Keeping Morale Cooking When Your Team is Here, There and Everywhere

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Oct 11, 2013

If you’re a manager of a team that primarily works remotely, you’re not alone: the number of employees who work away from a central office is increasing, and is projected to continue growing over time.

Yes, keeping up your team’s morale when you’re scattered around the country, or around the globe, presents a unique set of challenges for the modern manager.

I’ve had the privilege of working with remote teams for years, here are some of the best ideas I’ve encountered to keep your team engaged and happy.

1. Model a high trust environment

Nothing helps an employee feel more secure and happy than to know their manager trusts them to get the job done.

While every employee relationship takes some time to build, and remote working without initial face-time can be difficult, your employee was hired for a reason. Giving them the tools they need and allowing them to do their job is the first step in keeping their morale up.

2. Set clear expectations and deadlines

Since so much of communication inside an office is informal conversation, keeping your remote workers in-the-know is your explicit responsibility.

Employees who know your expectations and understand their deadlines are inherently more empowered and secure. It may seem basic, but employees who don’t understand what you want out of a project and when you want it, are less likely to meet the needs of the position. Clarity helps keep employees happy.

3. Make regular tech touch points

You should be acting from an informative position as a remote team manager, and that means regular touch points and using all available technologies to keep up with your team.

The best remote teams I’ve worked with had regular conference calls, Skype or Google Hangouts, texting groups, central project camps, emails, and instant messaging. It’s imperative that employees still feel like they are part of a team that is moving the company forward.

The vast technological options available to you will help you build an interconnected team free from working isolation.

4. Encourage informal touch points

It’s important that you keep an informal way for your team members to communicate, like chat or texting, so your employees build rapport and team trust, all of which leads to higher morale.

5. Know what’s happening in your employees’ lives

Start team meetings with a short debrief on employees’ lives and general bonding. If you understand what’s happening with your employee outside of work, you can better help them distribute their workload and keep them delivering results.

6. Happy emails and good phone calls

All too often we are drowning in our everyday responsibilities, making it difficult to remember that the rest of your team often feels the same sense of anxiety.

You should be making the time to send out happy emails and good phone calls. A fast note of specific thanks for a project well done is incredibly simple to accomplish and yields great benefits.

A phone call where you express your appreciation for their work, is above and beyond. Every time you acknowledge your employee’s work product, it makes for a happier employee.

7. Awards, gifts, and other tangible thank yous

Since your remote team is scattered, it can be hard to remember that they often don’t get the tangible benefits of working in your office: water cooler talk, lunches on your company card, and a well-stocked break room are all perks your remote worker might miss.

You should be taking the initiative to send your employees tangible thank yous for your team. How about sending your team matching company gear or promo items? Mailing out a favorite food, like a box of chocolates or a special microbrew? Movie theater tickets, flowers, spa certificates, or a personalized award?

Your remote team will feel special and valued.

8. Annual meetings with plenty of bonding time

I’ve had great success with organizations who take the time to meet together physically at least once a year, if not more. While this isn’t always possible in our global market, if your company does have the resources, try to make a physical gathering a priority.

I’ve had annual meetings in four star hotels, beach getaways, and mountain resorts. It may not be inexpensive, but the return on investing in your people is incalculable.

How about you? How have you made keeping your remote team happy, engaged, and producing?

This was originally published on the OC Tanner blog.