8 Ways to Keep Morale High Among Remote Team Members
Do you work with remote colleagues? If not, you most likely will in the next couple of years.
Since 2005, remote workers have grown by 173% in the US. According to PwC, 64% of millennials will enjoy the opportunity to work remotely. I am sure this number will increase exponentially in the years to come.
To say remote work is on the rise is an understatement. Some of the most successful tech companies in recent times have become 100% remote (Github, Hotjar, Invision, Harvest, etc.). We at Taskworld are also increasingly hiring remote employees.
Remote work won’t just be an important part of the future of work, it is the future of work.
But it’s not all fun and games, poolside chairs, peppy cafes, and pajamas. Remote work has its own share of challenges. In this post, we’ll talk about one of the most talked-about challenges of remote work – team morale.
Team morale is influenced by a series of everyday behaviors, pat on the back, team lunches, water cooler conversations, after-work drinks. Remote employees often miss out on them. So what can we do to keep the morale high among remote team members?
1. Set expectations and hire smart
Unless it’s a 100% distributed team, if you’re a remote employee, you will always be a bit distant from the action compared to the people in the office. You won’t be able to understand the pulse of the office as effectively. You also won’t get updated as frequently. You will miss out on office banter, and table-side conversations.
Like everything else in life, remote work comes with its advantages and limitations. You gain flexibility, save time on commuting, are more productive but also miss out on face to face interactions and some influence among on-site employees. That’s why it’s important to set these expectations straight while hiring remote employees and look for candidates that would excel in such conditions. Hire people that are self-motivated, enjoy the benefits of remote work and aren’t bogged down by its drawbacks,
2. Don’t try too hard
Many managers try to overcompensate for the physical distance between them and their remote employees. As discussed in the previous point, it’s good to acknowledge the limitations of remote work. However, it’s equally important to understand that some of them can’t be solved, and trying to do so will only create more problems.
For example, while managing remote employees, some managers jump on the opportunity to call even if a message/email would suffice. They would create special trainings to boost engagement among remote employees. It simply creates more work for both managers and remote workers.
3. Organize a physical meetup
No amount of gaming evenings, conference coffee sessions and culture trainings can replace the power of physical meetups. Perhaps the most powerful thing you can do to boost morale among your remote team members is to invite them on-site so they can hang out with their teammates.
I realized its importance at Taskworld. Our sales and success teams are distributed all over the world. In our first year of doing sales, we engaged heavily with our remote workers but never got an opportunity to meet them in person. When we finally organized our first all-hands meet-up in our Bangkok office, the difference was astonishing. In those 2 days, we bonded more than 12 months before that. Everyone left the meet-up, highly motivated and energized..
Organizing a physical meetup definitely is a substantial investment, especially in your company’s early stages. However, its results are totally worth it. Nothing else can compare to it.
4. Respect private time
Just because someone’s working remotely and has a flexible schedule, doesn’t mean they will be on-call whenever required. It’s important to talk to your remote employees, chart out a schedule that will work for both of you, and then adhere to it. This means resisting the temptation to call if you know your remote teammate is outside of their work hours.
Of course, every team has urgent tasks and emergencies where communication can’t wait. Such cases should be treated as exceptions and not norms. When remote employees feel that their private time is respected, they’ll be more motivated during office hours, and willing to go the extra mile.
5. It’s the little things that matter
I was talking to a friend about the challenges of remote work. She has been a remote consultant for almost a decade and worked with multiple teams. I asked her about some tips to keep morale high for remote workers.
“It’s the little things that matter.”, she said. “For example, when your on-site team does well and goes out for drinks, they share pics with you. They’ll ask you how you are when you’re sick. They naturally feel the urge to involve you in the team’s success and find comfort in sharing their feelings when times are rough.”
Of course, this doesn’t happen overnight. It requires a culture of camaraderie that breaks through the office walls. This takes time and requires a strong company culture as a foundation. As a manager, reinforce your company’s values at every opportunity and soon your team will follow suit.
6. Have routine 1-on-1 meetings
While overcompensating for physical distance (point 2) is a problem, so is the other extreme of not communicating at all. You should have regular 1-on-1 with all your remote direct reports. Weekly 1-1s are fairly common among tech companies. The frequency can depend on the nature of your business and your team’s preferences.
1-1s are great for alignment, uncovering existing issues and sharing feedback. Like every other meeting, great 1-1s have a defined agenda but they also have room to talk about ad-hoc issues. Lighthouse has a great article on having effective 1-on-1 meetings.
7. Record important meetings
FOMO (Fear of missing out) is real among remote employees, especially when they are in a different timezone than the on-site team. They might not be able to join all the important meetings. It greatly helps to record meetings and then share the links with the remote team members.
We started doing this at Taskworld with our monthly town hall meeting. It was streamed live so that everyone can join, and a recording was shared with all the employees later. It turned out to be a great idea as including our remote employees greatly boosted the overall engagement of our town-halls.
It’s not just about the contents of the meeting. Small gestures like these, make your remote employees feel valued and keep the morale high.
8. Get a virtual workspace
Remote work has become widespread due to the emergence of new technologies in the last two decades such as web conferencing, team messaging, file sharing, etc. Although these tools are great for solving specific problems of remote work, it’s critical for all your teammates (onsite and remote) to have a virtual workspace.
A virtual workspace allows every member of your team to manage their projects, communication, and files in one secure place. Even if you’re remote, you have real-time access to tasks, projects and major updates across the organization. This facilitates seamless collaboration and boosts engagement from remote employees.