How to Motivate Virtual Project Teams
Screen fatigue! Constant disruptions! Feelings of isolation! We are bombarded by the media about the downside of working from home (WFH) or working remotely on projects. We may also have evidence from our own employees and team members about how difficult it is to stay focused and productive.
Your project management (PM) organization probably believes that it is the responsibility of the PM to motivate project team members. We at GBMC whole-heartedly concur. In fact, we have trained hundreds of PMs on that very skill.
Now, it’s time to offer up some suggestions on how you can prepare your PMs to motivate and sustain motivation from afar.
Migrate principles of human motivation from the physical office to the virtual world. Some principles remain the same: Most non-supervisory, individual contributors are motivated by 1) Full appreciation of the work being done; 2) Feeling of “being in” on things; 3) Help with personal problems; 4) Job security. So, remind your PMs that frequent check-ins and short status meetings are great opportunities to show appreciation and give team members a sense of “being in on things” or at least, not missing out on too much. We no longer have opportunities to stop in the hall, socialize at the coffee bar or copier/printer room. Give PMs permission to coach, and perhaps counsel employees who seem to be struggling with personal problems or job anxiety. Provide your PMs with relevant details about the company’s Employee Assistance Program. Encourage PMs to get creative about how they engage their teams – both collectively and as individuals.
Pay attention to WFH ergonomics. By now, we all may have heard the saying that sitting is the new smoking. Give your PMs some training on how to encourage employees to optimize their WFH workstation. Empower them to remind team members to take stretch breaks and quick “mini vacations” during the work day. Make stress reduction ideas available to them. Convince your PMs that caring about team members’ well-being is motivating.
Watch for burn out. The lament of WFH burnout is real. Workers complain of too many meetings, and if your organization is international, meetings when their time zones are out of synch. Since travel is limited, a 5-day visit to a location / site, can turn into several meetings in what might be called “the middle of the night!” Help PMs set aside connection zones and use time swapping so only one set of team members has to get up super early or stay online super late each week. Remind your PMs that it’s OK to have a meeting-free day every once in a while.
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