We recently asked business leaders what they have done to keep their remote teams engaged, especially during the height of the pandemic when stress levels and cabin fever were at their peak. We had 106 amazing responses from CEOs, small business owners, real estate professionals and other executives across numerous industries. Within these nuggets of management wisdom, clear trends started to emerge in regard to what has worked. From there, we have identified the top six impactful steps leaders can intentionally take in an effort to keep their remote teams engaged. This ranking is based upon the frequency that the concept was expressed during those responses.
6. Prioritize Praising Remote Employees, Especially In Front of Peers
A little praise can go a long way. A lot of employees have been dealing with heightened challenges in their work and personal lives throughout the pandemic. So, it’s a great time to break through the stress of the daily grind. Make a point to give your employees meaningful praise when you see them making an impact. Or perhaps when you see they are going through a rough patch, some praise will be a bright spot in their day.
“I am in the real estate industry and employ VAs (virtual assistants) who make cold calls (as many as 80/hour). I have software that tracks and records their calls. […] As soon as I hear a great call by one of my salespeople, I am very quick to respond, send them the recording and let them know that is what I am looking for.” – Chris Anderson, Owner of Anderson Home Paths
You can take your praise even further by intentionally setting up a virtual space to praise your employees publicly in front of their peers. This can be done through a formal team call, an informal team-building event, or on-the-spot in a messaging app – like Slack. You decide what works best for your business’s culture and your team.
“Make recognizing remote employees easier and a priority. When working remotely it can often feel as though your work is not being recognized, which can be frustrating. By setting up an online recognition space you will be able to recognize employees right away. This will help your employees feel connected, valued, and appreciated.” – Alex Czarnecki, CEO of Cottage
5. Show Remote Employees You Trust Them By Embracing Asynchronous Work
One of the beauties of remote work is the ability of the employee to work when they are the least distracted and are at their mental performance peak for the day. Embrace this and let them work asynchronously – when it works best for them – instead of packing their calendar full of mandatory meetings between 9am – 5pm and expecting immediate responses when pinging them on your communication channels. Instead, give them your trust by allowing a 24-hour response time.
Some employers even fully embrace asynchronous remote work to the point that live attendance of all meetings is optional. How does this work? Easy! Meetings are recorded so employees can view and listen at their convenience within a set number of days after it was originally recorded.
“A great way of connecting your remote workers is to be flexible. The best part about remote work is the flexibility, so be prepared to give that flexibility. While meeting times will need to be set, be sure to give employees the flexibility to connect with coworkers on their own schedule.” – John Levisay, CEO of The Pro’s Closet
4. Ask Your Employees For Feedback, Then Show That You Listened
Every successful business leader understands they haven’t done it on their own unless they managed to never hire, contract or outsource to anyone ever. Employees are the ones moving the business forward on a day-to-day basis, and they gain a lot of insight by being in the trenches. If you haven’t already, you might want to look at opening up channels for candid two-way communication with your employees.
“It’s equally important for your team to communicate with you. Allow them to provide feedback and express how they are feeling at the moment, both professionally and personally. The best way to do this is to schedule virtual one-on-one meetings with them so that they feel comfortable opening up and sharing their remote work experience. This will speak volumes about your commitment to your team’s well-being. You should as well accept criticism from them positively as this will help you grow as a person and as a better leader. Being open to your members, make your subordinates feel as if they are able to be much more open to you and can pitch in advantageous ideas for you to utilize for the company’s benefit.” – Martin Boonzaayer, CEO of The Trusted Homebuyer
3. Show Remote Employees You Care About Them as Individuals
Taking time to get to know your employees as individuals and understand what they care about will go a long way. Perhaps they have a hobby that keeps their creativity flowing. Or they have a family situation where they can only work non-traditional hours. Or they are committed to a cause that keeps them motivated and inspired. “When you treat them personally, your workers will connect with your company emotionally, which will increase their engagement and boost their performance toward achieving your vision.” (Entrepreneur)
“Remote teams are difficult to connect with because they are so varied. I decided to embrace this, and as a response both to the #BLM movement, the pandemic and the disintegration of connectivity in my teams, I introduced the invitation to share something significant about yourself/your culture and allow us all to experience this as a team. Being a little more emotionally invested in your company is one way to boost engagement.
[…] I just want to impress upon your readers that showing you care is one of the best ways that you can invoke engagement. Lead by example and ask to be engaged with, honestly and with humility.” – Andrew Taylor, Director of Net Lawman
2. More Communication, But Not Long Meetings
We’ve all heard horror stories about workplaces that have meeting after meeting, and now have employees who are burnt out from “Zoom fatigue.” A recent study of remote workers actually attributes the phenomenon of Zoom fatigue to four contributing factors. There’s even a “Zoom Exhaustion and Fatigue Scale.” (Stanford) This is a real issue, but just a buzzword. Keep employees engaged and empowered, but skip those long video calls.
“While remote working has taught us the value of face-to-face communication, Zoom fatigue has taught us the importance of taking time to oneself as well…
I think we at Learnerbly owe our growth over the last year to prioritising both our people and their team relationships. Throughout the pandemic, we have continued to hold online social events for our people, and encouraged our people to bond in smaller groups over a virtual coffee.
We’ve also made sure our people get enough time to themselves by implementing Wellbeing Wednesdays, when we have no internal Zoom calls.” – Rajeeb Dey, CEO of Learnerbly
1. Provide Opportunities For Virtual Team-building and Relaxed Communication
Ok, I know, I just said ditch a lot of the video calls. But, our number one tip from business leaders for keeping remote teams engaged is to find ways to facilitate team-building. And that does require video calls typically. So, perhaps the lesson is to reserve video calls for these occasions and not so much for serious content that requires intense focus.
While I am sharing some team-building ideas here, we actually received so many ideas that we will be following up this article with one dedicated specifically to unique ideas for remote team-building.
“We have been switching up our remote working routines to boost morale and keep our team members engaged. To engage remote workers, we have found that remote team building activities (via Zoom) can often prove to be highly effective. Even though these activities are lighthearted and fun in nature, they always create a healthy sense of competitiveness in our team members.
Playing trivia quizzes (via Zoom) has become a particular favorite. We set these events up on either Monday mornings or Friday afternoons. To motivate the workforce and help them to find meaning in their work, we believe it’s crucial for team members to feel supported by their peers. In my opinion, remote team building activities are the best way to unite people from a distance.” – Michelle Coffing, Director of Sales / Realtor at Great Vancouver Homes
You can also add an element of fun to routine meetings. Like Devon Fata, CEO & Founder of Pixoul, shared with us. This just organically sprung up from one of his employees to keep things lively:
“Our workers are independent and driven, and I trust them to work in a way that is effective for them. One thing that has been consistently tough, though, are department and whole-team Zoom meetings.
They’re consistently draining, dull, and seem longer than they need to be, no matter how well we follow our agenda. A solution we’ve found–which I’ll admit is a bit silly–has been to make these meetings into a game. We play “Find the Pikachu.” One of our designers has a stuffed Pikachu toy that they started hiding in different locations behind them during meetings. Eventually, we started shipping the Pikachu from house to house, hiding it in a different person’s background for each meeting. It’s kind of become our mascot.”
Managing a remote workforce can be a lot of… work. If you’d like help from experts in managing remote workforces and streamlining processes, we invite you to explore our services to get a glimpse at what we can do to help your business. We can even take on your routine tasks while saving you time and money, so shoot us your questions.