How To Keep Your Re­mote Team Mo­ti­vated


When I started my com­pany Roomi, some­one told me, “tal­ent is ev­ery­where but op­por­tu­ni­ties are lim­ited.” That made me think: Why not give the most tal­ented peo­ple the op­por­tu­nity to work with us, rather than just the most ge­o­graph­i­cally con­ve­nient? Since then, I’ve hired peo­ple from all over the world. Seven­teen of our em­ploy­ees cur­rently work out­side our New York of­fice.

You might think a re­mote team would slack off, but we’ve never had that prob­lem. I think that’s be­cause we have just as large a sense of com­mu­nity as com­pa­nies con­tained within one of­fice. In­stead of feel­ing like cogs in a ma­chine, we have per­sonal re­la­tion­ships. We’re in­vested in one an­other’s growth and in the com­pany’s.

Here are a few things we’ve done to fos­ter that en­vi­ron­ment.

1. Meet over video chat.

There’s some­thing in our wiring that makes us feel closer to peo­ple when we’ve seen their faces. Even if you can com­mu­ni­cate all the work-re­lated things you need to in a phone call, it’s harder to com­mu­ni­cate ex­cite­ment, con­cern, and other emo­tions—and those are ul­ti­mately what help us feel con­nected.

2. Work at the same time.

If you’re in dif­fer­ent time zones, find at least two hours a day when your sched­ules over­lap to ask ques­tions and give feed­back. Ex­change all the in­for­ma­tion you need to do the rest of your work so you’re not wait­ing on each other for an­other day. Even then, ques­tions will come up, so jot them down and ask them dur­ing your next over­lap­ping pe­riod.

3. Be trans­par­ent about ev­ery­thing.

For peo­ple to feel like they’re part of a team from miles away, they have to hear what’s go­ing on with the com­pany and how they’re con­tribut­ing to it. Keep them in­formed about high-level, big-pic­ture stuff like re­leases, launches, fundrais­ing, hir­ing, and fu­ture plans. That way, they’ll have a goal to work to­ward other than their next pay­check.

4. Give feed­back.

If you give pos­i­tive feed­back, your em­ploy­ees will be mo­ti­vated to keep do­ing what they’re do­ing to keep you happy. If you give neg­a­tive feed­back, they’ll be mo­ti­vated to do bet­ter. Ei­ther way, just know­ing you no­tice the qual­ity of their work will make them care about it.

5. Meet up in per­son.

Skype may be bet­ter than a phone call, but it’s still no sub­sti­tute for face-to-face in­ter­ac­tions. And work meet­ings are no sub­sti­tute for time just hang­ing out and get­ting to know one an­other. That’s why my com­pany plans yearly re­treats. Along with cook­ing, drink­ing, and games, we hold brain­storm­ing ses­sions and form task forces to talk about the com­pany’s large-scale goals. Your work be­comes so much more than just a job when it’s part of some of your best mem­o­ries.

If I could boil all these tips down into one, it would be “form re­la­tion­ships.” If your em­ploy­ees feel like you just want to ex­tract work from them, they’ll just want to ex­tract money from you—with as lit­tle ef­fort as pos­si­ble. In­stead of cre­at­ing a re­la­tion­ship where you’re mu­tu­ally us­ing each other, cre­ate one where you care about each other. That kind of team doesn’t need any mo­ti­va­tion, be­cause they’ll be do­ing what they love for peo­ple they love.

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