Did you know that "50% of the US workforce holds a job that is compatible with at least partial telework?" Additionally, "80% to 90% of the US workforce says they would like to telework at least part time." If anything, these stats illustrate that there is a growing amount of remote workers, and more importantly, it's a trend that doesn't appear to be slowing down.
Regardless if you've worked with a virtual team or if you are planning to do so in the future, it's important for you to be able to inspire them - just as you would with team members coming into the office everyday. Since you don't have constant, and physical, contact with these team members inspiring them can be a challenge. But you can overcome that by following these seven tips.
1. Strengthen the Relationship
Unlike hiring someone to work in your physical workplace, you don't have the luxury of sitting down and getting to know your prospective team member during the hiring process. That's why it's important before you hire a virtual team member that you have some sort of contact beyond email. Whether it's Skype, Facetime or Hangouts, get to know your new team member so that you can have a strong working relationship going forward.
Even after the initial contact, make it a point to schedule one-on-one meetings with each team member so that you can build a sense of camaraderie and give them the chance to address any concerns.
2. Make Yourself Available
Working from home can get lonely sometimes. Your team members will likely need a little human contact from time-to-time. If you make yourself available to talk to them, whether it's work related or not, you can get a sense of how they're doing both personally and professionally.
3. Be Fair
If you have weekly meeting with your team and you live in Seattle, do you think it's fair to start the meeting at 9:00 pm PST when you have team members living in Boston? That's pretty late for them and they may already be in bed. It's also not fair to only think about your East Coast team members. You're in a pickle, right?
Not exactly. Be aware that you do have team members in multiple time zones and take that into consideration when planning meetings. One of the best ways to handle this is by rotating the meetings every week so that you're not playing favorites with one time zone. There are 54 million freelancers in the US and many more than that outside. Be aware of when they work.
4. Reward Their Hard Work
We all enjoy being acknowledged for our hard work. So remember to do the same for your virtual team members. Whether if it's a monetary bonus, gift card, or hand-written thank you card, show your appreciation to these team members when they've earned it - and let others in your on site office know about your virtual team members achievements. Possibly have the regular office people join in thanking your virtual team as well. It makes a bid difference.
5. Give Them Ownership
I'm not talking about giving them stock options in your company. I'm talking about giving them the chance to be responsible for their own work. For example, when I hire new writers I guide them along until they understand the type of content that I'm looking for. At a certain point, I just have to give them the title of an article and leave them alone, because I trust them enough to deliver what I'm looking for.
This may not sound all that motivational, but trust me, when team members have that sense of ownership, it proves to them that you trust them enough that they don't need to be constantly monitored.
6. Be Realistic
Another disadvantage that you have with remote workers is that you don't really have a clear understanding of how busy they are. You could have a freelance writer who has to tackle 20 articles before they got to yours! That's why it's important that you set realistic expectations when assigning tasks.
If your team members are constantly stressed out over completing unrealistic deadlines, how much longer do you think they'll be interested in working for you?
7. Have the Right Tools
Finally, without the right tools, how can you expect to keep your team organized and productive? Software like Basecamp and Insightly make it easy to assign and monitor tasks, as well as track the progress of your team members. I even built a time tracking tool to help them manage their time more impactful. GoToMeeting and join.me make virtual meetings a breeze.
Never worry about how to inspire a virtual team. If you have the right tools in place, your organization will run like a well-oiled machine.