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Remote Work Motivation: Tactics for Keeping Remote Workers Engaged

The pandemic has ushered in an entirely new vocabulary, such as social distancing, contact tracing, and frontliners. Although these new terms are now entrenched in our day-to-day and are debuting in some of the world’s top dictionaries, some pandemic concepts are negatively impacting our ability to work effectively.

Work from home (WFH) burnout and Zoom fatigue aren’t just quips about coping with the global pandemic. They are real and taking a toll on virtual workers, directly impacting remote work motivation. In a December 2020 study, Spring Health found that 76 percent of U.S. workers are experiencing burnout from their job. And although not an official diagnosis—yet­­–Psychology Today states that Zoom fatigue is very real, heightening loneliness and disconnection from others.

Employee motivation and engagement were challenging enough before the pandemic. Now with decreases in mental health and increased workplace burnout, how do human resources professionals tackle motivating their remote employees?

In this article, we’ll look at three ways leaders can increase motivation and engagement in this new world of work.

Proactively Manage Burnout

First, human resources leaders can’t ignore the elephant in the room. With such drastic changes to the workplace over the last year, in addition to job and financial insecurity, classrooms moving into the kitchens, and caring for loved ones, it’s no wonder people are struggling while trying to meet their jobs’ demands.

According to Dr. Millard Brown, senior vice president of Medical Affairs at Spring Health, “[t]he events of 2020 have put a tremendous amount of pressure on U.S. employees—especially those who are raising children or taking care of elderly loved ones.” He continues by stating, “Burnout is extremely costly for organizations, so it’s imperative that leaders take steps now to reduce and manage burnout symptoms for their workforce.”

One way to address burnout is to identify who is the most vulnerable to it, such as women, people of color, and caregivers. Burnout for this group can cause decreasing productivity as well as a complete departure from the workforce, according to Harvard Business Review. Since February 2020, 2.3 million women have left the workforce. Leaders must not only identify these susceptible workers but must also proactively address the burnout, protecting them from added stress. 

To do so, the Harvard Business Review recommends that leaders implement the following three steps:

  1. Check on your employees. Be sure to ask them how they’re coping.
  2. Offer flexible work schedules and locations, such as allowing employees to work from home during certain days or times.
  3. Encourage remote workers to take some time off for self-care and recovery.

With remote work here to stay for many, employers must focus on ensuring the well-being of all employees, including remote workers, while implementing these changes into standard operational procedures.

Encourage Wellbeing

Ensuring wellbeing is central to motivating a remote workforce and should be a top priority for leaders.

Although employee wellbeing was critical before 2020, its importance has elevated. Wellbeing has become a top priority for most businesses for 2021 and beyond, according to McKinsey. Human resources professionals must focus on wellbeing with daily intention and give their employees the tools they need, such as “mediation, sleep, exercise, nutrition, community belonging, a spiritual connection, and more.” Such holistic offerings help employees identify which tools enable their wellbeing and easily access them daily. 

Not addressing employees’ mental health can result in unnecessary costs, low motivation, and decreasing productivity. According to McKinsey, such neglect can result in hundreds of billions of dollars to employers.  For all these reasons, “[b]usinesses should treat wellbeing as a tangible skill, a critical business input, and a measurable outcome.”

Keep Communication Lines Open

Working remotely can often feel isolating, and communication through tools like Slack or Zoom can be intimidating for some employees. By creating one on one meetings with employees, for example, human resources professionals and other leaders can establish increased communication by emphasizing their accessibility and approachability.

Additionally, with a significant portion of communication being transmitted digitally (email, text, messenger apps) meaning and intent can often get lost, or worse, misinterpreted. By encouraging communication through several different channels, including face-to-face video meetings, a phone conversation, or an in-person meeting twice a month, leaders can take advantage of the opportunity to communicate in individually preferred styles while keeping all employees in the corporate loop.

According to Harvard Business Review, “[c]reating an inclusive remote culture starts with hearing out all employees, then making fair and appropriate accommodations. The simple act of communicating in and of itself can relieve ambiguity and anxiety,” improving the overall morale of the workplace.

For help hiring remote employees who will stay engaged and motivated in their roles, reach out to Cangrade to learn more.