The Remote Workforce is a Reality How Leaders Can Inspire and Motivate Their Remote TeamsVirtual workplaces are more common now than ever—thanks, in large part, to a surge in collaborative technologies and the coming of age of a generation born into an increasingly digital marketplace. Both employers and employees are drawn to these types of arrangements for different reasons.

Remote team members often enjoy more flexibility in their schedules and can actually be more efficient when tasked with managing their own time. In turn, companies can hire candidates based on skill sets and not proximities, widening the talent pool and leading to higher productivity. To get the most out of a remote workforce, though, leaders must be able to inspire, motivate, and hold accountable their remote team members. Let’s talk about how to do that.

The Rise of the Remote Workforce

Remote teams are not the future—they are the present. In fact, a Gallup poll from last year found that a substantial 37 percent of U.S. workers have telecommuted, with the average worker logging in remotely at least two days per month. Many work entirely from home-based offices and check-in with colleagues daily. Regardless of how often team members telecommute, it’s vitally important that they receive support and engagement from management.

Time out—I know what you might be thinking: Why the emphasis on leadership strategies strictly for remote teams? Don’t the same principles of teamwork and accountability apply to the entire workforce, whether they’re eight feet or 800 miles away? My answer is that yes, of course they do. However, managing a remote workforce brings about a slew of unique challenges—and there’s a lot more to it than simply not being able to take your department out for coffee to show appreciation for a job well done.

Let’s explore some strategies leaders can use to inspire those teams.

Strategies for Leaders to Inspire Remote Teams

Great leaders have to lead differently when managing, motivating, and inspiring teams of remote workers, but technology can help make that a seamless part of your business operations. Here are some ideas:

  • Encourage communication. Just because your remote teams work from different homes doesn’t mean they need to feel like they’re on different planets. Encourage them to communicate by leaving chat rooms open both formally and informally to boost camaraderie—which, ultimately, will increase employee satisfaction and retention rates.
  • Use technology wisely. Many collaborative technologies are available today, from screen sharing to document swapping to video conferencing. Do you need to use them all, especially ones that perform duplicate functions? Absolutely not! Working with a vendor partner who can help assess your needs and then recommend the best systems for you and your team can take the headache out of the process, and then provide the training and support you need along the way.
  • Measure output. Make sure you’ve got a system in place to track productivity in some way. Tossing work assignments out via email and not ensuring accountability, especially for new hires, is a recipe for deadline disaster. Remote work does come with a degree of flexibility, but good leaders set clear and consistent expectations while still leaving those around them (figuratively) feeling valued.
  • Get face time. Productivity and connectivity are best when face time is involved. That’s where videoconferencing can play such a big role when it comes to leading and managing a remote workforce. Consider making weekly videoconference check-ins, regular group meetings, and even the occasional virtual happy hour at week’s end a part of your standard operating procedure. You’ll find that face time makes all the difference in the world.
  • Stay organized. Because you can’t stop and chat with your colleagues at the water cooler about what’s on the agenda, leading a remote workforce requires digital planning. Organize a work schedule—whether that’s done using a cloud platform or a fluid spreadsheet sent in an email—so employees can both keep track of their assignments and know what the rest of the team has on their plate at any given moment.
  • Show appreciation. It’s true that you won’t always be able to take everyone on your team out to lunch, but that’s not the only way leaders can show appreciation and make employees understand how important they are to the big picture success of the company. Whether it’s sending a gift card in the mail or a making simple phone call, managers who excel with remote teams take the time to recognize jobs well done—even those done states away. Employees who feel valued are employees who perform, and employees who perform make companies better.

Final Thoughts

The remote workforce is here to stay, so finding a leadership style that best serves enterprise organizations and their telecommuters is a must. And the role technology plays in that can’t be overstated. Finding collaborative tools that fit, implementing processes that promote accountability and communication, and fostering a team mentality despite distance are all keys to success.

Does your business have a remote workforce? If so, what are you doing as a leader to engage and support them? I’d love to hear what’s working for you in the field.

At Advanced AV we empower live meetings and remote collaboration by deploying the technology that helps your organization connect, communicate and engage with its customers, employees and stakeholders. Connect with us to find out more about how Advanced AV can help you achieve your business and technology goals.

photo credit: Day 12. Working from home. via photopin (license)