Remote teams are here to stay, and they’re working well for businesses and their employees.
16% of all global businesses now operate as fully remote teams, according to the State of Remote Work 2021 report by Owl Labs. The same study found that, of those new to remote working, some 57% preferred to work at home full-time.
Similarly, in the UK, the primary reason businesses hire remote teams is to boost employee wellbeing, followed by lowering overheads and improving productivity.
However, as always, there is another side to the story.
Working from home has also been associated with a handful of negative impacts. For example, a survey by the Royal Society For Public Health found that 67% of people felt less connected to colleagues, and 46% did less exercise.
It’s fair to say that businesses can’t take the benefits of remote working for granted. Actively motivating teams, boosting morale and looking after employee wellbeing are essential.
Here’s how to motivate and boost the morale of your remote workforce.
What remote teams really need
A brilliant work culture
Building a remote work culture is easier said than done and relies on a combination of tools, management techniques, and a certain je ne sais quoi that varies from business to business and team to team.
Let’s take a look at an archetypal example of remote work company culture: Hopin. Virtual events company Hopin was valued at $7.75 billion in 2021, making it one of Europe’s most valuable startups.
Founder and CEO Johnny Boufarhat always intended to build Hopin as a 100% remote business, but he may not have foreseen his team growing from 20 employees to over 500 spread across 44 countries.
Hopin’s remote culture - which they call organisational culture - is fuelled by its ‘Vibe Team’.
The Vibe Team is a group of eight employees whose job is to create remote events and invite participation across the Hopin team.
Events conducted by the Vibe Team include:
- Presentations from executives reviewing performance and discussing future projects
- ‘Fireside chats’ with partners and customers
- Q&A with team leaders
- Values and wellbeing sessions
- Hopin Hero Awards
- Games and entertainment
Not all businesses have the resources to hire an internal culture team, and to some, it might seem like a novelty that is likely to wear off. But even so, creating innovative strategies to engage remote teams is a great idea and ties in with other company culture initiatives.
The least your remote team should be doing is checking in together and voicing ideas, feedback and questions in an open forum.
We encourage our team to ‘overshare’ in group chats, a technique which is shared by other startups that emphasise the need for clear, candid communication, which brings us to the next point.
Communication, communication, communication
A quick scan of our post ‘19 founders share their top tips for managing remote teams’ reveals a strong common theme: communication. In fact, more than half of founders discuss communication directly, including our founder and CEO, Ifty Nasir:
"My first recommendation would be to schedule regular catch-ups with the team with the cameras turned on (if possible), as interacting feels more natural when you can see one another.
We also encourage casual chat on Slack. It emulates the social dynamic of the office and allows us to solve problems and answer questions ASAP.”
Having open lines of communication and opportunities to socialise can also combat feelings of loneliness and isolation.
While communication is essential to motivating remote teams, it’s crucial not to micromanage. An article by Forbes goes as far as to say that micromanaging “kills” remote teams.
Here’s how to foster communication without micromanaging:
- Keep communications open, but keep planned discussions focused. Always separate serious and casual chats.
- Respect everyones’ approach to remote communication. For example, some prefer ongoing engagement and collaboration, whereas others prefer to be set a task to get along with in their own headspace.
- Praise both the team collectively and people individually also called “we-strengths” and “me-strengths”.
- Avoid obsessing, as that will stifle team members’ creativity and shut them off.
- Don’t confront individuals on their work (or lack of) when you’re in a stressful headspace.
Communication is intrinsic to company culture and engagement. Keep comms open, engaged, positive and pragmatic. Encourage super-clear, thoughtful messaging with positive intent. It’s usually better to be too clear than not clear enough.
The right tools for the job
We’ve created an in-depth guide to remote working tools here, but here’s the lowdown of it.
Communication is simplified by tools like Slack and Discord, which both enable businesses to build channels for different internal functions and departments. Personally, we use Slack which allows us to share documents using its Google Drive integrations.
Google Docs is probably in every remote team’s toolkit for a reason: it’s tough to beat for baseline word processing and productivity. Trello is one of many project management tools alongside the likes of Monday, Asana and ClickUp.
While fundamentally similar, project management tools all have a unique flavour. It’s definitely worth taking some time to choose the right one.
Video conferencing software like Zoom needs no introduction. Video calls are essential for ongoing communication and collaboration but also for welcoming new team members.
In addition, innovative video conference platforms like Flown are helping businesses streamline efforts by structuring work sessions throughout the day. Sometimes we set up 'huddles' on Slack to work together, but on our own tasks, as though we're sitting together in an office space.
While investing in shed loads of SaaS tools is tempting, be mindful of ‘SaaS sprawl’. SaaS sprawl occurs when businesses invest in too many SaaS tools, hurting efficiency and wasting money.
Take care picking the right tech stack for your remote team and ask employees for their preferences. Be sure to keep any training materials in one place too for ease of access.
To know their wellbeing matters to you
Remote working is generally seen to reduce stress and burnout, but again, you can’t take that for granted. For example, remote working often fragments daily routines, making people feel like they can’t unplug.
The author and business coach Jeff Gothelf tells Zapier, "when does the work day start? End? Creating a hard line between work/home is tough.”
Similarly, Conrado Lamas, Head of Marketing at Signaturi says, "work is infinite, there is always something to be solved—and when you have an office routine, it's easier to leave what you do at the workplace.”
Here are four tips for reducing remote team stress and burnout:
- Set realistic targets.
- Managers should lead by example - e.g. don’t send emails outside of working hours.
- Work and home separation.
- Encourage employees to rest and get out and about.
A strong rest ethic boosts productivity, increases morale and enables people to sustain their passions and workload.
Recognition and reward
Remote teams needn’t be distanced from the business and its progression. Since remote teams can’t always see and feel the growth of a business in the same way as on-premises teams, it’s even more important to involve them in the business’ growth and progression.
One way to do it is by sharing ownership, which involves giving team members a share in the business. This stimulates the Ownership Effect, pulling people together under common goals and shared benefits.
Employee share schemes have become a marker of successful startups. Distributing equity across a team is an excellent way to get top talent through the door. It’s also great for retaining key team members in the long term.
There are several ways of distributing equity. The Enterprise Management Incentive (EMI) scheme is a great choice for UK SMEs. EMI options can be offset against Corporate Tax. Recipients also gain tax advantages, as they’ll pay just 10% on any Capital Gains Tax.
Vestd makes it easy to share business ownership with your team. Book a free no-obligation consultation today and see it for yourself.
What matters most is that you design an employee benefits/reward scheme that they'll value. In other words, give the people what they want. If quirky office perks ever worked (which judging by our survey results we highly doubt), they still won't mean a thing to a totally remote team.
What's crucial is a culture of recognition, positive company culture and open communication - a virtual pizza party alone won't cut it.
Follow all of these tips and you'll be well on your way to maintaining a happy, healthy and motivated remote team.