Lockdown hustle: How to keep morale up with remote teams during lockdown and beyond

Written by: Samantha Wolhuter

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As businesses find themselves needing to scale up their digital transformation efforts in order to operate online during the global lockdown, managers around the world with zero experience managing remote teams are struggling to keep morale up. Thankfully, the deployment of remote working teams isn’t a new concept for much of the tech industry. In fact, they’ve been doing it for years – ourselves included – so other businesses have ample methodologies and approaches to learn from and adapt according to their own business and team setup.

The main issue to be tackled is that the majority of remote workers suffer the common issue of the feeling of isolation. In these times, the whole world is becoming familiar with this, but remote workers are past masters. So managers need to focus on actively engaging with remote team members and employ simple yet effective solutions to help maintain a high level of positive morale.

Here are our tried and tested ways to boost morale in your remote team to improve productivity and overall employee satisfaction.

Communication is key

Tip #1

As a manager of a remote team, it is important that you carve out time and commit to regular communication with your team as a whole, and each member individually. Many people are working remotely for the first time ever during the lockdown, and some of them don’t know where to begin with getting organised and setting up clear communication channels. This can add to remote workers’ feeling of isolation as they are removed from the hype of daily office life.

Managers must shift their communication approach online using instant messaging tools like Slack, Facebook Messenger and Google Hangouts to communicate with team members. Managers need to be available to communicate with them instantly to recreate the office environment. A good idea is to set up desktop notifications for all your messaging platforms so you can be alerted as soon as a team member requires your time. 

Tip #2

Managers need to realise that their entire team may be working remotely now, and it is their job to maintain a level of seamless communication and productivity within the team. So keeping your team up-to-date with the latest happenings in the business is crucial to keep remote teams in the loop and to boost morale. Leadership is key now more than ever. The best way to ensure productivity and heightened morale is to manage your team confidently without demanding too much, realising the associated problems with remote work.

Keep learning development and goals on track

Tip #3

Many remote employees can often feel disconnected, and words alone often don’t send the same intensity of message. Without the perks of casual chats around the office water cooler, remote teams may often only communicate with their colleagues on work-related topics, which can leave them feeling disconnected from the rest of the in-office team.

Recognition is key. Managers must outline their expectations of each team member and set personal and team goals to chart a course of action. Sharpening focus and personal goals will ensure team members take an important role in managing their time to benefit the team. Managers must take a deeper interest in the learning and development of each team member. Remote workers also need a guiding hand of an experienced manager to help them chart their learning development.

When remote workers feel that their needs are being met on an individual level, they respond well to the recognition and personal advice and guidance – who doesn’t?

Host virtual COVID-19 company updates

Tip #4

All employees, in-office or remote, like to know they are being taken care of by management. This is especially true in these unprecedented times. People are struggling with the overwhelming news sweeping the globe about the effects of COVID-19 and so it is a good idea for managers to host virtual COVID-19 company updates to keep all employees in the loop.

This can be a time where businesses release updated information to employees regarding company policies (time off, sick leave, payments, etc.) and relevant health updates. When employees feel their managers and business leaders are taking an active role in communicating all necessary information pertaining to the business, they feel more engaged in the business which boosts morale and productivity. Managers can also implement regular team wellness check-ins to keep a level of personalised care and attention.

Setup social meetups

Tip #5

For people not accustomed to working remotely, it can be a rather isolating experience. A large part of office work life is the amount of regular personal interaction you have with colleagues throughout the day. A few minutes here and there in between deadlines chatting about the latest television show or sports game plays a tremendous role in fostering a culture of respect and positive interaction between team members and makes them feel a part of something bigger. During the lockdown we do not have these luxuries, so it is important for managers to try to recreate the social aspect of in-office working by setting up virtual social meetups and hangouts.

The aim is for this to be separate from work so employees can interact with each other on a personal level. This, of course, develops amazing interpersonal connections between team members and creates a positive working environment. Trying to get your team to watch the same movie together via Skype or play virtual games to break the ice and instil a sense of playful productivity is a great morale booster. 

Virtual support groups

Tip #6

Another great way for your team to create meaningful relationships is to facilitate the setup of virtual support groups. Anyone who has worked in an office will know that employees need a place to vent their frustrations, talk about work-related and personal issues within a working context. It is an important aspect of the workplace and remote workers will also need a space to feel comfortable to communicate with their team members. Employees need to feel like their frustrations and difficulties are being heard without any judgement or fear of managerial repercussions. Safe and judgement-free communication between team members is crucial for developing important and effective team dynamics. 

Ask for feedback 

Tip #7

Whether you are setting up your remote team for the first time, or you are looking to change the way you manage your existing team, it is always crucial for managers to ask their team for regular feedback. It opens up communication channels between employees and management, which is a great boost for team dynamics. It is important to know how effective the roles and procedures you have put into place are at creating the working environment you envisaged. Like all situations involving teams, it is important to know what is working and what isn’t in order to be the most effective manager possible.

Another key thing to remember is that most managers will be setting up remote teams for the first time, and many employees globally will be trying their hand at working remotely for the first time too. So it’s okay to not get it right from the get-go. Each remote team is different and requires its own variation in management style and approach. Just keep in mind that managers are the leaders of this remote working enterprise, and the success of it rests upon your approach.

Do it poorly and find yourself unable to pivot and you will lose the confidence in your team, and productivity will go out the window. But be careful to not be too rules-focused as the very nature of remote team management relies upon striking an emotional rapport with each team member to make them feel like their time, input and work has value. When employees feel valued, their work becomes so too.

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Samantha Wolhuter
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Samantha Wolhuter
Sam is in charge of writing a big portion of WeAreBrain’s creative content. She is a digital nomad always on the go, inspiring us with her words from some of the world's most beautiful locations.
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