The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many Americans working from home and has caused many businesses to rethink their current office space. If you have been to any major downtown over the past eight months, you most definitely noticed a shift in a once-bustling hot spot to a quieter scene. The negative effect the pandemic has had on our global economy is staggering, but with every passing day, we are all learning to live in a socially distant society.

 Many businesses have restructured their daily agendas and annual strategic and financial plans to fit within this new normal, including the most important aspect of any operation, accommodating employees as they work from home. 

Working remotely has its challenges, however, as time persists, individuals and businesses have found ways to make working from home seamless and rewarding. One of the biggest challenges business leaders have found is in maintaining a positive, motivated team of employees.

As a business leader, a key characteristic you must possess is the ability to not just manage but inspire. A team that feels appreciated, understood, and encouraged will set your business apart from your competition. Individuals want to feel as if their work matters and that they are being challenged without being regarded as a workhorse. 

While personal connections may feel a bit lost in the present scope of remote work, you can’t lose sight that your job is to keep your team motivated. 

Best practices for motivating a remote team

Set clear expectations. When leading a team, it is important to set clear expectations for work performance, especially in a remote setting. Expectations should be established from the beginning, but if certain things need to change, you should address them immediately and typically with full staff present so all are on the same page.

Build connections through technology. We lose the important inter-office connection when we work from home. There is no group lunch break or popping into an office to ask a question. We don’t get to see pictures of our coworkers’ families sitting on their desk. 

You will retain employees longer if they feel connected to you and to their coworkers. To ensure your team feels as if they are still part of something bigger, scheduling weekly virtual happy hours are a great way to keep these important social relationships alive. 

Highlight accomplishments. It is easy for employees to feel as if their work is going unnoticed when working alone at home all day. Be sure you keep your employees motivated by acknowledging their accomplishments in one-on-one meetings and during staff meetings or in an all-staff email. 

You may consider developing a virtual achievements board to recognize those team members that are working hard and accomplishing goals. 

Trust and be trusted. Most importantly, a team without trust is destined to fail. While you must build a team of individuals that you can trust, it is equally important that you display honesty and integrity, and ensure your employees know that your virtual door is always open. Allowing your employees the flexibility in setting their hours off of the typical 8-5 is one of the ways you can show your employees that they are trusted. Having the faith that they will get the job done and done well, even if they have to make a few adjustments to their schedules while working from home will show your employees that you care about their wellbeing and that they can be trusted. 

Leading a motivated team while working remotely doesn’t require a much different approach than a traditional office setting. However, your strategies to create connections, keep the lines of communication open, and manage performance will need a bit more attention. 

Lastly, be sure to ask your employees what is important to them as they continue to navigate working from home. Knowing that you are providing the tools necessary to keep your team aligned will help improve your overall business model and develop leaders of the future.