Workplace blogs
Workplace blogs

Inspiring Teams When They Aren’t All There (In Person, That Is)

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is, “Mike, how do you engage, inspire, and motivate people when they work from home or even in another city and you don’t have the same level of interaction with them as your other onsite employees?”

(The second most frequent question I get is, “Who cuts your hair? Do you do it yourself?” But let’s leave this question for another time, shall we?

Okay, so, yes absolutely, it’s a huge challenge engaging people who you rarely see in person. Maintaining a feeling of team camaraderie and unity when the team is scattered across the country or even the world can feel like a hopeless task.

But there’s no getting around the fact that more and more organizations are relying on remote workers (again, physically remote, not emotionally remote – that too is a whole other conversation). And without question more and more employees want the flexibility of being able to work from home or stay in their city and not relocate when their office moves shop.

Consider just a few of the trends from Global Workplace Analytics (June, 2017):

  • Regular work-at-home, among the non-self-employed population, has grown by 115% since 2005, nearly 10x faster than the rest of the workforce.
  • 7 million employees (2.8% of the workforce) now work from home at least half the time.
  • The employee population as a whole grew by 1.9% from 2013 to 2014, while employees who telecommuted grew 5.6%.

A 2015 survey of business leaders at the Global Leadership Summit in London found that 34% said more than half their company’s full-time workforce would be working remotely by 2020;  25% said more than three-quarters would not work in a traditional office by 2020. Other estimates have put the number as high as 50% by the year 2025!

And heck, why not? Having the option of employees working remotely can save companies huge costs and prevent their top talent from abandoning ship. It allows businesses to hire great people from anywhere on the planet. Many top performers say they want more flexible work options and better work life balance, and part of that mix can include working remotely, at least part time. Several studies also suggest that remote employees are often happier and less stressed. Managing for results and output rather than straight hours worked at the office or number of bums in the seats can be a huge boon to productivity. Telecommuting can also be a way to be more environmentally friendly and substantially lowering your carbon footprint (which I recognize is saying the same thing, but everyone enjoys reading the phrase carbon footprint these days so I thought I’d toss it in)

Yes, there are downsides. Telecommuting isn’t for everyone. It can be lonely and isolating only talking to your cat Jeeves. Employees that aren’t accustomed to working alone can struggle with the lack of supervision. There can be chronic concerns around trust and communication.

But these shortfalls can be overcome. Indeed, they have to be overcome – any smart, successful leader needs to be able to lead virtual teams. It’s no longer considered a “nice to have” option but rather a growing necessity for leading in the 21st century.  Companies are increasingly hiring leaders who have the ability to lead remote teams, and employees who can produce independently on their own.

So if you want a fabulous list of 100+ ideas on how to engage, motivate, lead, manage, and occasionally cajole your remote employees and virtual teams and a whack of ideas on how to add more fun and humor to your virtual teams and remote employees, cruise on over Leading, Motivating and Adding Fun to Virtual Teams, Remote Employees.

Michael Kerr is one of Canada’s most in-demand business keynote speakers and the author of six books, including The Humor Advantage: Why Some Businesses Are Laughing All the Way to the Bank. For rocking great ideas to inspire your workplace, be sure to sign up for Michael’s raved about weekly newsletter Inspiring Workplaces! 


  1. Comment by Susie Davis

    I would like to receive the newsletter as I am the Director of a Home Health company and most of our staff are clinicians who visit patients in the home, thus working remotely.

  2. Comment by Michael Kerr

    Thank you Susie, we will sign you aboard right away!

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