How to Engage, Motivate and Retain a Remote Team

With the rise of remote workers and the growth of the gig economy, small business owners have the flexibility to employ the talent that best fits their needs – regardless of whether that person is located in the same office or around the world. While this dynamic creates new possibilities for staffing a business, it also creates challenges for small business owners who must engage, motivate and retain a workforce that is increasingly comprised of one or more remote team members.


A recent study by, Trello, and HipChat of 1,000 knowledge workers in the United States found that remote employees are just as likely as their in-office counterparts to share many of the same frustrations regarding workplace collaboration. This indicates that small business owners must have a management strategy which accounts for both in-office and remote workers, or risk losing more than just time and resources; they will lose employees.


Here are four tips that will help your employees – and by extension, your business – thrive, no matter their location.


Create Authentic Connections

Communication and comradery are critical to high-functioning teams. It is easy for some workers to feel disconnected from their managers and their teams, especially if they don’t consistently have the opportunity to catch up over morning coffee or grab drinks together after work.


While small business owners often use technologies like video conferencing platforms, messaging channels and virtual phone systems to conduct business, they often lose sight of the fact that these same tools can also help them to facilitate more personal connections with employees and colleagues. To increase engagement and build a personal connection, implement face-to-face video meetings – even for quick check-ins and casual conversations. A few times a week, reach out to your employees via your messaging system, just to say hello – even when you don’t have a question or an assignment for them. And create a virtual water cooler where employees can share personal updates, jokes, and pictures. By facilitating workplace friendships, you will create more satisfied, engaged employees.


Set Boundaries

Flexible remote working does not mean your employees are always accessible. When working with remote employees, be respectful to their schedule and communicate your expectations regarding deadlines and availability early and often. Is one employee expected to answer the early morning emails because of their time zone? Should another employee in a different time zone stay online later?


Rather than being ‘always on,’ encourage a set time for open communications. Late night texts are a big no-no for employee communications. In fact, the, Trello and HipChat survey found that 29% of people find texting to be the least favorable form of workplace communication. When you hire employees or before kicking off a new project, set boundaries and expectations to deter frustration down the line– on the part of both you and your employees. And remember that you set the example for your team, so make sure that you also adhere to the guidelines you set.


Embrace Flexibility

Research shows that employees are beginning to value flexible hours and work-life balance second only to benefits for health insurance. And it’s not just about their personal lives - for some people, working from home or working a flexible schedule means having a productive day. In fact, 80% of people in another survey we conducted stated they are equally or more productive when working from home than in the office. Some employees find they are faced with multiple distractions throughout the day when working from an office, resulting in less time to focus on the tasks that make your business thrive.


To attract and retain employees and inspire productivity, small business owners should give employees the flexibility to choose where and when they work, within the parameters of their business and customer needs. With the different technologies available to facilitate communication, such as video conferencing tools like or GoToMeeting, there is no reason why every employee needs to sit at their desk from nine to five every single day.
Think Beyond Your Employees

In a global KPMG survey of almost 1,300 chief executives, the most common response they gave when asked how they plan to drive shareholder value for the next three years, was that they would pursue collaborative growth – external partnerships or collaboration with other firms.  It’s true, teams are increasingly made up of employees from outside the company, including vendors, suppliers, service partners, agencies, or any others that help the team function and complete tasks. These external partners bring fresh, new ideas to the table and are an important addition, especially for SMBs.


Set an example for your employees by thinking about your team beyond those on your payroll and recognize those who support your work every day. By expanding your sense of “team” beyond company borders, you will facilitate better collaboration and open communication networks across the team. Not to mention, these channels will also help with talking through ideas and keeping creativity flowing within your work environment.


It is more critical than ever for modern teams to mold and become flexible within the changing work environment. By following these tips, your teams will be more loyal to your business and ready to collaborate, work more efficiently, and take on any challenge – no matter where they are located.

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