Organizational Culture

3 Simple Ways to Motivate a Remote Workforce

HR insights and tips with Jeff Havens

Hello, and welcome to another installment of HR Intervention! By now you are probably a master of working remotely, which quite possibly means you have figured out how to work just enough to convince everyone else that you’re working nine hours a day when in reality you’re lucky to get four decent hours in since everyone is at home and your kids don’t respect your routine and they need help with their schoolwork anyway and how is that your job in the first place and when will 2021 get here?!?!

As that absurdly long sentence illustrates, working remotely brings with it a special collection of challenges. One of the more pressing of those challenges is motivating a workforce that you rarely (or possibly never) get to see face-to-face.

Team building is always more difficult from a distance than it is when everyone’s together in the same building – and when everyone you work with are suddenly confronted with an unexpected and massively disruptive challenge, keeping everyone happy and motivated is even harder.

Fortunately, there are several simple things you can do to help improve the morale of your newly-remote workforce. Or your “we’ve always worked from home” workforce, while we’re at it.

More Frequent Phone Calls

There is no perfect replacement for the connection we can achieve by spending time with others in the same physical space – but of the imperfect replacements we’ve come up with, the good old-fashioned phone call is still a great option.

So make more of them to more people than you used to, even if you don’t have anything pressing to say. Scheduling a five minute video call just to say hello might seem like an intrusion on someone’s time, but doing the same with a phone call might not. Plus, you’ll be able to have more in-depth conversations than you can by text or email or group chat. Which reminds me….

Limit Attendees in Meetings

By now you are certainly aware that in a 10-person (or 25-person or 513-person) video conference call, a small handful do all the talking and everyone else sits there and listens. Or pretends to listen while doing other work. Or doesn’t even pretend to listen and puts everything on mute so they can get credit for attending.

Large meetings like these are fine for company updates where you don’t want or expect anyone to offer any input. But if you do want people to participate, you’ll do far better by having a small number of people in the meeting.

It’s no different than in-person gatherings, really – if there are three of us at a restaurant, we’ll all talk to each other; but if we’re sitting at a table of 16, we’ll quickly break down into smaller groups.

By limiting your meetings to the people who actually need to be there and whose opinions or insights you are eager to receive, you’ll guarantee yourself a higher level of engagement across the board.

Send People Gifts!

You’ll notice that the overarching theme with all three of these suggestions is to replicate as much as possible the energy and team building potential that comes from working in close proximity to others.

One of those benefits are the donuts in the breakroom, congratulatory birthday cakes, and other small celebrations that add color and vitality to our professional lives. So keep those traditions alive!

Just because somebody’s 10-year workiversary is happening in isolation doesn’t mean you can’t send them a cake and a card and thank them for giving you a decade of their lives. It might not be as fun for you if you can’t be there to appreciate all the donuts you won’t be eating, but it should still be meaningful and motivating for the people you’re sending these things to.

And on that note, I shall leave you until next time. But not before mentioning that my BizLibrary anniversary is coming up soon. I’m not sure which one exactly, and I’m not sure when, but I’m pretty sure it’s close, and it’s an important one. Please send any gifts you might be inclined to give me to jeff@jeffhavens.com.

For more ideas to help engage your remote workforce, check out the tips in this infographic:

Jeff Havens is a speaker, author, and professional development expert who tackles leadership, generational, and professional development issues with an exceptional blend of content and entertainment. He is a contributing writer to Fast Company, Entrepreneur, BusinessWeek, The Wall Street Journal; and has been featured on CNBC and Fox Business. For more information, or to bring Jeff to your next meeting, call 309-306-1781, email info@jeffhavens.com, or visit Jeffhavens.com.

Speaker, Author and Professional Development Expert