How to Keep Your Remote Team Motivated
When I started my company Roomi, someone told me, “talent is everywhere but opportunities are limited.” That made me think: Why not give the most talented people the opportunity to work with us, rather than just the most geographically convenient? Since then, I’ve hired people from all over the world. 17 of our employees currently work outside our New York office.
You might think a remote team would slack off, but we’ve never had that problem. I think that’s because we have just as large a sense of community as companies contained within one office. Instead of feeling like cogs in a machine, we have personal relationships. We’re invested in one another’s growth and in the company’s.
Here are a few things we’ve done to foster that environment.
1. Meet over video chat.
There’s something in our wiring that makes us feel closer to people when we’ve seen their faces. Even if you can communicate all the work-related things you need to in a phone call, it’s harder to communicate excitement, concern, and other emotions — and those are ultimately what help us feel connected.
2. Work at the same time.
If you’re in different time zones, find at least two hours a day when your schedules overlap to ask questions and give feedback. Exchange all the information you need to do the rest of your work so you’re not waiting on each other for another day. Even then, questions will come up, so jot them down and ask them during your next overlapping period.
3. Be transparent about everything.
For people to feel like they’re part of a team from miles away, they have to hear what’s going on with the company and how they’re contributing to it. Keep them informed about high-level, big-picture stuff like releases, launches, fundraising, hiring, and future plans. That way, they’ll have a goal to work toward other than their next paycheck.
4. Give feedback.
If you give positive feedback, your employees will be motivated to keep doing what they’re doing to keep you happy. If you give negative feedback, they’ll be motivated to do better. Either way, just knowing you notice the quality of their work will make them care about it.
5. Meet up in person.
Skype may be better than a phone call, but it’s still no substitute for face-to-face interactions. And work meetings are no substitute for time just hanging out and getting to know one another. That’s why my company plans yearly retreats. Along with cooking, drinking, and games, we hold brainstorming sessions and form task forces to talk about the company’s large-scale goals. Your work becomes so much more than just a job when it’s part of some of your best memories.
If I could boil all these tips down into one, it would be “form relationships.” If your employees feel like you just want to extract work from them, they’ll just want to extract money from you — with as little effort as possible. Instead of creating a relationship where you’re mutually using each other, create one where you care about each other. That kind of team doesn’t need any motivation, because they’ll be doing what they love for people they love.