13 ways to build team morale remotely

Virtual morale boosters to keep your teams happy and motivated from afar

The pandemic made plenty of us rethink the way we work. And it turns out that lots of what we thought of as company culture was actually office culture. An online quiz (starting at 6pm sharp, everyone!) just isn’t a fair swap for a night at the pub after meeting a tough deadline together.

High morale is closely linked to job satisfaction, low staff turnover and increased productivity. And, if you ignore it, low morale can be catching. But keeping your teams upbeat and engaged with the company, their work and each other (without that famous office water-cooler) can be a challenge.

The good news is, you don’t have to recreate the same kind of social interactions that we remember from the before-times. You might just have to be a bit more deliberate about keeping your teams motivated through a screen.

Stay connected

💻 Turn your cameras on

Lots of communication falls through the cracks on a voice call. Sometimes, it’s easier to read a facial expression than a tone of voice. By turning your cameras on by default, especially for all-hands meetings, your team may feel more present, more willing to speak up and more accountable to each other. Coming off-mute for a round of hellos or a round of applause is another virtual morale booster that’ll help you feel more connected on a team call. 

🏠 Treat every staff member like they’re remote

If you’re a hybrid business, make sure to phone into conference calls individually. There’s nothing worse than seeing the rest of your team sharing a plate of bourbon biscuits in the same room if you’re sat alone in your home office. Remember to record team meetings and circulate them to anyone who missed the call, too. 

📵 Sync offline experiences

Crowdsource a Friday playlist, start a book club, or get your whole team to set aside the same time for a shared – but separate – activity. At Spill, we borrow Patagonia’s “Let them go surfing” philosophy to give everyone an hour on the warmest day of the month to go for a walk, and we share photos on Slack afterwards. 

Some of the photos shared by the Spill team after their walks

Help people to grow 

💡Curate learning opportunities 

Get your team to reach out to people they know to host a virtual talk on something interesting. Topics can be directly related to your industry or completely unexpected – the purpose is to gather around a new skill or perspective and to share ideas and insights as a team. You could also sign up to take an online course together, like The science of wellbeing, by Yale. 

🧠 Tackle a challenge together

Take a leaf out of a tech team’s book and host your own hackathon. Nominate a project manager to organise the troops, and dedicate a set amount of time to solve a genuine business challenge, away from your day-to-day responsibilities. The best hackathon teams include people with different skills, abilities and experience levels. Your outcome might be a prototype, a workstream, a new product feature or a shiny new email – the point is, you got there together and you learned something new along the way. 

🤦🏻 Share your mistakes

Make sure there’s a public forum for everyone (including leadership) to share mistakes and learnings regularly. Failing visibly helps to build your team’s confidence in taking considered risks, reminds them that no-one’s professional 24/7, and is also just good for a chuckle around the instant-messaging campfire.

Show your appreciation

🏆 Share feedback publicly 

While constructive criticism can be delivered privately in a 1-1 meeting, make sure to publish praise publicly and generously to celebrate individual achievements and help your remote team feel valued. For anyone who’s gone the extra mile, a handwritten note through the post is an affordable and meaningful thank you from managers or team leaders. 

❤️ Give unconditional praise

That’s praise which is unrelated to someone’s performance. Unconditional praise might celebrate a colleague’s personality, their approach or their skills, and encourages people to bring their whole selves to work. We built a feature called Wall of Praise to help teams celebrate their peers anonymously. Each week, one person gets a flurry of nice messages about what they bring to the company, (over and above their team deliverables).

Spill's 'Wall Of Praise' Feature

🗣 Invite regular input

There’s no-one more qualified to give feedback on your company than your colleagues. Show that you appreciate their opinion by creating a way to collect compliments and concerns about the business (include an anonymous way to contribute, too). Then create a public forum to talk about actions you’ll take as a business off the back of this feedback. 

Keep the energy up

💰 Set a working-from-home budget

Give your team an allowance to make their home-office setup more comfortable and productive. From desk lights to headphones, foot stands to second screens, it might only take a small tweak to make a real difference to remote team morale. 

⏰ Schedule your messages thoughtfully 

Make the most of ‘send later’ features in Slack, Teams or email to automatically schedule your message for reasonable work hours. This shows respect for people’s time and stops anyone feeling like they have to reply immediately. You can also create your own ‘Right to Disconnect’ policy to show that you mean business about boundaries. 

🧘 Normalise breaks

Stepping away from the screen can feel strangely tricky when you’re working from home. But regular breaks are good for creativity, productivity and overall wellbeing (not to mention eye health). Make daytime breaks more visible – and culturally acceptable – by adding an emoji to your Slack status when you’re away from your screen, and ask other managers to do the same. This has the added bonus of making sure your break goes undisturbed. 

 

🗓 Review recurring meetings

Nothing weighs on morale more than an unnecessary meeting. Every quarter, make sure to review your ongoing meeting invitations. Check that each meeting is still serving a purpose, and prune the ones that could be a written update, instead. 

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Building team morale always takes a concerted effort, and that’s especially true when you’re not physically ‘at work’ with your team. But it’s important that any efforts you make to boost your culture virtually should be thought of as remote-first rather than office-goes-online.

Making sure there’s opportunities for spontaneous conversation and collaboration between different departments is just as important for our emotional wellbeing as it is for company growth and innovation. If you’re looking for more ways to boost happiness at work, check out our great big list of low-cost employee wellbeing initiatives, plenty of which can be implemented remotely.

Spill measures your team’s morale each week, and steps in when things take a dip. Learn more about how Spill can support your culture and supercharge your employees' wellbeing remotely.

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