Working remotely is not a new concept. It’s been around for quite some time, and it’s been getting more and more popular in certain industries. This widespread practice, although quite beneficial, is still misunderstood by many obliged to work from home because of COVID-19.
Many employers assumed that their staff was well suited to remote work during the coronavirus quarantine. There are plenty of tools available to facilitate remote work, such as Zoom, GSuite, and Slack. Some companies have also implemented policies that allow for greater flexibility. However, some employees still struggle to find the right motivation to work from the comfort of their homes.
Why motivation during COVID-19 matters
Motivation is an important factor when managing teams. Companies have always wanted to get the best from their employees and have been willing to invest time, resources, and money to help drive productivity. There are many books on the subject, many of which are wonderful.
But the situation has changed. None of us has experienced the kind of global pandemic, and the subsequent economic recession, that the novel coronavirus has brought. And while there are places in the world that have long struggled with diseases and economic hardships, for many of us this drastic change to our way of life has led to anxiety, depression, and loneliness.
Through a series of well-measured techniques, managers should learn to recognize these symptoms and address them effectively. Closely working with remote teams can identify any potential shortcomings and help establish clear methods on how to deal with them and other threats.
Having clear communication with your remote team, recognizing their achievements, and doing online surveys are just some of the methods managers could use to strengthen team discipline, increase productivity, and make each and every team member happier.
Why effectiveness drops when we work from home
Productivity loss can be attributed to many different factors, both personal and work related.
No team spirit
Humans are social creatures who seek others either to validate their opinion, help them achieve their goals, or because they don’t want to be alone. Social circles shape our thoughts, behavior, and speech. This same dynamic relates to our work environment where we are fully ourselves when surrounded by our peers. Taking that away is akin to stripping a person of their identity. Apart from that, seeing how others work motivates us to get the job done. When in our homes we’re mostly alone, which leaves plenty of room for procrastination. Once we follow that path, it gets tough to get back on track.
Work, work, work
We all want to hit those KPIs, reach our company goals, and increase revenue. Many employers try to go about the whole quarantine situation like it’s business as usual. But people are worried about their health, their families, their jobs. We shouldn’t forget that at the end of the day we’re all human, we feel and we fear. Failing to recognize that might signal that the company only cares about accomplished work rather than its employees’ morale.
Lack of positive reinforcement
When in the office we strive to be recognized for our hard work. A nice word from our bosses or a mass email to the whole company acknowledging our efforts can drive our motivation through the roof. Other things that boost motivation are our day-to-day office talks and even company training. Both of these things make us feel part of a group and give us a sense of belonging. Without them, we might not have the emotional capacity to carry our work obligations to the fullest.
Micromanaging the team
Working from home under such dire circumstances is not easy for anyone. Managers, just like any other company employee, struggle to get things under control. But trying too hard can have the opposite effect on the team. Controlling your employees too tightly not only will prevent them from working more effectively but might also signal a possible lack of trust. Not trusting your team is a sure path to failure.
Too many distractions
We tend to blame others for our own failures, but more often we are our own worst enemy. Instead of focusing on work, we’ll shift our attention to more pleasurable things like chatting with friends, cooking a delicious meal, playing video games, or checking who said what on social media. All these things contribute to not doing the work we’re being paid to do (even from home).
Why our morale is going down when working remotely
Keeping your team motivated throughout the lockdown is not an easy task. Depending on your team’s professional and personal experience, chances are that some employees will cope better with the ongoing situation than others.
If you find your team’s overall performance trending downward, you have several tactics to try before it becomes a bigger problem.
Address it head-on
Times are tough for everyone, but if your team is not hitting those numbers, you might have a problem. Talk about it, ask what is preventing them from doing their job, what are the “roadblocks,” and what can be done to clear those. Don’t make it about the numbers. Instead, show genuine compassion for your team and actively ask how you can improve the situation.
Make it fun
There’s nothing fun about the ongoing situation. That’s why people are feeling down, and part of the reason some will exhibit signs of loneliness or anxiety. Simple things like a morning coffee talk can push the worry away for a few minutes and help your employees socialize.
You can also encourage people to take small breaks away from the keyboard. People feel less fatigue if every now and then they have small coffee breaks or do a bit of stretching. Another thing that can be done is group exercises for a few short minutes. It will get the blood flowing, the work going and the stress disappearing.
Ease the work policies
Working from home might be more stressful for certain employees, especially those with little kids or elderly people to take care of. Since it’s difficult to manage remote teams in times of crisis, companies should ease strict working schedules to take the pressure off their employees and to show that they care. Trust is another thing that companies need to show their employees. Failing to do so might tell people that their bosses neither care about them nor respect them as professionals, which could lead to staff members feeling resentful and alienated.
Give them the right tools
If most of your employees have never engaged in remote work, naturally they will be confused about what to do and how to do it. Not everyone is familiar with the latest video-conferencing app, online reporting software, or how to collaborate in real time using spreadsheets. Your team should be familiar with the tools your company has approved of, and if necessary trained on how to use them.
When it comes to collaboration tools, both Google and Microsoft have online office suites where teams can create and share documents and other files. For remote teams, websites such as Microsoft Templates and Excel Template offer a number of free excel spreadsheets for project collaboration. They allow employees to monitor tasks, resources, and percent done for group projects.
Working with such tools removes the need for constant messaging and emailing as you can obtain all the information directly from within the document. Collaborating in such a manner makes your workflow easier to manage and monitor.
The current situation is quite volatile — businesses are closing and people are losing their jobs. It’s understandable if your team fears the worst. Managers should make sure that everything regarding the company and its financial situation is clearly communicated to the staff. In moments like this employees need to know how the company is doing, and if they will get to keep their jobs and benefits.
Ask for feedback
Not everyone is comfortable with working from home. Because it’s the new norm, your team will attempt to go with it, but certain members might find it difficult to keep it up with the rest. This is why it’s important to ask individually how each member of your team is doing, what are their challenges and achievements. This will show that you care for them, and will make them feel less isolated. Besides, if someone is really having trouble adjusting to remote work, it’s best to hear it from them. Together you can figure out what can be done to make it easier for them.
How to keep motivation high
To make any of the above suggestions work for your team, you have to take into account how your company does business, the size of your team, and the nature of their work. Get everyone to work to create remote work policies that are easy to understand and implement.
To keep a remote team motivated and productive during the quarantine, there are proven methods every manager could employ.
Get to know your people
Working remotely during the lockdown means that you’re going to spend lots of time chatting with your team collectively or with each member individually. Although most of these talks would be about work, getting to know each and every member of the team helps foster a deeper connection between the team and the company. Being able to talk beyond work will make employees feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts. This openness could have a positive correlation with how work issues are identified and resolved.
Train time management wizards
Managing your own time is challenging when working remotely. This is something that your organization should recognize and address. It’s difficult to maintain motivation when time management is a problem. When your top performers are struggling with time, they are not doing their best work and are more likely to miss deadlines, which could reflect on their work/life balance.
You can help by explaining why time management is important. Help them set goals that are doable, and together work to identify what prevents them from completing their work on time.
Give them recognition
Everyone wants to succeed. It might not be obvious at first, but employees want to contribute to their team’s overall success. They take personal pride in that, and if their role is recognized they feel happy. Creating a culture of recognition is something that could benefit the entire organization. It’s a good way to keep top talent, boost productivity, and encourage engagement.
Offer skill development
Not having to commute to work every day leaves many of us with more freetime. This could be best utilized by introducing your team to a new training program designed to enhance their skills. Another cool thing would be to offer them to sign up for an online training course paid by the company. This will keep them busy and engaged, and it is likely to increase overall productivity.
The office day
Some employees miss being in the office and interacting with their colleagues. And this is something that could potentially affect their performance. Although it might sound counterintuitive, introducing a schedule of work from the office, that follows strict distancing measures, might be the solution that will keep certain employees from going crazy.
One day per week, with limited access and designated spaces, is enough to introduce some normalcy in this troublesome situation. What I’ve seen in our company is that after we did that, some of our colleagues started feeling less anxious. The fact that they were not confined to the walls of their homes anymore made them feel happier, more engaged, and willing to work.
How can people working remotely get work done
The option to work from home is a great way to get things done without the need to commute to the office. It offers the flexibility to work on your own pace, which helps if you need to finish with household chores or other personal commitments.
The possibility to work from home sounds like a dream to many office workers. It’s amazing to wake up one hour later, make yourself breakfast, and stay in your pajamas all day long. But that is also part of the problem.
Working remotely definitely has its pros and cons, and for many employees home is home and not a place of work. When working remotely they do not have the same work mentality as in the office, and they find it extremely difficult to focus on the tasks at hand for that same reason.
When isolated from their work environment and colleagues because of the coronavirus pandemic, many feel disoriented, confused, lonely, or even bored. This naturally leads to demotivation, decreased productivity, and general disinterest in work-related tasks.
How do you keep your remote team motivated? Let us know in the comments below.