How to engage remote employees when leading a fully remote team

By
Rafal Fraczek
November 23, 2022
5 min read
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Since the job market changed its dynamic back in 2020, remote work became more available on a global scale. Leaders are facing a completely new challenge. The lack of physical contact in person can trigger a sense of loneliness and demotivation. How can we make sure that employees are engaged, when working without the same level of physical interaction? 

The easiest way we have found to help people feel seen? Paying attention! Focusing on getting the job done is important, but prioritizing the people behind themselves is the key. Having the employee wait for hours to see a reply to a simple question, discourages asking again. It actually encourages suffering in silence and double guessing, which in a long run leads to demotivation.

On the individual level, everyone is different. It is up to the leader to stay approachable and get to truly know who their team members are. Coaching sessions or if one prefers 1 to 1 sessions on a regular basis are essential. They help build a true connection and appreciation. Canceling those should happen only due to the real emergency. The time that leaders claim they never have is very much appreciated by staff.

Very often in the remote setup, the sense of team is being missed as well. Apart from meetings with set agenda, people do not really interact. Sure, a colleague's name sounds familiar, but do you really know them? A quick round table with a simple question about plans for the weekend can bring the team closer. Even at the first glance, completely different people have similarities. Finding and embracing them helps team members to bond.

Social interactions should be encouraged, especially virtually. Optional attendance to meetings where the whole team for once is having fun helps overall satisfaction. Not just focusing on goals, actually having fun. Celebrating wins, someone's Birthday, new colleague joining or one of the staff leaving. There are countless reasons to pick from. The best would be to give the voice to employees, what are they seeing as fun? 

Another really good way to level-up employee engagement is to be creative with small gestures. Once the team knows each other and they trust their leader, they are likely to share personal life events. It is heartwarming to receive a bouquet of flowers when getting married or a card when sick. Doing something small, but nice. Simply remembering and wanting to be the part of the employee's success or a downside brings us together. 

Working in a globally distributed team gives us an amazing opportunity to explore and embrace different cultures. Being an open minded leader, not afraid to ask questions and learn about others opens up conversations and builds a strong team. Natural curiosity and spontaneous talks on the cultural nature helps with understanding and builds trusting relationships. Environment where everyone feels free to voice their background helps to get rid of bias. Different point of view is a good thing. Challenge of the standard ways helps the business grow.

Globally distributed team leaders need to have trust in their employees. Engagement also comes from the achievements that the staff can assign to themselves. The sense of making an impact cannot be replaced with anything else. After all, there is a reason why someone got hired! Embracing that and reminding it individually creates the loop of satisfaction. At the end of the day, responsibility for the company’s success is on the leader. Trusting in employees to do their job keeps motivation high.

Leading globally distributed teams brings more opportunities than obstacles. Keeping an open mind, listening to the team and giving attention to the employees increases their engagement at work. The world is changing, in fact it has already changed. Embracing it, instead of fearing it is the answer. You got this!

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Rafal Fraczek
Customer Happiness Manager