We’re in uncharted territory. With so many businesses closing their doors as a precaution, allowing their teams to work remotely, we’re challenged with the concept of business must go on, but in a new, unplanned way. We didn’t get a chance to plan for a remote team, and likely don’t have protocols in place.

Here at PMA, our whole team is remote and works virtually. So we thought we’d pull together some tips on how to motivate a team, in this changing environment.

1. Most important, and somewhat unique to the COVID-19 situation we’re presently walking through, remember to approach all relationships with empathy, whether within your team or other business associates. We’re all grappling with feelings of fear and anxiety. Perhaps, fellow team members, have young children or care for an elderly relative; equally, your team may have underlying health conditions they haven’t disclosed, and their levels of concern may be higher than yours. In this case, empathy always wins.

2. Also, check-in regularly. How are your team members dealing with isolation? How can you support each other?

3. Communication in virtual teams is paramount, both in the frequency of communication, but moreover with tone. Funny remarks can be taken out of context in an email, and often we subconsciously rely on facial cues to tell us if someone is speaking in jest or literal. Add to this fear and stress, and the likelihood that you could be misunderstood will be high. Write your email, review it, reread it, and if it doesn’t sound right, pick up the phone instead of an email.

4. Remote teams still need structure – have set work times and check-ins. Encourage everyone to try to maintain a 9-5 focus amid distractions at home (and yes, even after working from home for over ten years, I’m still guilty of doing laundry or taking just a second to vacuum).

5. Have regular video calls – zoom is excellent, skype is as well. It helps with the feeling of isolation and loneliness and reinforces the team. For team meetings, have a little fun with it and choose themes, encourage everyone to dress up. I wouldn’t usually recommend this, but if it helps break the stress, then do it.

6. Set project deadlines and stick to them. You may collaboratively set the deadline, but keep your team accountable. It’s easy to get distracted and unfocused; deadlines will help.

7. Encourage everyone to plan their days, so the first thing on their list is figuring out what they may need from others. When you’re used to working in a shared space, you can pop over to someone’s desk for a file; if you’re working remotely, you’ll need this file emailed to you. Ask your team to plan ahead, although you’re encouraging 9-5 workdays; each team member may be offline during the day tending to home challenges and responsibilities. Prioritize what you need from others, and then you’re prepared for the rest of the day.

8. Set up an online shared workspace if you don’t have one already. Google Drive is fantastic, and a great way to collaborate on files.

9. Get innovative! See this as an opportunity for greater efficiencies. Do you have team members that are more efficient at home and are exceeding expectations? Perhaps in the future, encourage them to split up their week, so they split their time between the office and home. Within every challenge lies an opportunity, we just have to open ourselves up to see it.

10. Lastly, use this time to review your business procedures, how can you be better prepared for this in the future? What wasn’t working before, but is working well now? You may uncover potential, not evident previously, so use this time to reflect.

And one bonus tip…

This will pass, right now it seems overwhelming, but it will pass. Hopefully, we’ll gain a greater sense of community in the process. Take some time, every day, to reflect on what you’re thankful for, encourage your team to do the same. In this age of 24 hours news feeds, endless internet articles with varying levels of credibility, and rumors upon rumors coupled with speculations and doomsday scenarios, we need to step away, re-focus, and be thankful.

By Peggy Murrah, Founder of PMA Web Services

Author's Bio: 

Peggy Murrah is a unique combination of web and marketing savvy, along with dependability and resourcefulness. These qualities have been instrumental in her building a successful business that serves clientele across five continents. PMA Web Services provides marketing direction and strategies for entrepreneurs through mentoring, social media marketing, list building and management, and development/maintenance of their online presence.