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BBB business tip: Managing and motivating remote teams

May 22, 2020

Remote work on a normal day comes with struggles. Trying to work remotely while in the middle of a pandemic, balancing work and family, worrying about financial stresses, taking care of mental health, and thinking about all the “what ifs” in between is a feat everyone should be proud of and acknowledge as a demonstration of resiliency.

Now, add the responsibility of managing a team full of individuals all with unique challenges and differing circumstances. Managing a remote team is difficult and requires a higher level of commitment and consideration. The following tips will help manage and motivate a remote team, while enhancing leadership abilities.


Changes and reassurance

Openly talk with the team about the current situation and how change is expected. That could be change in work tasks, priorities, home situations, national regulations, anything. Explain how you understand the implications of potential changes and the emotions that follow. As a leader, you are setting the tone for your team’s remote work environment. Let them know you are working for the betterment of the company, your team dynamic, and them individually. Let your team know you are here for them, ready to help and willing to listen.


Develop a schedule

Within a normal workday an employee might be required to clock in at 8 a.m. and clock out at 5 p.m. with an allotted lunch, but working from home during an international crisis comes with completely different challenges. An employee might now have to share a workspace with a spouse, roommate, or child, creating a new dynamic.

You can help by setting core work hours (maybe 9 a.m. and noon) and then allowing for flexible work hours throughout the latter half of the day. Maybe you have a set time for a daily check-in or require people to be available and checking email during a certain time block. Develop a schedule that works best for your team. Whatever your decided schedule, definitely enforce a “hard stop,” allowing your employees to relax and recuperate away from work responsibilities. Working remotely makes it difficult to separate work from home-life and can cause feelings of resentment towards and burnout from their job.


Over communicate

Access to information is limited because of increased communication difficulties from teleworking. So, phone or virtual meetings are imperative, emails are important, priority lists are necessary, and taking notes on everything is essential to ensure your team is on the same page. Once a plan is decided, make sure your team has access to the entirety of the plan, any information supporting it, and a clear priority list. Over communicating normally is ideal communication currently.


Trust and support

By positively reinforcing good work ethic and making it abundantly clear you trust your team, you are strengthening their confidence in themselves and their team and fostering a productive and trusting work environment. Your managerial support can be shown through having an open channel of communication, providing necessary work equipment and software, and being understanding of each team member’s current, unique situation.


Empathy with limited context

Speaking of understanding, recognize that the context behind communication is not as apparent while working remotely. Normally you would be able to see your fellow employees throughout the day and hear updates on their lives and workday. In the current socially distant work environment, you won’t have the face-to-face interactions that allow insight. So, be empathetic and don’t take all communication at face value or read into the meaning behind those uncharacteristically blunt emails. And be mindful of how you as a leader come across and the tone you set.


Better employees is better business

Motivate your team by taking an interest in their professional development. Expand your employees’ skillsets by offering or encouraging them to take online classes or participate in virtual training. This is an added bonus if you are trying to keep employees, but need different proficiencies for new company initiatives to combat the fluctuating marketplace. Instead of letting go of current employees and finding new candidates, you can help develop your current employees by diversifying their professional portfolio and keep them employed. Classes don’t have to be all about professionalism, encourage mental mindfulness lessons, exercise or meditation classes, or a course fostering creativity.

You and your team are not only working remotely — you are trying to work from home while balancing the uncertainty of the current health crisis and all the changes it brings. Managing with this in mind will help you become a better leader and strengthen your team. BBB encourages you to help build trust in trying times by managing and motivating with open communication, trust, and empathy.

For more information or further inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB at www.bbb.org/wisconsin, 414-847-6000 or 1-800-273-1002. Consumers also can find more information about how to protect themselves from scams by following the Wisconsin BBB on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.


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