Motivating Remote Staff: 7 Tips to Combat Boredom, Burnout & Loneliness

By Whitney Joy Smith

With the rise of the Internet and other global technologies, many Canadian companies seek to retain a remote staff. From reduced costs, to increased productivity, working remotely can provide your company with plenty of benefits.

That being said, working with a remote team requires you to use a slightly different set of management skills. This is especially true when it comes to staying on top of employee satisfaction. For example, an office environment allows you to keep track of an employee’s productivity on a day-to-day basis. You can simply observe them in action. When your employees work remotely however, you don’t see them as often (if at all). So, how do you prevent situations where your remote worker feels a lack of motivation toward his or her job?

Boredom, Burnout & Loneliness

In my experience, when a remote member of staff feels unmotivated it is likely due to one (or a combination) of three things:

  1. Boredom – A bored employee is an unmotivated employee. When it comes to working remotely, it is difficult to tell whether or not your employee is growing bored with their assignments. To keep your team motivated, it’s in your best interest to offer a wide range of perks or ideas to help them boost their productivity.
  1. Burn Out – Employee burnout is something that every boss must keep an eye out for—regardless of the job. It is easy for a remote worker to lose him or herself in work, because you’re not around to stop them. At the end of the day, it is your job to make sure that you don’t overwhelm your team with too much work. It is also your job to make sure that the remote worker doesn’t say yes to every little task that comes their way.
  1. Loneliness – Remote work, by definition means that you don’t work in a typical office environment. While this suits most people just fine, working solo can eventually take its toll. If you aren’t careful, your management method can make an employee feel isolated. As a result, the remote worker will feel incredibly unmotivated and his or her work will suffer.

Providing strategies and methods to prevent boredom, burn out and/or loneliness will increase the longevity of your workforce. Below, you will find the seven management tips and tricks I employ with my own remote staff.

1. Offer Training & the Opportunity for Self-Improvement

Give your remote team the opportunity to learn and grow in their field. Motivation is often tightly linked to whether or not an employee feels like they’re learning or trying something new. So is boredom. If your remote workers complete the same repetitive tasks day in and out, eventually they will no longer find joy in their work.

With the right kind of training, you will see an improvement in a remote worker’s productivity. By helping him or her to develop and hone skills, you not only improve motivation, but also your company’s bottom line.

2. Allow Space for a Little Entertainment

If your operation runs like mine, your remote workers will often find themselves on the road for long periods of time. In some lines of work, like private investigation, your remote employees will face long stretches of down time where he or she can do nothing but wait. Sitting in a parked car for hours on end will test even the most patient of employees.

This is why I encourage my team of remote workers to occupy these periods of time with different methods of entertainment. Audiobooks or podcasts, for example, are a wonderful way to keep the mind stimulated without taking focus off the road or job.

3. Know When to Call for Backup

Sometimes a remote job calls for a little teamwork. Knowing when to send in a remote worker alone and when to pair him or her up with another team member is critical, but not always easy to guess. Understanding the capabilities of your remote team will help you to achieve the right balance. Understanding the job or the task and what it will require will also help. It is in your best interest to cultivate a remote team that isn’t afraid to ask for assistance. Your remote company will only benefit in the long run.

4. Keep the Personal Separate from the Job

Working remotely can often bleed over into an employee’s personal life. Whether the employee works from home, or is on the road, separating work from home is a key component to staying motivated. For example, the living room or the truck of the car might turn into a makeshift office space, one that unfortunately becomes difficult to step away from. It might also be that you need to contact your team at odd hours of the day. It all depends on the type of job. However, giving your remote team the time to work out their own schedule is the key to keeping them motivated.

5. Engage in Employee Recognition

Recognizing when a remote worker does a good job is critical to keeping your team motivated. Similar to communication, your team members need to know the benefits to doing a good job. Otherwise they will start to feel like their contributions don’t matter. His or her motivation to do the job will eventually drop.

Since your remote workers can’t receive the recognition they deserve in person, I recommend sending out an email to the entire team, or even to the individual to congratulate him or her on a job well done. It will also help to request feedback from clients. Passing along this information will help your remote worker to know what they’ve done well, and where they can improve. It will give them the boost they need to get on with their next task.

6. Hire with an Honest Assessment  

One of the most important things you can do when it comes to hiring a remote worker is to find out whether or not his or her personality makes for a good fit. In my experience, many potential candidates fall in love with the idea of creating his or her own personal hours. He or she might even want the increased flexibility that can come from working remotely. What a lot of Canadians don’t realize is that a remote job opportunity isn’t for everyone. For example, if you are extremely social, or get distracted easily, working alone all day likely isn’t going work for you.

As the boss, you need to develop a keen eye when building your remote team. You need to honestly assess whether or not the individual can work by themselves for long periods of time. If you don’t believe that they can stay motivated when bored, or lonely, don’t make that hire.

7. Communication is King

When working with a remote staff, you really need to make sure that the lines of communication remain open. Without communication, your remote staff will not know what is expected of them. Assigning tasks with clear instructions will ensure that your remote employees understand their job. If your remote worker is engaged with a client, regular check-ins will help to keep him or her on track. Alternatively, listening to feedback from your remote employees is a great way to build strong communication across the company.

When it comes to building your remote team, it’s so important to remember that you’re dealing with people. We all have different needs and methods of working. However, if you manage the way in which your remote team approaches their work, you will help to improve or prevent any boredom, burnout or loneliness they would otherwise experience. In turn, you will help to keep your remote workers motivated, which will then impact and benefit your Canadian business in many different ways.

Author Bio:
Whitney Joy Smith operates a nationally known multi-year award-winning Private Investigation Company. The Smith Investigation Agency operates in Alberta, Nova Scotia and Ontario in all major cities. With 10+ years of experience in the private investigation industry, she has worked through thousands of surveillance and research case files and expects only the best from her growing team of qualified in-house and remote investigators.

You may also be interested in reading:
Remote Hiring, Virtual Employment and Telecommuting in Canada
Remote: Office Not Required (Book Review)
4 Vital Tools to Manage Your Business Remotely

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P. Marchand

I have a remote job and I love it. I think most people who work from home are pretty easy to please & keep happy. There’s no excuse for not following these simple tips to make sure they stay that way. Happy employees work harder…’s always worth it for the employer!