Challenges and Tips for Motivating Your Remote Teams

The COVID-19 pandemic significantly revolutionized the work environment, making remote working a norm. Most small, medium, and large businesses have embraced the idea of working remotely and creating policies that favor the same.

Challenges and Tips for Motivating Your Remote Teams

The COVID-19 pandemic significantly revolutionized the work environment, making remote working a norm. Most small, medium and large businesses have embraced the idea of working remotely and created policies that favor the same. While estimating the number of businesses that have switched to remote work, Gartner estimates that 88% of organizations have switched to remote work.

While working remotely has benefits, it has changed how employees interact with managers and colleagues. The transition period has proved challenging for both employees and companies. If not handled properly, working remotely can lead to demotivated employees and low productivity. Business leaders should consider the following employee engagement ideas.

The Importance of Keeping Your Remote Teams Motivated

Demotivated employees are outright less productive. This affects other team members’ enthusiasm, motivation, and productivity. Motivating your team is beneficial in the following ways:

  • Increases productivity – Motivated team members are more likely to work their best.
  • Reduced absenteeism – motivated teams are happy and content with their roles. They will be less likely to call in absent from work.
  • Reduces turnover – Motivated remote employees are happy and will likely stay longer.
  • Improved proactiveness – Motivated employees are proactive and will more likely find new ways of achieving business goals.

Barriers to Motivating Remote Teams

Motivating your remote teams can prove difficult because of the following:

  • Poor communication – Remote working and motivating your remote teams can prove impossible if you lack effective communication. Remote teams should communicate among themselves and their managers. Unfortunately, not all businesses have the necessary platforms to foster effective communication. This leaves off-site teams disconnected, frustrated, and isolated.
  • Feelings of isolation – While remote work is great in theory, it is isolating in practice. Humans are sociable creatures who need some social interaction throughout the day. For some employees, co-workers make an important part of their social circle. Not seeing their coworkers for days is isolating, especially for employees without family or friends.
  • Constant distractions – Distraction is another common problem for remote workers. Working from home subjects employees to endless distractions that disrupt their workflow, even with some motivation.
  • Difficulty with task prioritization and self-motivation – Unfortunately, not all employees can thrive working remotely. Working from home needs unmatched dedication and motivation. While motivation from team leaders can help, employees should also be self-motivated.

Actionable Tips to Keep Your Remote Team Motivated

Employee engagement plays a crucial role in business success. The tips below can help keep your remote teams engaged and motivated:

1. Provide the right tools

A poorly-equipped team can’t meet set deadlines and expectations. Not providing the right technical tools also interrupts employee workflow, and communication issues become severe. For instance, solving a minor network or system issue takes longer if your remote team can’t access the IT teams timely.

Remote teams need a reliable internet connection, communication tools, project management tools like workflow management software, video conferencing tools, and time-tracking tools. They should also have a platform to share and download files easily. Providing these tools fosters communication and collaboration, which are vital for employee motivation and success.

2. Improve overall communication

Communication is key for remote teams. Unfortunately, important messages can easily get lost or left out without a physical connection. Business leaders should focus on ensuring that their remote teams communicate clearly. Communication gaps can lead to low engagement and demotivation.

Fortunately, remote teams can leverage several communication technologies. Platforms such as hangouts, slack, and video conferencing platforms can foster both formal and informal communication between remote teams.

3. Recognize achievements

A Harvard Business Review study found that 40% of workers would perform better if their employers recognized their efforts more often. Team leaders should make concerted efforts to recognize individual and team efforts or achievements. Besides boosting motivation, recognizing team members improves loyalty and retention. However, for recognition to enhance motivation, you should:

  • Be genuine – Company leaders should be honest and sincere with their recognition. You should describe what team member(s) did for them to be recognized.
  • Timely – You shouldn’t wait until performance reviews or team meetings to recognize your employees’ achievements. Make it a habit to point out good performance timely.
  • Specific – Generic comments can’t motivate employees enough. When praising team members, be specific about your positive comments. For instance, don’t mention that a specific employee is recognized for their hard work. Mention the specifics, such as they finished assigned projects ahead of schedule.
  • Appropriate – You should also recognize your remote teams proportionately. Significant achievements deserve public announcements and bonuses, while slack messages are appropriate for minor wins.

4. Trust your remote team

If you make all business decisions and don’t like delegating tasks, you might have trust issues with your team. Micro-management is very demotivating, especially in remote work setups. It significantly reduces team morale and productivity. Trusting your remote employees with their assigned tasks can boost their motivation.

After assigning tasks to team members, let them work on them without interfering. If you feel the urge to check on their progress, encourage them to use platforms that give team leaders visibility over projects. Besides, you should be clear about the expected results every time you delegate tasks.

5. Set clear expectations

Your remote teams can’t get motivated to work if they don’t know their expectations. You should clearly indicate individual team members’ duties and responsibilities. For instance, you should mention the following:

  • Team members are to be available at specific times and days
  • Reply to requests and messages promptly
  • Provide timely status updates

You should be specific when setting expectations for your remote employees. The expectations should also be realistic, and team members should have direct influence over them. Setting unrealistic expectations can backfire and demotivate your remote employees.

6. Help remote teams set up a dedicated workspace

While the idea of working remotely is encouraging, it might present challenges for some employees. For instance, not all employees have a dedicated workspace back home. The work environment significantly affects motivation and productivity. Some employees have extended families and small children, or don’t have a spare room to convert into their home office.

Dealing with constant interruptions is stressful and demotivating. Business leaders can address such problems by providing enough budgets for their remote teams to set up private offices at home. Allocate some funds for your remote team to buy the necessary equipment, such as noise-canceling headphones and ergonomic office chairs. Consider paying for a coworking space if the employee doesn’t have a spare room.

7. Introduce workplace competitions

Workplace competitions are another classic idea for motivating and energizing remote teams. Creating friendly rivalries spurs creativity and hard work among employees. Depending on the nature of your business, workplace competitions include recognizing employees who close with the highest value sale, onboarding the most clients, making the least errors, and more.

Introducing such competitions to your remote teams connects team members and coworkers. Contests also ward off remote slumps.

8. Check-in regularly

You should continuously work towards keeping your remote teams motivated. You should check in with remote teams regularly to evaluate their progress. Regular check-ins allow team leaders to gauge individual motivation and address arising issues. You should check in with team members individually at least every two weeks. Your discussions should focus on their progress, career advancements, and present challenges. For effective check-ins, always:

  • Have an agenda for the meeting – Note the important talking points and expectations. Ask team members what they’d like to discuss before the remote meeting.
  • Ask open-ended questions – most employees have difficulty talking to their managers one-on-one. Ask open-ended questions that encourage them to describe their situations.
  • Discuss career goals – Spare some time for a career talk. Ask your remote employee about their vision in one or two years and help them set goals and targets.

9. Host virtual parties

Remote team leaders can also host virtual parties for their remote teams. Most holidays coincide with the end of quarters. You can use them to reward teams with outstanding performance. Though virtual, parties also allow coworkers an opportunity to relax, meet, and mingle. Promising a virtual party for your remote teams encourages employees to work harder.

10. Use survey tools to gauge employee motivation

While you should focus on motivating your remote workers, you should also routinely gauge their motivation levels. You can use various survey tools to create questionnaires with probing questions that nudge remote workers to provide honest feedback about work conditions. Efforts to find out about employee motivation show employees that they are cared for and that their feedback is appreciated.

11. Online team-building events

Remote employees get very few socializing opportunities. If organizing physical team-building events is impossible, you can take advantage of technology to create online team-building events. Social ties provide great motivation, and employees who are socially close to their coworkers often feel responsible for the team. Building a good rapport with coworkers boosts creativity and motivation and reduces turnover.


Employee motivation should be a concern for all business leaders. Even after the pandemic, 29% of remote employees aren’t motivated. If you’ve managed a demotivated team, you definitely know how frustrating it is. Apart from the tips mentioned above, introducing travel incentive programs, staff spotlight, and providing opportunities for professional growth and development also motivates remote teams.