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Last Updated on September 28, 2020

If you are wondering how to motivate staff working from home, then you are not alone!

Allowing staff to work virtually means that as team leaders, managers, and business owners, we face new challenges with respect to motivating staff. There are ways though in which we can motivate staff who work from home and these ways are looked at below.

1. Hire the Right Person for the Job

If you are hiring a new employee and the intention is to allow that employee to work as part of a virtual team, then making sure that they are suited to virtual working is essential.

Certain questions in the interview process will help you to select the right person including to ask:

  • How do you feel about working alone?
  • How will you motivate yourself when working from home?

Working from home is not for everyone as some staff, you will find, crave the social interactions that come with working in a busy office in the same physical space.

Make sure that you assess their character and temperament and if they are likely to be able to embrace working from home. Choosing the right employee in this sense can have quite an impact on both the productivity and motivation of the team in the long term as a virtual team.

The first thing is to hire the right people who can work in a virtual team. Working remotely is not for everyone and a virtual team member needs to have some specific characteristics.

For example, somebody who works remotely needs to be able to self-manage and be self-motivated, as they will need to create their own working day structure. It can be easy to get distracted when working from home, as it can be harder to keep a clear separation between work and private life.

A remote worker must also show perseverance and flexibility. In addition, they need to be the type of person who thrives under a light-touch management style (i.e. a manager who allows staff a high degree of self-direction).

Last but not least, a remote worker needs to be a very good communicator and be trustworthy and committed.

2. Provide Virtual Onboarding for New Staff (Induction Training)

When a new member joins a virtual team, arrange for them a proper onboarding process (i.e. an introduction to their team and to the organization and its mission and culture).

Just because they work remotely, it does not mean that a new virtual team member can do with just a short e-mail or conference-call with the rest of the team and a bunch of documents that they are supposed to read and digest.

If at all possible, meet with the new employee in person, at least when they start. Bring them to the headquarters of the company (if practical) so they can see what it is like and introduce them to some people there.

Have a one-to-one with the new employee and arrange a video conference with the rest of the team, if they cannot meet in person. Take your time to introduce the new team member.

Also, it is good practice to assign the newcomer to a mentor, someone to build a connection with, and who can answer questions quickly.

3. Set Clear Expectations for the Virtual Workload

This is important for accountability. Making your expectations clear for your staff is even more critical when working in a virtual environment.

In terms of how to motivate staff working from home, one key is that they understand exactly what is expected of them and to have a clear focus.

A team member needs to know exactly:

  • which tasks they are expected to carry out and how
  • what their goals are
  • any work and team processes they need to follow
  • and their role and responsibilities and the required level of virtual interaction with the rest of the team.

Expectations should be clear and set upfront.

4. Set Clear Goals for Staff Working from Home

Virtual office meeting

This is all about aligning individual goals with overriding team goals.

Team members need to know exactly what their goals are and their individual goals need to be aligned with the goals of the team as a whole.

This way, they will see how their role fits in, how they are helping, and that what they are doing matters for the whole team.

Given that they are working virtually, it is up to you as their manager or boss to learn to communicate clearly with them online.

Rather than just sending a list of goals by email, for example, and allowing any room for misunderstanding, do not be afraid to embrace technology and use 1-to-1 virtual meetings with staff.

Using platforms such as Zoom and Skype for Business is increasing simple and easy to set-up nowadays.

5. Monitor and Assess Staff Performance

Performance management is important for virtual teams too.

If anything, it is even more important to set up an assessment procedure as you cannot liaise with your employees informally as easily as you would do if you worked on the same premises.

If you monitor and assess your teams and each member individually, you can determine if team members are taking responsibility for their actions.

Collecting feedback from your team members is vital to help identify impediments that need to be overcome, for the team to improve its performance.

6. Empower Staff Working from Home

Your virtual team members need to feel empowered to do their job.

Empowerment is important for every employee in terms of motivation but even more so for remote workers, as people who are more likely to want to work remotely tend to be self-directed individuals who value their autonomy.

If you give them the authority to make decisions, they will feel a higher level of commitment.

You have a wonderful opportunity, as a manager, to really embrace empowering your staff to take on responsibility and to feel respected, trusted and important to the company.

These positive feelings can greatly aid employee motivation and work satisfaction.

7. Make Sure Your Employees Are Comfortable

Online tutor

In terms of comfort here, we are talking about the physical environment in which they work i.e. their home.

If they are happy to work at home, make sure they have access to support and advice to make their workstation safe and comfortable.

If they prefer to leave their home, you can provide arrangements for them to work in shared offices. This way, even if they are not working directly with those around them, they will still have some social interaction with other people.

Working in an active and busy office environment can facilitate work and boost motivation for the remote worker.

Also, keeping their work and home environment separate can help them concentrate on work when in the shared office and disconnect when they are at home,

8. Provide the Right Tools and Training (as Needed)

This is vital to allow employees to do their job properly.

They need access to the most suitable technology and training to know how to use it.

A great way can be to create a work-from-home checklist and guide on all aspects of the work from home experience. What equipment are they best off using, what is the best type of ergonomic chair? How should they protect work files on their home network? Where get staff get support if they are feeling lonely working from home?

Being seen to provide the right help and support for every staff member working from home will have a positive impact in terms of how to motivate staff working from home.

There are a couple of training programs that you can deliver virtually that can really help staff who work from home and these are as follows (and you can click the images below to learn more about each)

Managing employees wellness if they work from home training materials.
Mindfulness for busy people training course materials

9. Provide Support and Be Accessible

It is important for you to be accessible to provide support, should the employee need it.

This is the case for every employee but even more so for a remote worker who cannot see you in person.

So, it is a good idea to phone your remote employees daily, even for a short chat to know if everything is well and get some feedback.

It is also a reminder to them that they are not alone. Alternatively, you could touch base via email or instant messaging.

The contact does not need to last a long time, but it must be regular.

10. Give Rewards (Both Tangible and Intangible)

Reward your team members for their achievements. This is a very good way to boost morale and motivation.
You need to highlight both individual and team successes.

You can set, for example, an intranet page with all the positive feedback the team receives from customers.

Or you can hold an annual celebration meeting somewhere, or a team away day where they can experience something nice together.

Tangible items are sometimes more appropriate for expressing appreciation. For example, a thank you note in the post or a voucher. Do not underestimate the power of tangible items in strengthening connections.

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Dr Paul Symonds

Paul is a trained researcher with a PhD in wayfinding. Paul is a co-founder of Symonds training. We focus on providing high-quality training materials packages and programs for trainers, classroom teachers and HR departments.

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