How to Motivate a Remote Team in 2021

Keeping a team motivated when you’re in person is hard enough, which means that keeping a remote team motivated is even harder. So in this article, I’m going to be sharing with you five tips that I’ve used in the past to stay motivated as a remote worker, as well as to motivate my past remote teams.

Tip 1: Set clear work expectations

It’s hard enough to manage people when you are working in person and it becomes even harder when you are in a remote world. It’s really important for you to outline for you what the expectations are for your team on a weekly, biweekly, and monthly basis.

It’s only by having everybody on the same page in terms of what is due and when that the organization is going to be able to work collaboratively together. You need to make it clear how often meetings are as well as what sort of prep work might be required both before and after meetings, as well as having an understanding across your team, in terms of the different work styles of all the individuals on the team.

The quicker you get your remote team up to speed here the quicker you’ll be able to get through everything in terms of your agenda for the quarter, as well as for your year.

Tip 2: Delight your team like you do your customers

The second tip I have is to delight your team just like you delight your customers. You probably invest a ton of resources and effort towards making sure that your customers are happy and you should do the same thing with your team.

One of the best things that my current CEO does is she dessert bomb people that do great work for the company. So for example, a few months ago, we had a product launch that I took the point on in terms of doing all the marketing efforts and it was a really successful launch. So I was pleasantly surprised to find a DoorDash dropped that Friday with a half dozen cupcakes to thank me for my work and a note from my CEO.

With apps like DoorDash, UberEats and Grubhub, it’s easier than ever to do these sorts of small tokens of appreciation for your team members. Additional reasons why you might do this sort of thing could be to welcome somebody for their first day to celebrate some sort of work anniversary or big personal event that you know has happened in your team members life. These sorts of small tokens of appreciation can go a really long way when it comes to long-term employment happines as well as retention.

Tip 3: Regularly reflect together

The third tip I have for you when it comes to motivating your remote team is to make sure that you are reflecting regularly together. In both the company that I co-founded, as well as the company I’m with now, this is an action that we do every single quarter. We have a retrospective at the very end of our quarters in which we recap what went well, what didn’t go so well, as well as what we want to improve towards the future.

It’s by carving out this time for reflection that our team is actually able to assess how we’re doing and hold ourselves accountable to our performance as a team. Aside from doing this at the end of quarters, we also do this every single major sprint. So with my current company, we work off a weekly sprint, which means that every single we are reporting on the status and tracking towards our goals for the quarter.

This regular reflection, especially in a remote world, in which you’re not going to have the daily interactions with every single person that you’re working with allows you to hold everybody accountable to the outcomes that you guys are trying to achieve together.

When it comes to our quarterly reflections, we’ll often think about the different parts of the business. For example, how we’re doing in customer success, how we’re doing in our sales process, as well as our pricing and monetization. And then what we’ll do is we’ll outline three things. We’ll outline what we want to start doing, what we want to continue doing as well as what we want to stop doing.

The start things refer to new efforts or initiatives that we would like to begin doing in the following quarter. The continue actions are the things that we feel like we’re doing pretty well and we want to keep the ball rolling there. And then the stop actions are the things that we’ve identified as not necessarily meaningful to us achieving our future goals or our greater goal as a company.

When you create these checkpoints, you create impactful feedback loops on a weekly biweekly and quarterly basis. And this in turn makes it really clear on point number one, when we talked about how important it is for employees to know what the expectations are for the team.

Tip 4: Schedule casual hang outs

The fourth thing that I recommend you do in terms of motivating a remote team is to schedule regular hangouts. Something my old company did really well was we had these events on a regular basis in which you could hang out with other people across different teams in a remote setting.

Especially in the case where everything was going crazy last year with the global situation, we would have things like virtual game nights, or we might have things in which we were doing cocktails together and the different activities that we might be able to do in these sorts of small group environments.

Aside from these one hour events that were often after hours, during the actual work day, we would have our ops person send out calendar holds for short coffee breaks that were 15 to 20 minutes with four to five different people on the team. These were completely optional. However, a lot of people would show up because it would give them a good place to pause during their day, which is often a challenge when you’re working remotely to just hang out with some of their coworkers and relax before resuming back into their work.

The reason why we did this was because if you’ve ever worked remotely, you know how hard it can be just to actually take breaks throughout the day. So by giving every single person, this sort of calendar hold, it gave them permission and actually encourage them to take these sorts of regular mini breaks.

I know that the team often appreciated this because we often had over 70% participation in terms of people that would show up. And the people that didn’t show up simply didn’t need this sort of social time or break time in order to accomplish things and feel motivated in their daily work.

Tip 5: Practice sharing highs, lows, kudos and gratitudes

My fifth tip for you when it comes to motivating your remote team is to practice sharing highs, lows, kudos, and gratitudes on a regular basis. Something that my current company does at every single all hands is we carve out 20 to 30 minutes to go over these four things. And this is just an opportunity for every single person on the team to share some of the good things, bad things, as well as give thanks for other team members and the great work that they’re doing.

Something I want you to notice about all the tips I’m providing you today is they really touch on a very fundamental human need of just being recognized and feeling valued. This is something that is so missed in so many modern workplaces that it’s really important more than ever in a remote world to do that sort of thing for your team members.

We as human beings often need two things. We need to feel like we’re connected and working towards something bigger than ourselves. And we also have to feel like we are being recognized and doing good work in whatever it is we’re deciding to invest our time in.

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