How to keep your teams motivated remotely
How do leaders and businesses transition from simply maintaining business continuity with remote working, to establishing a work culture where employees feel truly motivated and empowered, no matter where they are located? In our latest blog, CEO Tim Guilliams shares the lessons he’s learned during the recent lockdowns on how to keep teams motivated and overcome the challenges of distributed working.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced many businesses and people to shift their work patterns almost overnight. Gone were the days of offices and meeting rooms; instead, organisations and employees had to face the new challenge of maintaining connection, motivation and productivity with an almost entirely remote workforce. As the months have gone by, the longevity of remote work continues to be a key topic of conversation across the world and, at Healx, we believe a distributed workforce is here to stay – at least in some form. With that in mind, business leaders must now answer a new question: how do we move from simply maintaining business continuity, to establishing a work culture where employees feel truly motivated and empowered, no matter where they are located?
Over the last year, I have observed how managers and teammates within Healx have adapted to the new situation, creating new channels of communication and challenging the status quo. I have also taken learnings from organisations that have always been remote, to inform how we might pave our own way in this space. Below are five ways business leaders can successfully navigate the challenges that come with a distributed workforce.
Keep following your North Star
No matter the size of the organisation or the location of the teams, people will always be more driven when they understand how their work contributes to the wider company goals. As a leader, take the time to communicate your company vision to your team and explain how their work contributes to the overarching mission.
At Healx, we break our mission down into annual strategies, and empower teams to set their quarterly OKRs (objectives and key results) to achieve them. This gives teams the autonomy to chart their own path towards the North Star principle (the organization’s overall purpose and ambition), and determine what the most impactful things they could be working on are. It gives the individual the freedom to set their own work, but always within the wider context of our company mission.
Once a quarter, we have Team Days to bring everyone together, realign on our mission, and demonstrate how the efforts of each individual are critical to the entire company’s success. Not only does this provide transparency across the business, but it is also a great opportunity to strengthen our team bonds further and celebrate the incredible work the teams are doing. Even in the remote world, these Days can be achieved through video conferencing tools such as Zoom or virtual conference apps like Gather and Kumospace—just be sure to provide regular breaks and casual chats in between to break up the day’s activities and avoid ‘Zoom fatigue’.
Provide regular feedback
One of our core values at Healx is having a ‘personal growth mindset’. We know that feedback fuels this growth, helping us become the leaders and teammates we want to be—so we proactively encourage each other to seek and share timely, relevant and specific feedback often. There are plenty of resources out there to help build this culture, and I’ve been particularly influenced by Radical Candor—the premise of which is that you can challenge or give feedback directly, whilst also caring personally for the individual you’re giving the feedback to. Taking the time to provide feedback demonstrates that you care about your team’s work and an individual’s personal development while also ensuring everyone remains aligned on expectations, even when distributed.
This approach is very 1:1, so we’ve also implemented an upward feedback system with a tool called Peakon which converts anonymous fortnightly feedback from the team into insights and tangible actions for managers. Last year, a report found that only 19% of respondents felt completely heard by their organisation. However, tools like Peakon can help—providing employees with the opportunity to share their thoughts directly, and candidly, with their managers. This, in turn, allows managers to spot trends in their team and act accordingly. When working remotely, this feedback has become essential to how we roll out new programmes or initiatives and means we can pivot quickly with relatively ‘real-time’ feedback.
Re-evaluate your support and processes
Burnout is a prevalent issue for employees and organisations alike, with a study into Google’s 2020 search data revealing a 24% spike in searches online for terms such as ‘signs of burnout’, compared to the previous year. Indeed, when offices went remote, many feared that people would be ‘slacking off’—but in fact, the opposite is true. Many people overcompensate for that lack of visibility by working longer hours, on top of additional caring responsibilities they may have outside of work. This is never healthy, and so workplaces have to step up their support and flexibility.
We provide mindfulness and exercise classes to help people switch off, have flexible working options for those who need it, and have an Employee Assistance Programme that can offer professional and confidential support on a range of issues. But it’s also the little things that make a big difference. Stepping away from your computer when at home might be hard, but we encourage people to actively schedule ‘away time’ – breaks in the day when they are not expected to be responsive. We also have ‘no meeting’ days where people can have uninterrupted work time.
Indeed, with a lack of face-time, people attempt to rectify this by adding in meetings to discuss small issues. However, recent research revealed that 47% of workers complained that meetings were the biggest waste of time at work and felt overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of them.
At Healx, we have created a checklist to determine whether the meeting is necessary. Does this need to be a meeting or could this be done quicker to the same effect over Slack? If not, can the meeting be done in 30 minutes or less, and does everyone need to join the call to make the decision? If someone isn’t required to join a meeting, then let them have that time back to focus on impactful work and provide minutes so that the individual remains looped in on those discussions. For those meetings that are necessary, make sure that they’re the best use of everyone’s time by creating an agenda to give teams clear direction and clarity. Equally, be open to changing regular slots and demonstrate flexibility for moving meetings to suit new routines.
Keep communication flowing
With coffee chats and team lunches currently on hold, it is important to find other ways of keeping your employees connected.
At Healx, we use a Slack integration called Donut, which digitises those informal ‘water-cooler’ conversations. People from across the organisation are randomly paired up for around 30 minutes to talk about whatever they feel like talking about. This not only helps build friendships and form connections but also helps trigger cross-functional conversations and projects. We also have regular coffee drop-ins, held in everyone’s calendars on Mondays and Fridays, where people can just pop in for an informal chat. Alongside this, we have ‘Special Interest Groups’ where colleagues can come together on issues or topics they care about. So far, we have SIGs on diversity and inclusion, coding, sustainability and lateral thinking – and they provide a great opportunity to foster connection by getting to know people on a personal level.
Remote work is not a passing trend, and splitting time between the office and home is expected to become the new normal post-pandemic. To prepare for the “future of work” organisations must look ahead, moving beyond simply maintaining business continuity and instead, evaluate how they can support and motivate tech teams in a distributed work environment long-term. I hope the tips above will help you transition into this new world, and I am always interested to hear of others who have found success with distributed working – so please, get in touch.