Timbre Media’s content creation addresses multiple questions raised by corporate clients. Recently, our team did a podcast on how post COVID-19, the future will be markedly different for businesses. And managing the business as well as teams now come with new complications.

In this blog, we look at expert opinions to help simplify keeping your team motivated remotely during such an unprecedented time.

Go beyond the basics

Lindsay McGregor and Neel Doshi write in Harvard Business Review that many leaders have done the groundwork of ensuring their team members have set up their tech tools and are ready for deadlines, endless video conferencing, etc. But this is just the first step towards creating an effective work environment for remote employees, they explain. The key to further growth of a company is an adaptation to the new normal. Both leaders and employees need to adapt to a new way of working amidst the coronavirus pandemic when everyone is facing emotional and economic anxiety, distress over disturbing news cycles, and the health of loved ones.

They note that what keeps people motivated and focused in times like these is a sense of purpose. If employees are given a purpose they are excited about, they can surmount problems at work even despite decreased visibility and limited access to colleagues. Further, everyone needs to be facilitated to work without too many stifling processes, rules, or procedures. They write, “While some degree of boundaries and guidelines help people move quickly, too many create a vicious spiral of demotivation. In such cases, people tend to stop problem-solving and thinking creatively, and instead, do the bare minimum. If you want your teams to be engaged in their work, you have to make their work engaging. The most powerful way to do this is to give people the opportunity to experiment and solve problems that really matter. “

So find simple ways, say, Doshi and McGregor, to make sure every individual in your team feels like they have a challenge that they can help solve.

Listen and observe

The writers advise discussing with your team what might drive their motivation up or down, and what would help in maximizing it. Ask how the current situation is affecting them. They say, “Listen and create a safe environment in which everyone can talk. As the leader, set the example by asking people how they are feeling: Where did they struggle with their motivation, and where did they thrive? Hold a performance cycle meeting for the team every week that covers the following. What impact did we have last week and what did we learn? What commitments do we have this week? Who is on point for each? How can we help each other with this week’s commitments? Have at least one individual meeting with each of your team members, too. “

Create a compelling work vision

Neal Taparia writes in Forbes that teams will be more driven to achieve goals if they know why they’re doing it. This means communicating a compelling vision for their work. He observed, “How will your company be making a mark on the world, and why does everyone’s work matter? It seems simple enough, but this basic mission-oriented communication can be forgotten when going remote. It requires constant communication to make sure your team rallies behind the mission.”

He also says, “regular feedback is critical to keeping your team motivated because it helps with aligning on expectations and objectives. More importantly, though, it demonstrates to your team you care about their work and their professional development, which will encourage them to take risks and try more innovative approaches, all of which will motivate your team even more. It’s easy to forget about feedback in a remote set up. If you’re out of sight, feedback can be out of mind. Stay on the ball, and be a coach to your team. Provide regular feedback on how they can constantly become better. “

Your questions must express genuine concern for each individual. Like, “how are you adjusting to remote work?”

Celebrate milestones and birthdays virtually. Don’t become a micromanagement fiend. Intrinsically motivating your team by giving them ownership of their jobs helps greatly, says Taparia. Give and take designated breaks from calls and work-related chatter.

Do old things with a new perspective

Jason McCann, a Business.com writer, says while COVID-19 hasn’t disappeared, the novelty of working from home certainly has. The tough reality of telecommuting, he says, is that remote work isn’t necessarily instinctive. He says, “For introverted personalities who thrive on remote work, turning an extra bedroom into a workstation has been a blessing. Nonetheless, extroverts who feed off constant interaction with peers or prefer classic workplace arrangements may find it more difficult.

Working at home isn’t always easy or ideal in the best of circumstances. It can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness, not to mention a nagging sense of being out of the loop. Under coronavirus shelter-in-place measures, employees can’t run to the nearest Starbucks to log on or indulge in a little traveling while staying virtually tethered to headquarters. They’re stuck at home, worried about job security, and maybe experiencing physical discomfort from using ergonomically incorrect furniture for desks and chairs.

Some workers live alone and may feel isolated; others may have children and a partner/spouse and feel overwhelmed or they may be responsible for taking care of an elderly family member. No matter the situation, remote work isn’t as fun as many expected it to be.”

McCann adds that leaders who strive to maintain high morale, efficiency, innovation, and hope amid major workplace dynamic shifts know how crucial camaraderie is for partially or completely remote teams. His opinion is that workers must feel safe and engaged, or they’ll find it difficult to perform their jobs from home.

To smoothen the daily work dynamic at home, he suggests creating and sharing a comprehensive work-from-home guide and setting working parameters.

He advises, “You may appreciate being able to contact employees at midnight and receive instant responses. Nevertheless, resist the urge to push employees to their limits. According to a Harvard Business Review piece, leaders must rethink what “high performance” means in telecommuting situations and explain to workers that it’s OK to relax. Everyone is running on fumes emotionally, and insisting they sacrifice their well-being to complete a task won’t help engagement.”

Weekly surveys will help evaluate whether the overall mood of your remote workforce is improving, declining, or holding steady. Enquire if employees need a printer, a second monitor, lighting, or a desk. A comfortable chair or an upgraded laptop and stipends to buy WFH essentials can make a world of a difference.

McCann adds, “Encourage everyone to develop a dedicated workspace. The ambiance of a person’s working space impacts the quality of their work. A Gallup research noted, isolation under normal circumstances — and these are hardly normal times — can cause effectiveness to drop 21%. Who knows what the percentage is amid a pandemic shut-in? One way to combat confinement-related stress is via one-to-one check-ins that have nothing to do with assignments, clients, or operations. Give occasional surprises. Whether you send e-gift cards to people who have gone above and beyond, or you have boxes of healthy snacks delivered to everyone’s doors, you’ll buoy your staffers’ spirits. A million “I appreciate you” messages won’t have the same uplifting effects as receiving a little surprise in the mail — or even a little bonus in the paycheck.”

So yes, the times are unprecedented but they demand adaptation and innovation. Business leaders must lead from the front as always, but also from the middle now, and make sure that nobody in their team is left to fend for themselves creatively or emotionally.

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