Judy Gaus has been vice president of human resources and administrative affairs at the Association of Equipment Manufacturers since 2015. She partners with the executive team at AEM to provide superior services in human resources to meet the organization’s strategic objectives.
5 Ways Leaders Can Motivate and Inspire Remote Teams
The sudden onset of remote work has impacted companies and organizations across the United States and around the world.
It happened almost overnight. The COVID-19 pandemic led business offices to close their doors and employees to find a way to conduct their work from home. We all went from congregating in meeting spaces and around cubicles to interacting “face to face” via our computer screens. For the past few months, we’ve found ourselves catching glimpses of each other’s homes, hearing dogs barks, and listening to children yell and laugh during video conferences. While we’ve never been farther apart from our colleagues, it’s nice to know it doesn’t always have to feel that way.
Now as the U.S. opens up and some offices begin to welcome back employees into their facilities, we know some members of the workforce will continue to remain remote for the time being. With that in mind, here are some useful and common-sense ways in which business leaders can motivate remote teams and help them keep pace with organizational demands and goals:
1. Check in frequently.
Whether it comes in the form of asking a quick question, clarifying a detail or soliciting feedback on an idea, find a reason to reach out to your team members. Not all that long ago, it was so easy to simply swing by a colleague’s workstation and have a quick conversation. Now, with so many people working remotely, doing so requires being more intentional. And while technology certainly helps to facilitate communication while working remotely, it’s only useful if you’re willing to set aside a few minutes for video chat “face time” with one or more of your teammates.
While you may feel like you may be intruding or imposing on others, you’re really not. And, by checking in more frequently, you’ll eventually become more comfortable and convey a message that regular interactions should continue to take place.
2. Have fun!
Making an effort to socialize and have fun with your team is critically important to establishing stronger inter-office relationships. For example, my team and I get together on video chat every other week over the lunch for about 30-45 minutes. We catch up with one another, take a break from our work and talk about a favorite book we’ve read or a movie we’ve recently seen.
Ultimately, engaging your teammates and facilitating a bit of fun helps promotes a sense of belonging and community – something that’s incredibly important during these uncertain times.
AEM recently held an all-staff online meeting where we asked everyone to wear a crazy hat and randomly selected individuals to share their favorite quarantine memory. This 30-minute meeting exclusively focused on fun and sharing personal stories. It was a great way to connect on a personal level without having any business on the agenda, and feedback has been positive.
3. Be flexible and human.
The “traditional” workday is traditional no more — flexibility is everything these days. As a leader, you need to be aware that your team members have a lot going on in their lives right now. Some may not be able to work the typical 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. or 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. schedule, and they need to know they can stop and address certain situations as they arise at home.
Few things will motivate your team members more than having a flexible boss who trusts them to manage their days effectively. Let them take care of their personal business, as they will likely go out of their way to re-engage later in the evening or early the next morning.
4. Reinforce the value of team roles.
As everything has unfolded over the past few months, priorities within organizations are constantly changing. Organizational pivots are stressful experiences, and they can cause anxiety and uncertainty among employees.
If you’re a leader, one of your top priorities right now should be maintaining communications with the members of your team. Let them know if their roles are changing and be sure to convey how their positions fit into the organization’s bigger picture. They’ll appreciate hearing that they are continuing to add value, even if comes in a different form than it did in the past.
5. Provide opportunities for leadership.
There’s no better time than right now to encourage your team members to step up, expand their skill sets and take advantage of available training opportunities. Let your employees be leaders, and allow them to come forward and let you know how they want to get involved.
As an established leader, you need to be flexible. Lead with empathy and understanding, and help your employees to be motivated and productive by ensuring they have the support, tools and resources they need to become leaders themselves — and, ultimately, bring greater value to your organization.