5 Smart Ways To Motivate Remote Employees

Following these five tips should put you on the right path to motivate and manage virtual employees.

“Geographically dispersed teams are increasingly common in the modern workplace (HBR.org).” With more businesses relying on remote talent, and more workers in the U.S. and abroad working remotely, it’s time to rethink traditional methods of employee motivation.

It’s not just about the employee’s perception of their work — your remote employees’ motivation goes a long way toward the value they provide your company, directly impacting your bottom line. Following these five tips should put you on the right path to motivate and manage virtual employees.


  1. Build trust.

    Nothing kills motivation faster than an employee perceiving they are being micromanaged. Unfortunately, the people least able to perceive micromanagement are micromanagers themselves.

    It’s ideal to assign clear task descriptions to remote employees and give the liberty to get things done, with occasional check-ins if they have questions or reach a bottleneck. If you require multiple check-ins a day and routinely find yourself swamped with the details, it might be time to ask yourself some hard questions about your management style before you kill your remote team’s motivation.

  2. Track billable activity.

    Tracking billable time doesn’t just make sense for your bottom line. Tracking billable activity will also help employees give their undivided attention to tasks while they work.

    This means that when they take breaks (which they should), they can do so consciously, and really unplug and enjoy themselves. When the time they spend browsing the Internet or taking a walk is off the clock, it’s truly free time, not borrowed time that makes them feel nervous about since they “should” be working.

  3. Always pay on time.

    The importance of paying your employees on time cannot be understated, but it is vital when managing remote workers. Often, your new remote hires have never physically met you. If they’re located abroad they might have no legal recourse against a shady employer. If you delay their pay, it erodes trust and gives them a reason to start looking elsewhere.

    What would you do if a client consistently failed to pay you on time? Most likely, that client would become a lower priority and you might even end the business relationship. Be fair with compensation. If paying on time is a logistical hurdle, there are a number of tools that automate paying your employees’ invoices.

  4. Show appreciation.

    Employee recognition is a primary driver of motivation. Everyone wants to feel as though their work counts. Let your remote workers know you care virtually. Sending an online gift certificate is a great option. If you’re bootstrapped or cash is short, giving an independent contractor a glowing recommendation via LinkedIn or featuring them on your company blog’s employee showcase is a great way to recognize their contributions.

  5. Laugh more.

    A little humor can go a long way in establishing goodwill and keeping the lines of communication open. Quality remote workers often stress about making a good impression. This is made more difficult given your mood is not so easy to read online.

    A little laughter here and there will help them let go of unnecessary worries and focus on their jobs. A couple of caveats: if you’re joking around in writing, be careful, as tone of voice and body language will be lost on the other end of the line. And of course, ensure your humor is workplace appropriate.


This article has been edited and condensed.

Dave Nevogt is a co-founder of Hubstaff, a time tracking software for remote teams. Hubstaff allows managers to see time spent on projects, screenshots, activity levels, in-depth reports and timesheets. Dave has been founding companies since 2004 with his first success coming at 23. Connect with @dnevogt on Twitter.


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