5 ways to keep your team motivated when you can’t see them in person

Team happy hours, shared lunches, and coffee chats all usually have one thing in common: they happen together. But for remote teams, the absence of such tried-and-true workplace bonding staples can leave a gap that’s hard to fill without getting a little more creative.

Keeping your team motivated comes down to knowing how to make them feel supported. In the absence of in-person meetings, lean into new ways to communicate and collaborate. Increase project visibility to make your team understand how their work fits into the larger team’s plans. Create opportunities for your team to authentically connect, so you can support each other and move forward together.

As you continue to manage a remote team, these five strategies will help you empower your team and make them feel connected to each other and their work.

1. Over-communicate where possible

It can be easy to feel out of the loop when you’re working remotely. That’s why it’s especially important to almost over-communicate when it comes to plans, feedback, and praise. While a smile can suffice in person, make the effort to convey your emotions and tone more deliberately when you’re working remotely. If you’re offering constructive criticism, put yourself in their shoes. Could your message be misinterpreted? Is there a way to make what you’re trying to communicate clearer?

Over-communicating doesn’t mean constantly sending emails or updates with no purpose. Focus on keeping your team in the loop about any new initiatives and hold space as new information (and emotions) come up. Update them when things change so they have the context they need, and facilitate cross-functional conversations so all stakeholders are on the same page. Maintaining a central source of truth across all of your teams, like Asana, is a great way to do this.

2. Make yourself available

We’ve said remote work can feel isolating, and it’s never more true than when someone on your team is having a hard time. When most of your communication is likely happening through Slack, email, or Asana, it can be challenging for your team to know when and how to contact you.

Make your availability clear in your schedule and offer guidelines for how to grab time with you. You might hold extra office hours or schedule regular 1:1 meetings. By creating space for your team to contact you, you’re implicitly saying that they can share how they’re feeling and come to you for help, advice, or celebration.

Note that this extra meeting time might mean that you have a little less time for your work. But really, by setting this time aside, you’re helping the entire team get more done. In fact, according to the Anatomy of Work Index, employees that feel supported and have clarity on how their work impacts the rest of the team are two times as motivated as their counterparts. When you create space for your team to be authentic, you’re helping them get their best work done.

3. Prioritize face-to-face conversations

Even though you can’t see your team in person, video conversations are a major asset in your toolkit. Video provides valuable context, and makes the remote work experience feel more human than a phone call or email. While not every meeting needs to be a video call, create a policy for when video is expected or needed.

It’s also critical for your team to have fun face-to-face conversations—the way you would in-office. Consider hosting a virtual happy hour or lunch once a week, or encourage your team to play a weekly game. Though you no longer have water cooler conversations, making space for more relaxed conversations will keep your team connected.

4. Offer space to de-stress

Transitioning to remote work is difficult, and your team may be stressed. While you can’t entirely remove their stress, creating channels through which they can de-stress and share how they’re feeling is a great way to keep your team motivated. With honesty and authenticity, your team can come out of remote work more connected than ever before.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Create channels where your team can connect. You likely have messaging channels dedicated to teams and projects, but now is a great time to create channels where employees can chat about something other than work. At Asana, we have channels like #wear-asana-wednesday, #book-club, and #downdog (where we post pictures of Asana pets).
  • Encourage your team to use “away” and “Do Not Disturb” features. To help your team create space between “home” and “work from home,” encourage them to unplug and fight the “always on” feeling. Turning off notifications and letting the team know they’re offline are a great way to encourage this.
  • Remind your team that they’re still able to use their vacation days. If your team had to cancel any travel during the shift to remote work, they may have also cancelled the PTO they submitted to take the travel. Encourage them to still take PTO, even if it’s just to have a “staycation.”
  • Allow flexible schedules and mental health days if you can. Some members of your team may find working from home more difficult than others. Parents, in particular, are managing their own work and their children’s schooling. Every team’s situation is different, but if you’re able, encourage flexible schedules and mental health breaks to help your employees cope with their personal responsibilities.

5. Share strategies to help your local community

One of the struggles your team may be facing right now is a feeling of lack of control. Encourage them to help their local community by creating a shared document or Asana project aggregating all ways they can help. Have a team brainstorm session where everyone can share local restaurants that are offering takeout, nonprofit organizations helping the community, and remote volunteering opportunities “in the area” (so to speak!).

When you empower your team to feel motivated and connected—not just to your company but to the larger community—you’re allowing them to bring their whole selves to work.

Managing & motivating your team from anywhere

The best way to keep your team motivated is to keep them connected, encourage them to be authentic, and show your support no matter where you all might be working from. For more ways to keep your team motivated while you’re working remotely, learn how Asana can help your team collaborate and connect from anywhere.

Real talk: How to make working from home work