for career advancement.
Have continuing education boot camps. Reimburse tuition costs and help people upskill while gaining new credentials. It'll break up the daily grind while giving employees something more to look forward to.
2. Give Your Team the Right Tools
At first glance, this one might seem like common sense. After all, most organizations aren't asking their tech teams to code with a chisel and stone tablet. But in many cases, using the "wrong" tools for your organization won't be as egregious as using incompatible tools — it'll look like using inefficient tools.
Think about your current bug or ticket reporting process. Sure, a Slack group chat and an Excel sheet might do the trick, but shared inbox software can do the job better.
Chances are that your team is being held back by time-wasting processes and ineffective software solutions even as you're sitting down and reading this article. And when internal procedures are routinely turning 5-minute tasks into 30-minute affairs, it can cause a lot of frustration in what should otherwise be a smooth and uneventful workday.
You've staffed your team with smart people. All of these folks are capable of doing awesome work when they're given the opportunity. And, if you've hired for your remote team, you've got a crew that's capable of working more independently than most.
How much work would a roofing contractor get done without a hammer and some shingles? The same logic applies to your team.
Of course, that doesn't mean that new software solutions won't come with their own difficulties. In addition, you need to balance price and need against features. Going back to the shared inbox example, you may need to spend time iterating and experimenting with success tips like this one as you develop your own best practices.
But from a productivity and engagement standpoint, you won't regret giving your team the resources it needs to be successful.
3. Build a Schedule
Have you ever met someone with a talent for making overachieving look easy? In many cases, the difference between those All-American student-athlete-valedictorians and everyone else isn't brains or having more hours in a day to study and work.
In most cases, it's a schedule.
Look at it this way.
The President of the United States is just one person. And while that individual is essentially working 24/7 to lead the free world, they're routinely tackling matters of national security and domestic policy before the rest of us have even sat down to eat breakfast.
If we were all to sit down and read the president's daily agenda, we would be shocked at how detailed the schedule is. And if nothing else, there's never a dull moment in the president's life.
While your company might not be in the business of dealing with nuclear codes and negotiating with Congress, your team can still take a page from the White House's playbook in your quest for employee engagement:
You can build structure into your remote team's schedule.
Nine times out of ten, chronically bored people have too much time on their hands. When you've got a weekend novel, an evening jog, and a ton of awesome shows to get through, however, the only response you might have to boredom is the words, "I have no idea what that is."
For many remote employees, tasks may be assigned but there might not be a daily routine that these individuals can settle into. By creating a structured schedule full of check-ins, discussions, and monotony-breaking interactions, you can keep employees interested throughout the workday.
4. Steal from Google
Imagine you're a soldier. The enemy tanks are rolling towards your platoon and you're receiving some last-minute instructions from your general.
"We've come this far," your leader begins, "And today could be our last." You see people nodding and leaning in. "But since we're not entirely sure how our battle will fit into the larger strategy at hand, we're not really sure what to do next. Good luck out there!"
On a scale of one to ten, how willing are you to jump out of the trenches and fight? And without any clear instructions on who's going where, how organized do you think your platoon is going to be?
As shocking as this motivational speech would be in a professional setting, it is effectively what happens in many organizations. And once that fuzziness sets in, good luck keeping your remote team focused and motivated for the long haul.
You know who doesn't struggle to gain clarity around its internal goals and visions? Google. Their internal organization has helped make them the largest search engine, email provider, and video site operator in the world.
So let's say your remote team is dealing primarily with customer success. You can use OKRs, or objective key results, to break the company's larger goals into manageable and actionable goals for your team.
For example, you can use OKRs to crank out tangible goals along the lines of:
- Cut customer waiting times by 50%
- Proactively reach out to 20 clients a day
- A/B test feedback and survey emails with the CRM
- Centralize product specs and information
When people know what they're doing and why they're doing it, the vision will singlehandedly prevent the team from getting disengaged all at once.
5. Encourage Socialization
In 2020, NPR made a startling realization:
Three out of every five Americans feel lonely. And to make matters worse, workplaces aren't doing enough to counter it.
On a human level, chronic loneliness can be devastating. Even introverts need a certain amount of social interaction. And on a professional level, lonely people may be more depressed or they may feel too isolated to ask coworkers for help.
When you're working hard to keep your remote team focused and productive, neither of these scenarios is ideal.
Managers who operate in a traditional office setting have certain advantages.
They can take their teams out for lunch. They can introduce staff members to each other. And they can have after-work events.
Remote team managers often don't have any of those options, but you can still find ways to help your remote workers feel like part of the team. You just have to be creative.
So let's say your team is full of gamers and Discord users. Are they all playing Runescape or World of Warcraft? Maybe you can create a guild for your workers.
Has everyone been talking about how much they're looking forward to the next season of a hit Netflix show? A virtual watch party could be exactly what the doctor ordered.
And that's before you start looking at party games, team kick-offs, and virtual icebreakers.
These team-building exercises might seem a bit counterintuitive at first glance. But when employees feel connected to their workplace, engagement and productivity tend to follow. In addition, it's often easier to work with people you like and get along with.
Encouraging employees to socialize could be the productivity piece you've been looking for.
6. Have Regular Check-Ins
Remember what we just said about how managers can't always spot problems right away online? One way that you can avoid being the boss who gets filmed saying things like, "I had no idea your family member died, you were diagnosed with cancer, and your dog was run over last week!" is by booking regular check-ins.
Talk to your employees about how they're feeling. Ask them if their workload is too much or if there's anything they need from you to succeed. Find out if they need to take a mental health day.
When you don't have the luxury of seeing your staff in person every day, you can't always work these things into your casual lunchtime chats. But you can still book these meetings on a daily or weekly basis online.
Of course, all the regular best practices involved with booking remote interviews apply to having online check-ins. Make sure you're in a quiet place where you can focus on both the words your staff member is saying and the ones your staff member is not saying.
By keeping your finger on the pulse of your team and being aware of what's happening in their lives, you can address potential problems before they become full-fledged productivity-tanking disasters.
7. Focus on Wellness
According to research, the average person struggles with their mental health for about 3.4 days each month. When these same folks get into the business of exercising, however, those poor mental health days went down by over 40 percent. And that's before we start talking about all the positive long-term health outcomes associated with regular exercise.
When your team is running remotely, you don't have the luxury of encouraging people to hit the trails or use the in-office gym. But you can put together remote options that allow people to move around more while working.
For instance, did you know that treadmill desks and sit-and-stand workstations can help staff members improve their step counts and posture while continuing to work? Do you have the option of encouraging people to take five-minute exercise breaks?
As much as we wish that our teams could put in a full 40 hours of intense and focused work every month, people are still human. If you want your remote team to perform like the group of rockstars it is, you'll need to emphasize personal health and wellness at every opportunity.
Remember what we just said about the link between wellness and mental health? It turns out that for many people, hitting the gym every day is difficult to do.
Why? Because doing the same routines and workouts is often boring for people who don't eat, sleep, and breathe fitness culture.
In 2021, Penn Medicine was trying out different ideas to get veterans to increase their physical activity levels. What was the final solution?
Gamification. The final experiment was so successful, that these individuals were getting 1,200 extra steps a day. Over the course of a month, that's around 15 extra miles walked.
You can gamify your internal fitness and wellness plan. But gamifying isn't just for encouraging healthy internal habits.
We've talked before about how you can gamify your customer success team by giving people badges and amusing titles. With some snazzy cartoons and a clear set of achievement levels, you can use people's love of video games and fun activities to drive engagement through the roof.
9. Celebrate Your Wins
Have you ever driven past a farmer's field or seen pictures of people harvesting rice in other parts of the world? The sheer size of the land is enough to make you wonder how anyone finds the energy to seed and harvest crops!
When you're bogged down in the day-to-day work of satisfying customers, waiting for instructions, and dealing with upper management, it's easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees. And if that's how you feel during that end-of-quarter time crunch as a team lead, imagine how your direct reports may feel every day.
If we've learned anything from reality TV and American Idol, it's that people love being noticed. One easy way to motivate your remote employees is to let them know when they've been crushing it. Not only does it feel good to be acknowledged — but it can also help people see that their contributions matter.
10. Level up Your Benefits
In a regular week, your employees will likely spend extended amounts of time seated at their computers. When people are being set up in their at-home offices, it's hard to imagine that they're in danger. However, as it turns out, extended periods of sitting can cause long-term health problems like:
- Neck pain
- Poor spinal posture
- Back pain
So what's a supervisor to do? You can create a remote-friendly benefits package.
For example, you can pay for regular yoga classes and gym memberships. Or perhaps you can create a fund that allows people to secure ergonomic furniture on the company's dime.
While everyone loves solid health insurance, giving your remote team these types of benefits can make a huge difference to the physical health of your staff.
Motivate Remote Teams and Get More Done
Becoming a remote organization isn't just about improving your current work situation — it's about positioning your company for the future.
However, when you're working remotely, hiring superstars is only half the battle. You need to know how to motivate remote teams as well. Having the right software solutions can be a key component of your success.
Our shared inbox software comes with everything you need to collaborate internally while improving response times and simplifying day-to-day operations. We're so confident in our product that we'll let you try it out for free. Get your trial today!