How to keep employees motivated remotely

Remote work is likely to stick around—especially among accountants. 

A Karbon survey found that 61% of accounting professional respondents are happier working remotely than at the office and want it to continue. 

Working from home has many benefits, including cost-savings, increased work-life balance, and even increased productivity. But working remotely also brings its challenges, including staying motivated. 

Simply, the ability to work from the couch and even the bed, with the family in the next room and a fully stocked refrigerator can make it extremely difficult to find the motivation to work. In fact, new research from the Pew Research Center finds that 42% of adults aged 18-49 and working from home say it's been difficult to find motivation since the coronavirus pandemic began. 

Even though it may be a bit tougher to find motivation while WFH, accounting professionals are still getting the job done. Karbon data shows that 76% feel just as, or more, productive working remotely. 84% of managers say they are noticing the same or greater output levels from their team.

So, how can you keep your team motivated? Here are some strategies you can implement.

Keeping remote employees motivated

1. Focus on the mission

Team alignment is crucial in the success of any business, and a lack of focus leads to a lack of motivation and overall laziness.  

Accounting teams are much more driven to achieve project goals if they understand (and are reminded of) why they are doing it. This is why it's essential that managers and firm owners communicate their mission: how the company is making its mark on the world and why every employee's work matters. 

Make sure the mission is the focus at all times.

Employees who feel both part of something that matters and a key contributor to the outcome, are much more likely to be motivated to continue to make an impact. 

2. Think about your firm's remote culture

Maintaining company culture from afar may be a challenge, but it's not impossible. 

Though company lunches and water cooler chats may be a thing of the past, you can still foster a strong company culture virtually. 

Set up virtual coffee chats, trivia nights, and happy hours to ensure team bonding and collaboration remotely. 

You may no longer be able to give high-fives to your team, but recognition is still just as important, if not more important, than ever. Send out virtual stars and high-fives, highlight great work in meetings and emails, and encourage employees to send virtual shout-outs when their colleagues go above and beyond.

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate 

Communication has always been vital in the workforce, but like most things, COVID-19 and WFH have reinforced that. When an employee feels in the dark about what the team is doing, they simply won’t be motivated or even know what they should aim to achieve.

Avoid this by focusing on your communication skills. Set the example of effective communication and encourage your team to amp up their communication skills too. Whether through apps like Slack or Karbon, via email, or any other method, remind employees why communication is so vital when they can't be in the same building as their co-workers.

This also holds true for clients. Since most appointments are now virtual, you will probably have to try a bit harder to build rapport and trust with clients. Send them periodic emails to check in on them and always send a follow-up email after any appointments.

Recommended reading: How to take better meeting notes on client calls

4. Encourage feedback

Instead of guessing whether employees are adjusting well to working from home, ask them. 

Use surveys to gauge feedback from employees on all sorts of things like working conditions, challenges of WFH, employee morale, and so on. Aim for one survey per week to gauge how employees feel and what areas you can improve upon. When employees feel as if their opinions and concerns are heard, they will be much more motivated to keep producing top-notch work.

Many employees aren’t comfortable asking management for expensive office supplies. But for effective WFH, they may need some extra items. Send out a survey asking employees if they need anything in particular, like a printer, office chair, or second monitor, to ensure your team has the proper equipment to get the job done.

5. Be available on different channels

Managers are no longer just a walk down the hall when employees have a question or run into an issue. 

As accountants, it's extremely important that colleagues regularly check-in with one another for easy and effective collaboration. 

To make this happen in a remote environment, you need to be available when your team needs you. 

One way to guarantee this is to be available on more than one channel. If you're running out to pick your child up from school, send a quick message in Slack (or similar) to your team letting them know you may not be available on internal communication channels, but to text you if they need something urgently. 

If you're going to be unavailable for an hour or the afternoon, let your team know. That way, they won't be waiting hours on end for approval, files, or documents from you.

Recommended reading: How secure are your internal communication channels?

6. Enable collaboration

Collaboration is crucial for keeping remote employees motivated. 

When employees sit in their basement home office alone all day, they can quickly lose their passion and motivation for their work. 

When you encourage collaboration—enabling employees to still work together and brainstorm and talk about their shared goals and passions—they will find the motivation to keep going and reach higher just by being (virtually) surrounded by people with the same passions.

WFH: the way of the future?

The importance of flexibility and communication shouldn’t be overlooked in a remote workforce.

In the future, your staff and prospective employees will expect more flexibility and the option to work from home.

So even if you plan to always be based in the office, you need to be equipped and prepared to be a digital-first, distributed team.

Though it may be a bit more challenging to collaborate as a team, the good news is there are solutions to help that.

In fact, there are many tools on the market designed specifically to foster collaboration while working remotely. A system like Karbon that is purpose-built for remote collaboration will help your staff remain connected to their team members, even when they are apart. Remember, most employees want to continue working remotely after the pandemic. 

So, now it’s well and truly time to adapt for the long-term or risk being left behind.