As current events throw everything out of balance in the global workforce, managers must prioritize motivation in the workplace for virtual teams. Why? Because motivation affects productivity. And simply put, a happy employee is a productive employee. When excited about their jobs, workers will perform to the best of their abilities. Furthermore, remote work has been shown to improve productivity among employees. In fact, a 2020 survey from Prodoscore found that working from home demonstrated a 47% increase in worker productivity.
Yet most people currently making up the global remote workforce are not doing so out of choice. For one thing, the current state of remote work is not the norm. Virtual teams are currently working from home during a global pandemic. Moreover, many remote workers are, in fact, working from home under duress. Still, others are counting the days when they can return to the office and work alongside their colleagues as they crave face-to-face interaction.
Therefore, a focus on increasing motivation in the workplace for virtual teams is crucial for employers right now. Since one of the primary sources of employee on-the-job happiness is their relationship with their managers, employers must understand the challenges that virtual teams are currently facing.
Motivation Goal: Trusting Your Virtual Team
Effective managers inspire trust. And teams who trust their managers do their best and most productive work. Thus, a plan and an established workflow for remote workers is key to building trust.
Remote workers are at a disadvantage. Without daily face-to-face interactions with managers and colleagues, fears compound. Worries about projects falling through the cracks and missed deadlines become commonplace. With no defined centralized office location to turn to, collaboration becomes ineffective. In turn, teams can’t develop trust amongst each other. Therefore, setting goals and benchmarks become essential.
Preparation Inspires Trust
On the positive side, the COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged businesses to create a remote work plan. This plan serves as a guide if a permanent transition to remote work is necessary. Managers who already have a set of workflows for remote teams are more likely to have effective and highly motivated virtual teams.
Conversely, few other facets erode a virtual team’s trust in managerial competency than someone who appears clueless in their role. This fosters doubt and complacency and lowers team morale—aspects that a manager can’t have.
To counteract this negative perception, managers must leverage the many tools available for distributed businesses. Then, they must incorporate them into the daily workflow. Hopefully, this will alleviate any questions or doubts about an individual’s roles and responsibilities. Through the tools listed below, managers can reduce the likelihood of trust issues that affect performance.
Actionable Item: Adopt the use of cloud-based project management software and communication tools such as:
- Microsoft Teams
Doing so not only ensures transparency but also encourages and increases collaboration.
No One Likes A Micromanager
Remember that trust with your virtual team is a two-way street. Virtual teams need to trust that their manager is competent and can help them when challenges arise. But managers must also have faith in their staff. Transitioning to remote work is difficult for managers who may not have previous experience working with virtual teams or who do not consider that working from home is “real work.”
Unfortunately, this drives some managers to overcompensate the lack of physical presence through micromanagement Even worse, some employers demand that their staff installs monitoring programs on their personal laptops to ensure they are not wasting company time. These are actions that affect staff negatively, making them feel undervalued and undermining their confidence and autonomy.
Actionable Item: Be clear with your assignments or deliverables, set your expectations, and let go. Trust that your virtual teams are going to get things done. Checking in regularly or setting an open-door policy is enough to help build trust and accountability. Remember, virtual teams exist because the hiring manager determined these individuals could handle the responsibility.
Motivation Goal: Maintaining Communication with Virtual Teams
The globalization of virtual teams mandates strong communication between manager and team. Inundating the group with endless Zoom meetings is counterproductive. Such an approach can lead to:
- Communication fatigue
- Reduced productivity
Communication is one of the most powerful motivational techniques. It strengthens relationships and makes workers feel trusted and respected. So, how can employers and remote managers find the perfect balance?
Respect Time Zones and Be Flexible with Work Hours
With a distributed workforce, scheduling conflicts inevitably arise in all forms of communication. As a result, understanding time zones and eliminating the need to have an immediate response to non-urgent questions is essential. Expecting staff to answer work emails and messages during non-traditional work hours is unreasonable. This can lead to resentment.
Also, managers must be aware of schedules affected by COVID-19. School and family life may have changed in addition to online work responsibilities and roles. Allowing flexibility during work hours can reduce the anxiety that can inadvertently diminish motivation and productivity.
Communicating with virtual teams is essential for motivation in the workplace. Directly addressing concerns or clearing up miscommunication can provide clarity and direction. Additionally, managers can boost morale and self-esteem by:
- Extending positive news about the company or a project
- Giving frequent encouragement
- Providing feedback
Incorporating these practices into a normal workday or week ultimately leads to increased job satisfaction.
Actionable Item: Rotate your video chat schedule to engage your entire team. Also, if time differences cause conflict, consider having two video or conference calls. Record both sessions and enable the teams to watch the one they missed. This way, everyone’s on the same page—even from across the world.
Motivation Goal: Keeping Virtual Teams Engaged
According to a Gallup study, 21% of remote workers mentioned that loneliness is their biggest struggle. Unfortunately, remote work isolation can create havoc on staff members’ emotional well-being. Left unchecked, it can damage employee engagement and performance.
So, how can managers motivate their virtual teams to remain engaged? Small steps can make a sizable difference:
- Making formal introductions to colleagues
- Encouraging workers to take on more leadership roles
- Asking teams how you can help
Engaged employees are more enthusiastic and productive, and workplaces with a high number of engaged workers have 41% lower absenteeism and 21% higher profitability.
Make the Virtual Environment Interesting
Not surprisingly, a ho-hum virtual work existence demotivates employees. But adding a bit of fun to the workplace can help virtual teams remain engaged. Ultimately, this increases their job satisfaction. A positive side-effect of the COVID-19 pandemic is that many activities and events specifically tailored for remote workers have emerged. Examples include:
With so many activities that encourage team building and engagement, team managers can experiment and find what works best for their remote team.
Reach Out and Say Hello
The art of conversation is another motivator for remote teams. Because working from home has eliminated the random water-cooler chat, remote teammates may have difficulty getting to know one another without management intervention. Yet making friends at work helps employees love their job. One-on-one conversation between managers and staff provides support that can help to reduce the likelihood of a team member feeling isolated from the rest of the group.
Actionable Item: Not everything has to be strictly work-related. Encourage the team to interact with each other with these ideas:
- Set up a group chat
- Engage in a virtual lunch hour
- Host a virtual move night with Kast, Netflix Party, or Kosmi
Fostering camaraderie between virtual teams isn’t always easy. But with the right amount of effort and consistency, it can reap excellent rewards.
Motivation in the workplace for virtual teams is an essential component for running a successful business. An employee’s level of motivation directly results from the type of interactions he or she has with management. Thus, establishing and maintaining trust, communication, and engagement is vital.
Effectively managing remote staff is a responsibility that employers must take seriously to improve employee engagement. By doing so, the company can reach goals and benchmarks. Sustaining employee motivation is more efficient than rekindling it once it’s gone. As a result, a proactive approach to motivation is a surefire way to keep your team and operations running smoothly.
Join Virtual Vocations Today!
Joining Virtual Vocations grants you access to our hand-picked telecommuting jobs database. Learn how our service works, browse job leads by location and career category, or search hundreds of hand-screened telecommuting jobs to find legitimate work-at-home job leads that match your skills and background. Register for free or contact us for more information on our service guarantee.
Check out our menu of Career Services provided by our team of certified professionals, including resume and career coaching services for remote jobseekers. Resume assessments and writing, LinkedIn profile enhancement, and cover letter writing are available to maximize the success of your remote job applications. Discounts on all services available to subscription members, become one now.
Images via Canva