Before the COVID-19 pandemic, if you got to work from home, it was an enviable perk. Now, if you aren’t working from home, you’re part of an ever-shrinking demographic. While remote work wasn’t a new concept before the pandemic, it wasn’t available to everyone or viable in every industry. 

At the beginning of the year, roughly 80% of employers didn’t have any remote work capacity. Now, only 29% of workers expect to go back to the office full-time once the crisis is over. The challenge now is in knowing how to motivate remote employees. Why is it so essential to keep your remote team engaged, and what can you do to keep your team excited about showing up for their daily Zoom call or Google Hangout?

Create Dedicated Workspaces

When you walk into the office, seeing your designated desk or workspace gives you a mental nudge that it’s time to start working. Working from home doesn’t give you that option. Instead of trying to work in a space that convinces your brain it’s time to get comfy and watch TV, encourage your team to create dedicated workspaces. 

It doesn’t have to be complicated, fancy or expensive.; it merely needs to be a spot where your team members can sit down and shift into work mode at the beginning of their day. Dedicated workspaces also makes it easier for them to shut things down and walk away at the end of the day, which we’ll mention more about in a moment. 

Keep Everyone Updated

Communication is crucial to keep in mind when you’re learning how to motivate remote employees. There’s no opportunity for small talk around the water cooler and no getting together face-to-face to address issues both small and large. That makes clear and transparent communication a necessity for successful remote work

Emails, chat programs and video conferences are your friends while you’re navigating the ins and outs of remote work. When in doubt, over-communicate. Talking too much is better than talking too little. 

Turn on Your Cameras

One of the most significant things we’re all missing while we work from home is face-to-face communication. Humans didn’t evolve to be a solitary species, and many people are experiencing negative mental health impacts because of this enforced social isolation. While it might not be safe to meet in person right now, we can get some social interaction by turning on our cameras. 

Yes, people avoid using their webcams because they’re still in their pajamas and not ready to face the world. Encourage people to get up, get dressed and turn on their cameras for your next Zoom meeting. It’s a little thing, but it can help keep your remote team engaged.

Don’t Overcomplicate Things

Working from home doesn’t require expensive equipment or the help of your entire IT department — unless you make it more difficult than it should be. The basic technology you must have to shift to your remote process are a VPN, your company applications and an internet connection.

Overcomplicating things makes remote work more stressful. It may also negatively impact productivity if one of your many complicated tasks or tools stops working.

Remember the golden rule of IT when you’re setting up your remote work tools: KISS, short for “Keep it simple, sir.” 

Have a Friendly Conversation

Not every Zoom meeting or Google Hangout needs to be about work. Whether we like to admit it or not, most of the team building and camaraderie in our teams aren’t from enforced trust exercises and company retreats. Friendships and mutual respect among colleagues blossom from conversations during breaks or lunch, or shared GIFs in the team chat. Give your team the freedom to talk about anything but work within work hours. 

Encourage employees to chat and host virtual meetups. Consider organizing virtual events like a book club or brownie bake and invite everyone to attend. Don’t make it mandatory but give your team an option to socialize and build work friendships and relationships the same way they would in the office. 

Disconnect at the End of the Day

As many newly remote workers have discovered, one of the most challenging parts of working from home is disconnecting at the end of each day. In the office, you can shut off your computer and leave everything behind, making it easier to maintain a healthy work/life balance. When you’re working remotely, that becomes more difficult because you never left home in the first place.

Preventing your team from working at odd hours is crucial now that they’re doing everything from their living room or kitchen table. Stick to your schedule, and don’t encourage people to work beyond those hours. It is possible to have a healthy work/life balance even while working remotely, but it’s up to supervisors and team leaders to help their teams maintain that balance.

Remote Doesn’t Mean Alone

Remote workers shouldn’t feel alone. Keeping your remote team engaged might be more challenging than it is if you’re face to face, but it’s essential as we all learn to adapt to the idiosyncrasies of work during a pandemic.