4 Ways to Keep Spirits Up With Your Remote Coworkers

Be a superhero teammate from home

My team is remote, and we’ve retained all our workers. By day, I run A/B tests on brands’ websites to help drive revenue and better understand their audiences. So, it should come as no surprise that I recommend organizations test to discover what works and doesn’t. Feedback is your friend, especially now.

Every organization is different, so some of the suggestions that follow may need to be altered. However, human beings are fundamentally similar, and we all need to feel connected, appreciated and trusted. Here are four unique ways I’ve learned to help boost morale, reward healthy routines and help teammates retain their sanity during these weird times.

The key to success here is making conversations more purposeful than simply catching up.

Encourage self-care and support healthy habits

We have a self-care channel in our company Slack where people post activities they’re participating in and are entered in a random monthly drawing to win a $50 gift card. This helps encourage teammates to take time for self-care and also has the added bonus of giving visibility into our team’s hobbies, interests and activities. I’ve had the pleasure of learning that my coworkers cook tasty looking empanadas, are teaching their kids to ride bikes, build their own furniture and do many other activities that I may not have known about otherwise.

Another thing we do are “in this together” challenges, wherein we all participate and hold one another accountable. Most recently, a 30-day ab challenge was our white whale (and, boy, did it require motivation from the team).

Go the extra mile to check in

We won’t know the effects of social distancing for a while, but I do know how to prevent staff from feeling so isolated today. In order to truly know how your people are doing, you have to reach out now more than ever. I recommend starting with scheduling more frequent one-on-ones with employees. Put more virtual morning coffees or Zoom happy hours on the calendar. Leaders should encourage everyone in the company to schedule these social gatherings, too, since it strengthens bonds and may even create cross-departmental collaborations.

The key to success here is making conversations more purposeful than simply catching up. Ask how people are doing on a human level. Send a message to teammates or ask if they’re available for a five-minute call, even when it isn’t on the calendar. No agenda is needed; simply telling people you’re thinking about them and appreciate them can really brighten their days. Find out if they’ve found new ways to stay busy or if they picked up that hobby they mentioned in mid-March. Drop a daily morning question so the team can learn more about one another. A quick Google search will yield some good questions, and there are many bots you can create that automate the asking if you don’t wish to do it manually.

We also have teammates share their Amazon wishlist links and will often randomly send them something from it or tell them to use the company credit card to purchase a product from one of our clients while they’re testing the site. We recently had a teammate buy a new condo so we had him pick out some cookware from one of our clients as a housewarming gift. Those seemingly little things demonstrate to employees that you pay attention and view them as human beings, not just numbers on a spreadsheet.

Go out of your way to recognize teammates

We have a humble brag channel on Slack where we post things we appreciate about teammates using the power thank you format, which starts with thanking the person for something specific that they did for you.

screenshot of a slack conversation with a shared photo of a path

It helps to acknowledge the effort it took for the person to help you, too. Tell the person the difference that their act personally made to you. In these crazy times, it’s easy for us to get wrapped up in our own lives and to-do lists. Increased isolation can make people feel especially alone and under-appreciated, so gratitude and recognition are extra important.

Be communication superheroes

At a time when many people are seeking the closeness of others, digital tools can partially fill the social gap. However, the way we communicate through them has to be different than in person.

During the onboarding process, ask employees to write user manuals. They’re immensely helpful, especially in a remote environment where people may be working in different time zones, have different familial obligations, etc. It’s important to know how and when to best communicate with someone who you can’t just shoulder tap at their desk. Start by asking important questions, such as how they prefer to receive feedback, when they like to receive it and what times of day they do their best work. Make sure the user manuals are in a public folder so everyone on the team has access to them.

An oft-heard criticism of remote work is that things fall through the cracks more easily. To combat this, encourage positive confirmation when communicating. This small act makes a huge difference, especially as we’re all juggling a million things at once. And while it may seem like a no-brainer, it’s important to communicate this directive and its importance to your team.

Some people have a tendency to talk online like they do in person, which can be taxing and time-consuming for the reader. To avoid this, discourage stream-of-consciousness style writing in chat or emails and teach your teammates the preferred approach. For example:

Don’t write like this.

Then have some other thought—

And hit return each time.

See how stressful that is to have to wait for me to get to the point?

Instead, write where everything is contained within one, succinct message that the reader can easily digest. Give them a clear CTA if you’re asking something, and consider using formatting to help the CTA stand out.

How companies handle the involuntary and swift remote work adjustment caused by this pandemic will make or break them. Teams that experiment with the above strategies that give physical well-being and appreciation for others will weather this stronger and benefit in the long term.