After you’ve set up your remote team members with the necessary project management tools, video conferencing tools, and standard operating procedures, you need to tackle another hurdle: Motivating them.
In a virtual work setting, leaders have little control over their team’s work routines beyond checking off tasks in a list – and remote workers often face challenges like distractions, loneliness, and maintaining a work-life balance when they extend shift hours or fail to take breaks.
Here are five ways to maximize productivity for remote workers.
1. Schedule time for remote workers to experiment and solve problems
Giving employees a chance to experiment with their solutions for issues that matter to the company gives them a sense of play and purpose. Play brings joy to mundane tasks, while purpose increases focus and prevents boredom.
[ Also read Remote work: 3 cultural benefits – and potential risks. ]
Most team leaders ignore these innate drivers and instead prioritize strict guidelines to ensure the team delivers consistent results. While this is an understandable approach, strict guidelines and procedures kill motivation: Instead of thinking creatively, workers focus on doing what’s required – the bare minimum.
Team leaders can get the best of both worlds by scheduling time for following strict guidelines and experimenting. For example, you can dedicate a day to problem-solving and experimenting and also schedule some time to reflect on the experiments and results.
Start by identifying the challenges that matter to begin experimenting. These could be about tackling productivity, management, or customer issues. Once you choose a challenge, discuss possible solutions with your team, and then experiment with the proposed solutions in the following weeks.
Solving problems will make your team’s work engaging rather than a chase to complete tasks.
2. Leverage productivity tools and analytics
Productivity tools save time by automating tedious tasks like scheduling, tracking projects, and coordinating with remote workers. They can also provide insights enabling team leaders to make prompt, informed decisions. Importantly, these tools can provide metrics for measuring productivity.
When using productivity tools to increase efficiency and morale, start by pinpointing the top performers in your team.
Look into your team’s workflows and tasks to see who achieved the best outcomes. You could also take screenshots and videos of various work activities to analyze and identify work patterns that yield the best results. You may also discuss with the top performers to understand what drives them.
The monitoring and analysis process could span weeks as you dive into your productivity tools’ data and employee feedback.
The goal is to pinpoint what conditions fuel high performance to coach the rest of the team into the culture while also fine-tuning the conditions for top performers to outdo themselves. You’ll then experiment with different ideas and set new benchmarks to improve everyone’s productivity.
Your work does not end after creating new benchmarks. Continue monitoring your team’s productivity trend over months and years to understand organizational-wide behaviors and adjust as needed.
3. Empower, trust, and verify
Trusting remote workers is about ensuring no unforeseen bumps; empowering employees is about supporting them and removing barriers.
Establish trust by ensuring the team knows its goals, feels secure and supported in the workplace, is connected to the rest of the organization, and knows that leadership will respect their time and well-being.
While trusting remote workers, leaders should also verify the team’s work. But to achieve peak performance and productivity, shift away from tracking time and tasks and measure results and outcomes instead. Also, make everyone aware of the expected results and outcomes, not just individual tasks.
When it comes to empowering remote workers, a study found that remote workers desire their supervisors to be involved, engaged, and actively aware of operations without being overly intrusive.
The study’s findings suggest that remote team leaders should work toward integrating themselves into workflows and problem-solving instead of adding layers of approvals and checklists. So while delegating is key, be present to support and prevent employees from making mistakes. Additionally, be flexible while always paying attention to warning signs.
4. Establish clear objectives and results
Help everyone know who does what and when, along with the expected results. Team members should understand why what they do is important so that they’ll feel a sense of progress once they accomplish it. You can also celebrate achievements to motivate everyone to reach the team’s goals.
The OKR (objectives and key results) goal-setting framework is a good place to start. For a small team, have three high-level objectives and their respective key results. Large organizations can have five OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) at most.
The OKRs should align with the business goals and initiatives. Hold a brainstorming meeting with your team to determine results that could impact business the most in the coming quarter. The desired results will guide your objectives.
The objectives should not be a to-do list but rather a list of outcomes directly related to the business priorities. For example, instead of having an objective like "launch a drip campaign to increase engagement," the objective should be "increase company revenue to X amount in the next quarter."
Your work continues beyond setting the OKRs and ensuring that everyone understands them. Conduct regular check-ins throughout the business quarter to track progress and make necessary adjustments.
5. Have regular check-ins that go beyond responsibilities
Bi-weekly team meetings allow you to check what everyone is working on, how the business is doing, and how you’re progressing with your objectives and key results. But beyond that, take the time to check in on your remote workers’ well-being beyond their work responsibilities.
In a remote work environment, your team members’ home lives are intertwined with their work lives. So ensure they are doing well, professionally and personally. Schedule some time to check in on each remote worker weekly. While always respecting their privacy, ask how they feel and how their personal life is going.
In addition to team meetings, encourage individual check-ins between team members. They can spend that time solving work issues they may not be comfortable discussing with management.
As we navigate the changing work landscape, it’s important to stay adaptable and find new ways to support your team, regardless of location. With the right strategies and open-mindedness, you can create a more engaged and motivated team that delivers consistent results while fostering a positive work culture.