Four Ways To Motivate Your Remote Workforce

When the first phase of the Covid-19 pandemic came about in the beginning of 2020, employee safety and how to work remotely were top of mind. As organizations continue to navigate this time of uncertainty, I’ve found that the areas of concern around remote work are now shifting to employee motivation, given that working from home is no longer a short-term or temporary situation for many.

So, how do we, as executive leaders, motivate our managers and individual contributors to maintain productivity while they work from home?

Adjust your goals.

The first tactic is to shift goal-setting to shorter time horizons of one to two weeks. This could mean focusing on near-term tactical goals or breaking longer-term, strategic goals into smaller objectives. This helps set clear, tangible expectations that employees can visualize concretely. This can also help you avoid overtly speaking about long-term objectives that might be caveated by the various (and very real) downturns we’re facing today and that might be contributing to feelings of anxiousness among your employees.

For example, communicating about the new, large-scale and costly digital transformation you were intending to undertake pre-Covid-19, only now with several caveats around controlling costs pursuant to the financial health of the organization, is not motivating. However, what is motivating is parsing the large transformation into an achievable and smaller goal, such as moving the needle in operational efficiency by 1 to 2% in a particular work stream and a particular location in the next week or two. This is much more digestible while still driving toward the organization’s mission.

Use time-management techniques.

The second tactic is to try the Pomodoro technique, named after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer. This approach suggests setting a timer for a 25-minute burst of focus (i.e., turn off web browsers and all social media, banners, alerts, etc.). Once those 25 minutes are up, give yourself a five-minute break. Then repeat.

I’ve found this technique works well with tasks that require individual focus and also team-centric tasks. Jumping on your video conferencing platform of choice to recreate the feeling of in-person team camaraderie can be replicated in the breaks, especially if your team is trying to problem-solve. This not only increases individual motivation but also engenders a collaborative culture.

Recognize your stand-out employees.

The third tactic is to continue recognizing your high performers for results. I’ve observed that there has been much discussion recently about how to accommodate employees and encourage a work-life balance. While this is important, I also suggest recognizing and rewarding your superstars as this continues to be a key factor in productivity and dedication.

With the current economic climate, the rewards you offer might not be a significant financial benefit, but a simple thank-you note, recognition in a company forum or a small token such as a gift card can continue to make your employees feel valued.

Tailor your approach to communicating with your team.

The fourth tactic is to tailor your employee-engagement approaches. Some organizations might just rely on push communications and leave the cadence and channels of check-ins to be managed on an ad-hoc basis by immediate supervisors. But as we continue navigating the pandemic, using pulse surveys, curating open-listening channels and experimenting with new ways of working becomes more important for tailoring.

For example, feeling empathy for employees who are parents with school-aged children and the challenges they are undergoing tends to be widely understood. But you might also have employees with less visible dependents, such as elderly parents who they support, or employees with no dependents who are now feeling socially isolated and have challenges that are less visible and/or less spoken about. Continuing to solicit and engage in two-way dialogue across your workforce is critical to sustaining the new remote-working norm.

In summary, I believe the employee experience at this point of the pandemic should shift from safety and how to work remotely toward a focus on maintaining motivation and productivity for your remote workforce. Try the four tactics above to move the needle: breaking goals for your employees into smaller items, testing a time management technique, recognizing your high performers and paying attention to how you engage with your employees.

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