15 Tips To Improve Your Remote Team’s Motivation And Engagement

15 Tips To Improve Your Remote Team’s Motivation And Engagement

When your workplace is remote (or hybrid), how do you keep your people feeling connected and appreciated? Here are tips to help you support your virtual teammates.

15 Tips To Improve Your Remote Team’s Motivation And Engagement

While remote work offers flexibility and perks, employees might still struggle working from home. It’s up to team leaders to create a culture that increases employee engagement.

The Pandemic accelerated the adoption of remote work, making teams pivot quickly. Many relied on those Zoom happy hours for connection.

Today, many organizations choose hybrid or fully remote teams, which means we need to approach company culture differently.

Strong workplace culture focuses on employee motivation and builds a sense of pride and purpose in their employees. In fact, Gartner reports 82 percent of employees want that from their roles, but only 45 percent of those employees admit they feel that way about their organization.

So with the remote workforce growing, maybe it’s time to look at a few ways you can improve your remote team’s motivation and engagement!

Find out how you can boost your remote team’s engagement on Cooleaf!

See Cooleaf in action

Can Remote Teams Have Successful Employee Engagement?

Short answer: yes. Long answer: yes, but you need a strategy.

Our work productivity aligns with workplace engagement. In fact, Gallup says highly engaged teams boast of 21 percent greater profit.

There’s no denying that that an in-person workspace made building camaraderie and productivity easier.

Many teams had a physical water cooler where you’d run into another coworker and catchup on weekend plans. These small moments would help employees feel connected and fueled at work.

Without proximity, remote team members need a way to re-create those touch points.

Work culture and experience advisor Laura Eley, Principal Consultant & Co-Founder of +One Culture Consulting, a One Workplace venture, introduced us all to the concept of propinquity during a Cooleaf webinar on returning to the office post-Pandemic.

“Propinquity is who we are closest with— who we actually form the closest bonds with,” the +One cofounder said. “But it also provides us a framework to help us think about every relationship that we have.”

“It basically says that we as leaders can design experiences that help people create proximity, to help them have a frequency of connection, and that also brings them together.”  

So how can we build engagement and employee motivation for a remote team? Read on to find out!

a virtual team of co-workers on a Zoom call together

1. Set Expectations for Remote Teams

Be clear on how your organization supports your remote employees, so your people can take ownership of how they work:

  • Set office hours or recurring 1:1s so employees know they’ll have time on your calendar
  • Utilize a digital office such as a Slack channel, MS Teams, or Google Hangouts to keep daily conversation
  • Have a with go-to resources with video tutorials, training sessions, or in-depth guides. Teams can create this resource together, offering advice and even sharing what works for their workflow in terms of project management.

Be clear in your own expectations for your employees’ workday: does everyone maintain 9-5 or is it more asynchronous? Do you want to have regular check-ins or utilize a time tracker? Does their manager have office hours for any drop-in questions or quick Zoom calls?

Clarity will put your remote workers at ease. The office hours can especially help a remote team know when they can shoot over a quick question or run an idea by you!

A culture of wellbeing will help prevent remote work burnout! Let our checklist help.

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2. Create an Engaging Onboarding

The onboarding process for new hires can keep employee turnover down and engagement up, and it’s so critical in a remote work setup.

A new employee’s first day is already daunting, so you make sure they have the right equipment and needed logins.

To help a new hire feel like they belong:

  • Partner them with a Welcome Buddy to give the ins and outs of your team culture
  • Walk them through your company’s core values
  • Introduce them in the Slack channel or team video call
  • Schedule manager check-ins  
  • Ask team members to reach out for 1:1s with their new coworker
  • Start the week with a Zoom team-building activity to get to know one another
  • Send a gift card to have lunch on the team!
a woman smiles at the image of her coworkers on a Zoom call

3. Find the Right Apps

Remote work is always easier with the right set up and tech. At a minimum, this includes offering remote communication tools, video conferencing apps, direct messaging platforms like Slack.

There are also tools like Miro or Canva’s whiteboard which can help teams brainstorm remotely.

For newer software, be sure to link out to training videos or host an onboarding session to learn the basics. As an example, for teams to learn about Cooleaf’s app updates, we hosted an online scavenger hunt activity through the Cooleaf platform for people to get familiar with the app and earn points!

There are so many apps out there but see what works best for your team. This is your digital work environment.

Remember, many platforms integrate with other tools to streamline your processes and keep us all in the loop!

screenshot of superbowl challenge on Cooleaf platform
NetHealth's remote team hosts fun challenges on Cooleaf to foster connection!

4. Encourage Employee Recognition

Positive reinforcement is one of the most powerful ways to keep engagement up and encourage your employees to perform at their best – even in the face of huge changes and struggles.

Studies have shown that being recognized for hard work empowers employees to go the extra mile, creating a positive impact across the organization.

One simple way to recognize employee performance is through rewards and bonuses for standout performance. Recognition platforms like Cooleaf can help you to keep employee engagement high and burnout levels low.

“Cooleaf gave our people the opportunity to appreciate others they’ve worked with on a daily basis but never saw in person,” Kiley Skadburg, Chief Marketing Officer at the Iowa Clinic told Cooleaf co-founder John Duisberg during an episode of The Great Retention podcast.

“They can now say ‘thank you for helping me get that patient in’ or ‘thank you for going above and beyond and staying late’ and that was the amazing part about it. From a culture perspective, it created space for people to connect and see the interactions happening on the feed.”
A screenshot of a recognition on the Cooleaf platform
The Iowa Clinic's team uses Cooleaf to easily and publicly recognize each other's accomplishments!

5. Develop a Workflow Template

With employees in different locations, project management software like Asana or Trello keeps everyone updated on a project’s status. Having a single source of truth like a Trello board or project manager prevents any confusion or missed deadlines in the future.

With flexible work hours, employees should be able to work independently. Providing a clear process will help employees take ownership.

Keep in mind that each department might need something different. Gather employee feedback through employee surveys to explore new solutions and see how your team can work best.

6. Host Virtual Team Building Activities

Another struggle that employees might have is the lack of face-to-face contact or social life that comes with working from home.

Without the ability to bond and connect with other team members in-person, team collaboration can suffer, so hosting team bonding and non-work related activities are so important.

Fun virtual team-building ideas like escape rooms, trivia games, and step challenges are just a few ways to encourage fun and connection. Not only are you making sure employee collaboration and teamwork aren’t distanced, but you’re also ensuring that team morale stays high.

Cooleaf partners use 1:1 coffee chats to encourage different departments to meet up. Cooleaf itself has a Pet Channel on Slack to post updates about our furry #WFH friends. Get creative! And if you’re looking for employee engagement ideas, Cooleaf is always here to help.

7. Measure Employee Engagement

Now that you’re putting so much work into making sure engagement stays high, you need to come up with effective ways to make sure your initiatives are giving results. See what’s working and what can use a little help.

When measuring overall employee engagement, look at metrics like absenteeism and employee retention to get a high-level view. Other metrics like employee net promoter score (eNPS) can help you measure job satisfaction more often so you can make quick changes as needed.

Without being together in person, you might not have a real idea of how your remote employees feel, so check-ins or pulse surveys are a great way to gather anonymous feedback.

Veanne Smith, co-CEO of SOLTECH, says that measuring eNPS has transformed their organization.

“As our eNPS has gone up, so has our revenue. It's not coincidental. You can’t grow your business if you don’t invest in your employees." – Veanne Smith, Co-CEO, SOLTECH
visualization of Cooleaf's eNPS tool

8. Set the Example for Work-Life Balance

It’s important to keep morale up and to keep team communication consistent, but there’s a fine line between being supportive or going towards burnout. As a team leader, set boundaries for work hours versus your home time. Set the example for a healthy work-life balance.

A weekly or biweekly check-ins can keep everyone up-to-date, but too many meetings or calls can infringe on people’s time. You don’t want to be a micromanager. As a rule of thumb, ask yourself if a meeting is meaningful, necessary, and important.

Have open conversations with your people on work hours, support one another when taking time off, and respect each other’s time by only setting meetings when needed. More importantly, tell one another to not answer calls or emails during dinner!

9. Offer Well-Being Perks

With many employees dealing with burnout and overwhelm, it’s so important for workplace leaders to encourage a healthy work-life balance.

Along with healthy work-life boundaries, managers and HR teams can also offer health and well-being benefits and incentives. It not only helps employees feel supported by their organization, but encourages your people to put their mental health and physical care first.

Health benefits, lifestyle perks like discounts for gyms, workout classes, and home gym equipment are great options that give your employees space to choose their own adventure (or workout needs).

Cooleaf partners with teams to offer wellbeing challenges like step contests and healthy recipe swaps. Team members are incentivized to participate with online rewards.

Companies like Nike offer mental health days every quarter. Other organizations offer meditation app memberships and therapy resources or free sessions for employees to use as needed.

Providing the means for employees to prioritize themselves makes for happier teams and a better business.

10. Offer Family Care and Parental Leave

According to SHRM, in 2022 76 percent of employees reported that family care benefits became a huge factor in helping employees select a role. We can see how important and stressful finding the right childcare or can feel for an individual.

Offering childcare incentives or benefits to help those needing child or eldercare supports your people’s well-being and attracts potential hires.

Some organizations even offer additional support through counseling resources for people who are the main caregivers for elderly family members or new parents.

a family plays soccer together in a park

11. Expand Professional Development Opportunities

Additional training and professional development opportunities help employees invest in their own careers. Organizations can provide uDemy or Linkedin Learning memberships or an education stipend so their employees can choose their own path.

Mentor-matching is another great option, where workplace leaders can match up with interested employees who are looking for guidance in a specific field.

Investing in your people helps build their own confidence in what they can do and what they can bring to your team. Employees who feel supported by their organization tend to stay longer and be the biggest brand advocates for their companies.

12. Set Boundaries for Team Meetings

The only rule about any meeting is to always ask, “Should this be a meeting or an email?”

When many teams first went remote, they relied a lot on video calls and additional team meetings to feel connected and stay motivated. However, everyone realized quickly that Zoom Fatigue was very real. Unfortunately, more time was in meetings over actual work, leading to extended work hours and burnout.

Help employees protect their time by creating company-wide blocked-off hours for focus work or even a certain focus day each week. For teams who use Google Calendar, individuals can track how many hours of meetings they have a week, so your team can document if anyone might need additional support.

13. Make a Virtual Water Cooler

Sometimes, it helps to just have a Slack channel where people can drop a random gif or a Zoom time where someone plays music for some online coworking. The Cooleaf team itself utilizes these small ways to help our remote team stay connected while being productive— along with the Cooleaf app of course!

Have workplace leaders set the tone for these spaces. No one wants to be the first person on the dance floor sometimes, so posting a question, sharing a fact, or even giving that shoutout can encourage team members to chime in too.

For Cooleaf’s main feed, we post trivia or more information on key dates and months, like PRIDE or Mental Health Awareness Month. This is a great way to get the ball rolling but also to keep the feed new every time you log on.

14. Create a Sense of Belonging

Many employees value having diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) prominently in policy and practice at their organization. In fact, about 76 percent of employees prioritize DEI when selecting a new role.

DEI matters, and creating a respectful space where your remote team feels like they can bring their whole selves celebrates the diversity on your team. Fostering DEI helps people bring their best selves and work.

You can build belonging by starting with your team meetings:

  • Rotating time zones so teams aren’t always the one staying up/waking early
  • Letting other employee groups host big team meetings
  • Adding items from employee resource groups (ERGs) to the agenda

Some teams will work with a DEI leader or consultant to host team training or fun activities in a remote setting. You can also host ERGs for AAPI, Black, and LGBTQ+ communities in your organization. ERGs can then work your organization to create initiatives to support your diverse team.

More importantly, create systemic change with organization-wide policies for equity and inclusivity. Look at your hiring or interviewing process. Incorporate supportive parental leave.

Policies that support people, attract potential new employees and increase retention in the long run.

15. Ask For Real-Time Employee Feedback

Don’t underestimate the value of employee feedback.

As you transition to full-time, hybrid, or 100 percent remote work, it’s important to check in with your people.

Hold recurring pulse surveys or stay interviews. It keeps your organization on top of employee satisfaction, and gives your people an opportunity have their voices be heard. A tip from someone might very well help other coworkers find their groove!

Final Thoughts

Remote work provides flexibility and improves work-life balance for many people.

When people feel heard and can own their workday, they offer their best work and increased employee engagement.

It might feel like a challenge and adjustment at first, but with time and a little practice, you might realize that working together can make remote work, well, work for your organization.

Derek Jones  (VP Enterprise Strategy, Americas)

Derek spearheads key initiatives at Deputy, a global workforce management platform for employee scheduling, timesheets and communication. With a focus on Healthcare, Derek helps business owners and workforce leaders simplify employment law compliance, keep labor cost in line and build award-winning workplaces. Derek has over 16 years’ experience in delivering data-driven sales and marketing strategies to SaaS companies like MarketSource and Griswold Home Care.


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