Team morale is vital to the success of any business, but maintaining high morale is all the more important for remote or distributed teams. It’s easy for employees to feel isolated when their only interaction with coworkers is discussing or exchanging work tasks over Slack. They may begin to feel like they’re working alone for a company they feel less and less a part of, which leads to diminished engagement, job dissatisfaction, and contributes significantly to low morale.
Team morale describes the wellbeing, attitude, engagement, happiness, and camaraderie employees feel when they’re at work collaborating and communicating with coworkers. It refers to the spirit of your company. Do your employees feel positive, productive, and recognized in their job? Are they satisfied personally, professionally, and financially by their position? Are they happy to see their coworkers?
When team morale is high, employees feel satisfied, engaged, and recognized for their hard work; in other words, efficiency and productivity skyrocket. The team is invested in both the work and each other and feels collectively rewarded by the experience in a deep way.
Team morale is just as critical (or even more critical) for remote teams. Remote teams lack much of the face-to-face communication that occurs when a team is able to work in person. Being unable to read a person’s body language also makes it very difficult to gauge the morale of a team as well as individual team members.
You can’t measure what you can’t see, and if you’ve never officially met your team members in person, it can be a significant challenge to understand the nuances of someone’s communication style. Is an employee actually fine to take on that extra assignment, or are they biting their lip in silent frustration, but you simply can’t see it?
Asynchronous communication is excellent for distributed teams who may not share the same working hours as their colleagues. A remote team with high morale doesn’t need their team members to respond to them immediately because they have faith they will get to it as soon as they’re able to. Team members trust each other’s discretion, work ethic, and decision making.
Remote teams need to be able to trust each other and have faith in their coworkers’ abilities. When morale is low, teammates may wonder if they can count on each other. If they find that their questions or concerns are never answered in a reasonable time with asynchronous communication, they may begin to make decisions on their own without necessary collaboration or oversight.
If a team is distributed or remote, it’s imperative that management intentionally cultivate team morale and keep the lines of communication open.
📚 Learn more in our article Asynchronous communication: What is it and how to use it effectively
Low team morale hinders every aspect of the business, including productivity, initiative, collaboration, and trust, as well as more tangible aspects like whether or not top employees want to work for you or if your employees are able to land sales. Team members may become bitter with one another and resentful of each others’ work ethic or perceived inadequacies. No one wants to be there, and no one is satisfied.
If everyone’s at each other’s throats and procrastinating on work because they’re unsatisfied and unrecognized, how is anything supposed to get done? Team morale is vital to the health and wealth of a business.
It’s best to catch low morale early because it can spread like wildfire across your organization once it starts🔥 😱. One disengaged or unhappy employee can influence and contaminate everyone else with their negativity.
Watch out for the following signs of low morale:
Low morale is caused by managers or employers having inconsistent expectations as well as harsh or critical work environments that don’t value employees. Micromanaging employees until they don’t feel like they have the freedom to make their own decisions or the flexibility to work in the ways that best suit them as individuals also lowers morale. Whether your team is physical or remote, these toxic managerial styles lower morale and kill the spirit of a workplace.
📚 Learn more: Am I a micromanager? 9 signs of micromanagement behavior
Don’t hold relevant information about the business back from your employees. Managers or business owners may sometimes do this to protect their team from bad news or because they don’t feel they have an obligation to tell their employees everything, but either way, keeping your employees in the dark breeds suspicion and discontent.
Being open with your employees about business or project developments, whether good or bad, will make your team feel included and trusted, and it will prevent rumors from spreading and blowing out of proportion.
Share the good and the bad to help everyone feel like they are working together as a team. Transparent communication builds trust and makes people feel more comfortable and included at work, which will boost morale or, at the very least, keep it from plummeting.
Employees need more than a biweekly paycheck to feel recognized and appreciated in their job. While some old-fashioned business owners and managers may balk, a paycheck is an intangible and indirect form of recognition. Looking an employee in the eye or sending a personal email and thanking them for their contribution to a specific task is a lot more meaningful than continuing to send them paychecks (but please still send those paychecks!)
The simplicity of recognition in no way diminishes its importance. When people feel recognized for an accomplishment at work, they’ll crave that recognition again. Recognition sparks employee engagement and motivation because team members will better understand how their specific contributions are benefiting the business. They’ll feel more ownership over their accomplishments.
An employee recognition program doesn’t have to be formal or fancy, and it doesn’t have to involve any kind of cash bonus. Recognition means a great deal more when it’s organic. You can use inexpensive and easy-to-use tools like Charma’s Kudos for a lightweight, engaging way to show your remote or distributed team that you appreciate them.
Team building opportunities are vital to a remote team’s morale. Remote or distributed team members won’t randomly bump into each other in the lunchroom and ask each other about what they did on the weekend. Employees may feel isolated or have difficulties getting to know individual team members on a deeper level without occupying a physical workspace together.
When it comes to remote teams, team building and team morale need to be intentionally facilitated by the team leader. Luckily, there are plenty of virtual team building activities that can help distributed team members engage with each other, learn together, or just have fun as a team.
In fact, fun is one of the most important things you can provide your remote team so that people can let their guard down and build rapport with one another outside of a strictly business context. Having fun as a team keeps remote employees engaged and connected, and it helps team members recognize their colleagues as real human beings instead of just another name on their Slack channel.
You could take a personality test as a team to learn each other’s communication preferences, build team cohesion and efficient decision making with virtual escape rooms, or learn and imbibe together with virtual wine tasting.
While telling people how they can improve may seem counterintuitive to increasing morale, it can do exactly that—when the feedback is done right.
The key is delivering consistent and continuous feedback that’s constructive and multi-directional. Feedback shouldn’t just come from the manager. 360 degree feedback gives employees the opportunity to share their grievances while at the same time improving the workplace and their relationships. It gives individual team members a full accounting of how their job performance and communication habits influence every aspect of the business from the perspective of the very people they’re affecting.
It’s just as important for managers to receive this kind of multi-directional feedback as well. As a manager, you’re not impervious to improvement, and the best way to improve is with consistent feedback from your team.
But that feedback must be constructive. Constructive feedback shows people what they are doing well, what they can improve on, and how to get there. It lays a foundation that employees can build upon, giving them the motivation to continuously seek to do better and be better, both in their professional and personal lives.
There are two important things to remember as a manager:
Empower your employees by putting your trust in them. Provide them with flexibility by allowing them to work in the ways that best suit them. What matters most is that the work gets done to the best of your employees’ ability, not whether or not that work gets done between the hours of 9 am - 5 pm under your watchful eye.
Providing this flexibility demonstrates your faith in your team and creates a healthy and enjoyable work experience for everyone.
Charma is the best practice toolkit for managers to organize, motivate, and engage their teams, beloved by managers, HR, executives, and ICs alike. Find tools to help manage agendas for one-on-one meetings and team meetings, action items, team collaboration, continuous feedback, recognition, and goals — all in one place.
Make one-on-one's add up to more.
Easily give valuable feedback.
Keep goals clear and top of mind.