How to Motivate Your Remote Teams

Have you ever wondered what keeps you motivated at work? Is it a word of appreciation from a colleague? Healthy competition between you and your teammates? Or a coffee-break that you spend catching up on a game or just getting a breather? Motivating factors like these work best in an office environment. 

However, things are different when you’re working from home. To help you overcome this, we asked Justin Cruz, Senior Client Success Manager at Stella Connect to share some effective ways to keep your team motivated when they’re working from home.

Hi Justin, where are you based right now, and how is it going over there?

I’m currently located in the epicenter of New York. I live in Astoria Queens. I’m doing my best to social distance and stay indoors as much as possible. We have a little French Bulldog, so we go for a walk once a day. That’s our opportunity to get outdoors for a little bit and get some fresh air.

Have you worked remotely before? How does Stella Connect typically handle a work-from-home situation?

These are unique times for a lot of people. I’ve been very lucky to be working at Stella, it has been almost five years now. Stella has always been very flexible with working from home. I had never really experienced a work environment like that before. So even for me, it was kind of awkward to come home and be on your couch and be working and not socialize with your employees. But I found out very quickly, that it actually allowed me to have a different experience that was just as productive, if not more productive. Stella did a really good job, even prior to what’s happening today, of just making sure we had all the tools that we needed as well as open lines of communication. 

As I started working from home, I realized that there’s a huge benefit to being in the office. I’m a huge fan of hallway conversations. That ability to catch someone you haven’t seen in a couple days, and catch up on all the important news or updates from the team or even just to just to socialize for a minute. That’s a lot tougher to do when you’re at home. However, at the same time, I find that those moments in the office can sometimes take away my productivity time, my ability to get on my email to check certain things. 

I like to balance the time I spend on engaging with my teams and my peers, with the time I spend on doing my work as a client success manager. So while working from home too, I try to create a balance of some distractions and work. For instance, right now my wife is cooking breakfast, so there is some noise in the background coming from the kitchen. I use these distractions that come with the things that we need to do while staying at home like cooking, doing laundry, etc, as a way to focus even harder on what I should be doing. Likewise, allow yourself to be organized and feel scheduled in a way that’s going to be most effective to you. 

Also, I’ve always been a big proponent of trying to finish what you need to get done within the allotted time you have. I think it just allows people to understand their strengths a lot better. By removing some of the chains a little bit, you can really focus on when you can be the most productive and work during those parts of the day. So Stella has really given me the opportunity to do that.

How do you maintain work culture in a remote team?

The word that comes to mind immediately is communication. Finding a strong form of communication and defining a process for how you want to communicate is the key to maintaining your work culture remotely. You need to identify how you can communicate with your boss and your peers with a good technical platform such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, or even email. There are a lot of venues to communicate – pick the best one for you. 

Also, in order to keep the cultural feeling and still feel like we’re working at Stella, we have to have a strategic way of communicating. It can’t necessarily disrupt how people are working, but it needs to be very clear and ‘not move the goalposts’. For instance, if I’m talking about giving updates on something that I’m working on, it’s always beneficial for people to look forward to how you’re going to communicate to them, because everyone digests information differently, whether it’s in a conversation through a chat through an email. So if I’m going to communicate something at a high frequency – maybe a couple times throughout the week or maybe a couple times throughout the day – I try to be consistent with the language I use and the way that I am giving updates. This gives people a level of comfort in terms of how they’re receiving that information. 

And from a cultural standpoint, Stella Connect has always been all about transparency and open lines of communication. Our desks are not cubicles – it’s open floor seating. So we’re very used in our environment, culturally, to being able to talk to someone right across the table and be able to give an update immediately. So you want to still have that translate into talking over Slack or talking over any of those internal platforms. I try to make sure that everyone knows it’s a message coming from me when I communicate. This way, the conversation doesn’t feel disjointed, or cause any confusion. So there’s never that feeling of what’s going on with Justin, what’s going on with his clients and all those roles. So creating that cultural feeling remotely is extremely important. I feel that the way that you communicate is one way to achieve that. 

I work with a lot of customer service teams, customer experience teams, and it’s been very new for them to go from working in a call center to now working from home and feeling a little bit more isolated. So it’s a huge culture change for them. But what we’ve heard and what we’ve seen is that having a daily routine like the daily meetings or check-ins that allows someone to hear someone’s voice or see someone’s face, helps keep that engagement and cultural feeling alive. Because if you switch from being in a call center where you’re hearing everything at all the points throughout the day, to staying at home and not hearing anything is a culture shock, and that could be a little demotivating. So we focus on keeping an open dialogue and getting everyone almost excited to look forward to what those communication updates are going to be about. 

One of the biggest advantages of working from home is flexibility, that is, the ability to plan your work around your home life. How much of a role do you think this plays in motivating your team to get work done? 

When you’re at work, you have something to look forward to each day. It could be your lunch break, your daily walk, or eating out in your favorite restaurant and getting that one-hour break to kind to destress. I now do that in a different form at home. I do microbursts and have little moments where after I finish a call, I go sit on my couch, check in with my wife or I play with my dog for 10 minutes. Stepping away from everything for a couple of moments really helps me go right back to the next thing with more energy. 

So allow yourself to be flexible, do things like cooking, or taking a power nap. As long as it’s not interrupting your core responsibilities, you could also block some time on your calendar. Letting your colleagues know what you’re up to is also a great way to start a dialogue. It’s a healthy way to blend personal life and work life. For instance, if I need to take a 20 minute yoga class just to stretch out, maybe some of my peers will want to jump in and try yoga too. You start to find people who share similar interests as you do, and you might never even know when you were in the office. 

Anyway, the ability to be flexible really motivates me. I noticed that it motivates a lot of my peers too, to just get excited about the work they’re doing because they know they can step away and not feel like they’re disrupting anything.

So how do you get your remote team excited about working with each other? 

The word that comes to mind is recognition. When I think about what gets me excited at work, I think about the light at the end of the tunnel where I might get a pat on the back or I might get a shout out. Creating a culture of recognizing hard work and effort, is a great way of keeping your remote team excited. It could be a quick little blast or message to your team saying – “Hey, working with Jake today, we had a great dialogue and we’re super excited to be working on this new project”. It need not necessarily be a monetary incentive but recognizing someone doing great work when everyone’s at home, really helps. 

Just make sure that there’s some balance and that you do not overdo it to the point where it feels fake and you’re forcing it. This is more about keeping ourselves accountable to recognize each other and keeping that out of frequency. 

The other thing I would want to reference is a lot of customer experience teams that I work with have some form of a customer feedback channel or know some way to get feedback from their customers. Utilizing that external feedback is extremely valuable too. So, your agents are probably excited about sharing their customer’s feedback with your team. Getting recognition from your peers is nice but to have a complete stranger – a customer or a client – give you that great feedback and finding ways to leverage that and share that across the team creates excitement. 

Also, Stella Connect is all about real-time customer feedback. So leveraging pieces of data that are interesting and exciting to the team and sharing that for recognition always seems to be really beneficial to them as well.

Key Takeaways

#1 Using a good communication tool, and having periodic check-ins to share updates and roadblocks will help you stay connected with your team. 

#2 A word of appreciation can go a long way in motivating your coworker. So make sure you recognize hard work and provide positive feedback

#3 To make sure you don’t end up taxing yourself out, schedule periodic breaks to detach yourself from work.