Almost every company today has moved to some form of a remote work set up. It’s likely uncharted territory for many.
If you find that managing your team remotely is challenging, you’re not alone. With my last business, we had both remote employees and in-office employees in New York, Berlin, and San Francisco. It took years to hone in on creating an effective distributed team.
Fortunately, there are key strategies that can help you transition or improve your remote set up. They’ve been instrumental for my latest venture, a gaming company, where we are fully remote.
1. Keep you mission top of mind
Your team will be more driven to achieve your project’s goals if they know why they’re doing it. This means communicating a compelling vision for the work. How will your company be making a mark on the world, and why does everyone’s work matter.
It seems simple enough, but this basic mission oriented communication can be forgotten when going remote. When you don’t see your employees in office, you lose the physical, human-to nudges to communicate the big picture.
This is not something you share once and move on from. It requires constant communication to make sure your team rallies behind the mission.At my company, we send an end of the week email on the importance of our work, and why we think we’re making a difference. We show our team direct feedback from customers on why they love our games. It’s a reminder to keep the big picture in mind, and not get lost in the day to day.
2. Always provide feedback
On top of mission-oriented communication, regular feedback is critical to keeping you team motivated. Yes, it helps with aligning on expectations and objectives. More importantly though, it demonstrates to your team you care about their work and their professional development, which will encourage them to take risks and try more innovative approaches, all of which will motivate your team even more.
It’s easy to forget about feedback in a remote set up. If you’re out of sight, feedback can be out of mind. Stay on the ball, and be a coach to your team. Provide regular feedback on how they can constantly become better
I recommend creating a process around regular feedback. For example, set up weekly 1-on-1s with your team to provide quick feedback on their work. Go beyond this, and also ask about your team’s well being. How are they adjusting to remote work? Showing that you care goes a long way to motivating your team.
3. Think about remote company culture
When moving to a remote set up, you want to be thoughtful on how you can maintain your company culture. While you can’t replace water cooler talk, or hang out with your colleagues at lunch, you can find other avenues to make sure your employees feel culturally connected.
Recognition is an area where you can go above and beyond in a remote set up. At Chegg, the company who acquired my former business, you could give out Chegg Stars weekly to anyone in the company, with an explanation why. Not only was it fun to give a shoutout, but everyone loved the recognition.
At my new company, we do something simpler. We send emails every two weeks where we compile shoutouts across the team.
Working from home can bring micromanagement creep. Suddenly, managers may feel the need to stay on top of everyone’s work, and may incessantly send slack messages for updates.
To stay motivated, make sure you continue to empower your development team to make decisions, and show them you trust them. We hold quarterly meetings on how we can improve our remote processes. Our goal was to intrinsically motivate our team by giving them ownership into how we can run our company. Think about how you can further empower your team in a remote setup.
We learned that in a remote setup, many people on our team would find it difficult to delineate work life from home life leading to exhaustion. To address this, we started instituting a process to require breaks. We now end our meetings 5 to 10 minutes early and ask our team to play a game of solitaire, one of the games we’ve developed.
It seems like a strange policy, but it serves two purposes: 1) It forces our team to unplug and we found solitaire is quick, fun, and not addicting, and 2) It allows our team to enjoy some of the games they’ve worked on.
It has turned out to be a popular policy. These sporadic breaks keep our team energized throughout the day. In fact, at the end of meetings, we’ll often say “Game time.”
Think about how you can create a process around breaks. Not only is it fun, the discipline will keep your team engaged and motivated.
You can always improve
When you’re not around your development team, it’s easy to forget about the importance of thoughtful communication, feedback, culture, and empowerment. With some effort, you can transition your team to a remote setup, and be more motivated than ever.