SJB & Co Chartered Accountants

Tip Sheet: How to keep employees motivated when working virtually

Working virtually for a day or two is often a welcome relief from the noise and distractions of the office. But after a while, as sure as the sun rises in the morning, the novelty will wear off. This tip sheet is there to help you keep your staff happy, healthy and motivated regardless of whether they are in the office or at home.

Tip 1: Regularly pick up the phone to talk to employees

Imagine you were back in the office. You’d probably now and then circulate around the office and have a natter with your team. Of course, with everyone working virtually, this just isn’t feasible to do. So, make a point of picking up the phone to speak with a team member or two each day, just to see how they are.

Tip 2: Keep an eye out for who has gone quiet

In these uncertain times many people process their fear and uncertainty by going very internal. In other words, they will go quiet and not contribute much to any of the dialogue. If you have one of these members of staff, then make a point of giving them a phone call and asking them explicitly how they are feeling right now. And if your instinct says they are not fine if they say “fine” in response to that question, ask more questions of them.

Tip 3: Set up a group chat for each individual team and encourage a mix of 50/50 work vs non-work stuff

If you were sitting in the office every day you wouldn’t just talk work, so it is the same when your staff are working from home. It may take a while for the conversation to get going on the group chat, so much sure that you take the lead. See something which makes you laugh? Then share this. Getting annoyed by the kids being under your feet at home now? Then share this. Loving the fact that the sun is shining, then share this. Etc (You get the idea…)

Tip 4: Encourage staff to look for the positives

Right now, it doesn’t feel like much is positive. However, looking for the positives is a great way to counteract all the doom and gloom, and constant fear in our minds. You will need to lead the ‘being positive’ attitude with your staff. For example, how about on the group chat ask everyone to tell them something good which has happened today. Or share something which made them laugh.

Tip 5: Set up daily team calls

It depends how many staff you have whether you have all employee calls or individual team-based calls, or a mixture of both. If you have young, inexperienced or staff who are struggling working based from home you may like to have 2 of these calls; one in the morning and one after lunch. Ideally, in these calls you want everyone to answer these questions:

  • How am I feeling right now?
  • What am I happy, grateful or positive about?
  • What am I planning to get done today?
  • What help do I need to get this done today?

Tip 6: Encourage your staff to do some exercise and get outside every day

This isn’t the time or place to lecture about the benefits of exercise. But it is a great mood and immune system enhancer, and even more so when the sun is shining and we can get out into nature. (And we all need this right now!) Many of your employees may fall into the trap of working from their desk all day. So, encourage them to think about their own well-being and how they will look after their physical and mental health in this uncertain time.

Tip 7: Help your staff structure their day

It’s really easy when working from home to get sucked into the myriad of distractions available… laundry, Netflix, social media, kids …. Therefore, you may need to have a 1:2:1 with each member of staff to help them think through how they are going to structure their workload, particularly if they now have the kids at home and need to spend time looking after them.

Tip 8: Be the strong leader your staff need

You need to be there and present for your staff. Now is not the time to hide in a corner and stop talking to people. Your staff are looking to you to keep them calm, positive and motivated. This doesn’t mean bottling up your own fears and vulnerabilities. Actually, this is the time to admit to your staff that you are scared too. Strong teams form when leaders are prepared to admit their vulnerabilities.

Tip 9: Take decisive action

Your team are looking for you to take decisive action and be clear in what you want and need from them. It’s pretty easy to get down and depressed when you don’t know what is expected or required from you. The more direction you can give your team now, the better the morale will be from your staff.

Tip 10: Encourage staff to have a buddy to check in with

Remember that your business is not just you. How about encouraging team members to buddy up and look out for each other? 

Tip 11: Remember to praise and thank staff more than normal

We often take our staff for granted. So, now is the time to make sure you are showing how much you appreciate the effort from each member of your team.

Tip 12: Make it easy for staff to speak up in meetings

If you struggle to get your staff to talk in meetings, it is going to be even harder to get them to talk when you and they are working virtually. If this is the case for your business, then start a document which everyone can access virtually and contribute to with agenda items for the meeting. In addition to this, start each remote meeting by asking everyone to answer some basic questions in the chat box, such as “on a scale of 1 – 10, where 1 = very down and 10 = amazingly positive, where are you today”.

Tip 13: Don’t talk about ‘remote workers’, talk about ‘virtual working’ or ‘virtual team members’

The language you use with your team really does matter. Talking about people as remote or workers can really emphasis the distance between your team and contribute to a sense of isolation.


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