Paying attention to your remote worker’s morale will pay off. Statistics on the Great Resignation show that the pressure of the changing work environment, burnout, and mental health issues associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have led to a new love-hate relation between remote work and the Great Resignation wave of employees.
As little as 10 years ago, the idea of working remotely was unimaginable. Now, remote work and telecommuting skyrocketed as employers recognize the remarkable impact a work-from-home environment can have on a company’s finances, productivity, and employee’s well-being.
In addition, productivity has been proven to increase when employees are telecommuting. According to a survey conducted by Korn/Ferry International, 78% of managers reported that their remote employees were more productive or as productive as their in-person counterparts.
However, as productivity, efficiency, and innovation rise in a remote environment, work culture is often neglected. A recent survey of remote workers found that the top disadvantages of remote work are the lack of personal interactions and feelings of isolation. If you don’t do the work to sustain a happy virtual workplace, you risk losing top talent and decimating the morale of your employees.
Image: Remoters, 2019
In this article, we’ve laid out seven proven and effective ways to boost morale while working remotely. It’s not all fun and games—but some of it is! Create a virtual atmosphere that employees enjoy and you’ll be rewarded with increased productivity, business success, and a super-satisfied team.
1. Communicate like never before
In an office setting, you can rely on frequent in-person communication and take for granted the value of being able to lean over and ask a coworker clarifying questions. As you move to a remote work environment, adjust your communication methods to account for the lack of impromptu communication.
- Check-in frequently: Many companies have adopted a daily standup meeting as a way to stay aligned. These morning meetings should only last 15 minutes, allow people to share their tasks, and ask for assistance if needed. The check-ins help you stay in touch with the needs of your team and work to meet them.
- Set clear expectations: As a manager, speak out your expectations of employee output and work on an ongoing basis. If you lay out clearly what you expect, you are more likely to get the result you want. This also prevents someone from having to duplicate efforts and redo work.
- Prioritize employee wellness: It is important for employees to feel that you’re recognizing them as human beings, not just output machines. Assume that your team is negatively impacted by the stress of global events and the isolation of virtual work. Carve out time to personally check on your team and see how they are doing emotionally. if you notice that someone on your team is overworking themselves and on the brink of burnout, be proactive and give them extra days off so that they can reset.
- When in doubt, hop on a call: Written communication lacks the nuances of verbal communication. If there’s ever a question of intention, tone, or instruction, hop on a call to ask clarifying questions. If you’re working on a project and realize writing out thoughts will take way too long, hop on a call. If you need to brainstorm, hop on a call. A video call is preferred so you can see facial reactions.
- Provide quick and honest feedback: If a coworker or employee is not meeting expectations, or if they are doing an impressive job, give feedback quickly. Don’t sit on it. We recommend creating a process around regular feedback, like setting up weekly one-on-ones with your team. Be a coach during these meetings, encourage them to innovate, and make sure expectations are always aligned.
2. Host remote team-building games and activities (have fun!)
Yes, communication, collaboration, and company processes are all crucially important to the success of your business, but without team spirit, you will not be able to fully realize your potential. Team building activities establish business skills and connect teams using activities that are not directly related to the workplace. Here are some of our favorite fun (and effective) team building ideas:
- Let’s Roam Virtual Team Building Event: Their next-level technology combines online games with embedded video chat for an unforgettably fun experience. Play charades, Let’s Draw (virtual Pictionary), answer trivia, learn about your teammates, and connect like never before. The best part? Let’s Roam has a team of virtual event experts that handle all the details (including upgrades and customization) so your event is guaranteed to be seamless and successful.
- Virtual happy hours: Social time is important to employee morale, so host low-pressure virtual happy hours regularly to keep your team connected. Encourage employees to set them up themselves. This small gesture can help avoid social isolation so often felt by remote employees
- Remote talent shows: Turn on the camera and let everyone show off their secret talents. You’ll be surprised and delighted to see what they can do.
- 2 truths and a lie: This is a simple game that reveals so much so quickly about your team. In your next virtual meeting, go around and have everyone share 2 truths and lie about themselves. Have fun guessing which one was the lie!
- Support Santa/Remote Care packages: Allow your team to send each other some love. Similar to Secret Santa, assign everyone on your team a coworker to send a remote care package to. Let people share their favorite snacks and treats to make sure their care package is filled with goodies. This is a surefire way to bring your team together and to let them feel the coworker’s love!
3. Trust and Empower
As you move to remote work, you may be feeling the instinct to stay on top of what your employees are doing – all hours of the day. This is called micromanaging. Fight against your impulse and default to trust your employees instead.
Show your employees that you trust that they’re getting their work done while working remotely, and they’ll be more likely to be productive. With 70% to be more exact, according to this PGi survey.
A clear way to show your team that you trust them in the remote environment is to encourage them to create their own schedule. Many companies are doing this alongside other initiatives to support their employees’ mental health. For example, at Kickstand Communications, employees can sign off for 3 hours per workweek – no questions asked to recharge as needed. Business Insider covered this and other thoughtful initiatives in their article on how companies are addressing their employees’ mental health. Habitual offers one hour per day to employees to do something positive for their mental and physical health (take a walk, read a book, meditate, etc.).
Always remember that trust goes both ways. Demonstrate open and honest leadership and you will be rewarded with team satisfaction. Employee morale can only reach a certain level without trust in leadership.
Taking trust a step further, empower your team to make decisions that impact the whole company. Regularly hold meetings that allow employees at all levels to take ownership of impactful decisions. Don’t simply express an open door policy or say “talk to me any time if you have ideas”. This rarely feels genuine, but dedicating meeting time to discuss company decisions and allow employees to voice their opinions is a clear demonstration that you care for them.
4. Motivate, Appreciate, Recognize and Celebrate
It’s no secret that one of the quickest ways to boost morale for remote employees (or for anyone) is to motivate them, recognize their work, celebrate their achievements, and tell them you appreciate them. Psychology research has proven that humans like being appreciated, which in return leads to greater connectedness. In addition, appreciating employees increase employees’ sense of self-worth, keeps spirits high, and sparks motivation. Statistics show that 69% of employees say “they would work harder if they were appreciated.”
Tom Rath, an American consultant on employee engagement, has extensively studied the effect recognition has on performance. His research proves that employees who receive regular, positive recognition will experience “higher productivity, better engagement levels, more loyalty to the company, higher morale, and better customer satisfaction.” Here are some simple but effective ways to recognize and demonstrate appreciation to your employees:
- Celebrate wins frequently to make sure everyone stays motivated and recognizes the impact of their work. Find new ways to celebrate – give out Starbucks gift cards, hold a virtual dance party, the possibilities are endless.
- Give and encourage shout-outs at regular meetings, and set up a system that allows employees and leaders to award each other “stars/points” to recognize achievements. Let them trade those in to receive real, exciting gifts and you’re guaranteed to have a happy team.
- Create motivating incentives like additional days off, a silly hat, salary bonuses, a pizza party, whatever makes sense for your company
- Set up an instant messaging/Slack channel that’s solely dedicated to celebrating and recognizing your employees’ achievements, big and small. Make sure it’s always active.
- Send physical “thank you” notes to employees expressing gratitude for their hard work. This will be most meaningful when coming from leadership.
5. Offer opportunities for personal growth/learning
Investing in the career development and learning of your employees is a sure way to boost morale. This is even more true among remote employees. Employees want to grow and not feel bored and stagnant, especially if the company is not growing rapidly.
Offer your remote employees a sense of purpose by allowing them to spend part of their workday working on themselves and their career goals. There are corporate development management programs out there for every size of business. For large companies, TalentLMS is a top-rated platform designed for organizations that want to deliver custom, engaging online training to any level of employee. Docebo is an innovative corporate LMS software that offers the social learning experience that today’s employees want. This one’s perfect for mid-sized companies, as it’s designed to scale as your organization grows. Udemy is a low-cost (and sometimes free) option for training on a wide range of topics. Companies can also start a book club, watch Ted Talks, or seek out free YouTube instructionals.
For project managers looking to grow in their careers and stay up-to-date on the latest project management practices, there are many valuable training resources available. Identify the options that best suit you and seek constant improvement, so you’ll be prepared to take on any project no matter the scale.
6. Collaborate in new ways
Without the ability to have face-to-face conversations or map out timelines on a whiteboard, improving collaboration methods becomes just as important as improving communication methods. Prioritizing collaboration and setting up clear processes for project development will increase morale because people will have clarity of purpose and understand their impact.
It’s equally important to avoid useless interruptions. For example, one of the best ways small companies can use timesheet software is to log employee time entries rather than the traditional route to HR. Electronic timesheets are far better in comparison with the classic paper logs. In the same category of useless distractions—if your employee is already working on a task and tracking time for it (you can see through Active Timers on your Dashboard in Paymo), wait a bit lest you disrupt their deep work. All this can be done with the help of time tracking software.
There are many impressive project management and online collaboration tools out there, so do your research to discover which is right for you. Seek platforms that keep everything in one place – track project progress, message employees, manage tasks and schedules, track time, etc. This web-based task management software is a simple program that guarantees transparency across the whole team while preventing confusion at the same time.
7. Clarify company vision
According to Forbes, ”when you don’t see your employees in the office, you lose the nudges to communicate the big picture.” In order to keep morale up, clarify your company vision, and give your team a map for the future. If people at all levels in the company know where they’re headed in the midst of uncertainty, they will be more likely to stay. This attaches them to the company in a new way.
According to a Slack study on the future of work, 80% of workers want to know more about how decisions are made in their organization, and 87% want their future company to be transparent. We encourage you to be fully transparent with your employees too. If the company is struggling or failing to meet budget goals, let them know. If the company is making impressive progress, communicate that too. They will feel valued and respected that you were open and honest, which will lead to higher productivity and morale. Make a regular habit of sharing the company’s progress and celebrating the impact of individual employees.
Conclusion: build and improve continuously
Boosting the morale of your team cannot be overlooked, especially when your team is remote. As you work to build your company culture and begin to integrate the suggestions above, keep in mind that you can (and should!) always keep improving. Hold quarterly meetings to assess your remote processes and identify new ways in which you can better improve morale. Course correct where necessary and build a remote workplace that will skyrocket your company towards success.
But don’t ignore the power of random acts of kindness. Doing small things like saying thank you, celebrating achievements, and integrating virtual team-building games into your schedules will go a long way toward drastically improving employee happiness.
First published on August 11, 2020.
Content Writing Specialist
Maggie Schlundt is a content creator with vast and ranging experience. She has contributed blog posts to Let’s Roam Explorer, Honeymoon Always, Curious Theatre Company, and more. Her favorite topics to write about include marriage/relationships, outdoor adventures, arts, travel, fun, and connection. Maggie led the content strategy for the development departments of two leading non-profit art organizations, refining brand voice to achieve maximum impact.