Motivating Virtual Employees a Sure Way to Increase Productivity in Remote Teams

Recent changes in managing employees have seen a shift from the traditional method.

Then conditions dictated that managers should manage by using their brains while the workers use their hands to work.

The scenario above still partly holds true for factory work settings.

However, in the world of remote work where skilled virtual employees are the currency driving its growth, the scenario plays out differently.

The mobility of highly skilled employees dictates that managers have to manage differently and concede part of the thinking process to the employees.

The result is that while the employees get a lion share of the benefit of the 24/7 economy.

It leaves managers with the stress of the process, where they are always hooked to their emails, social media channels, and phones to monitor updates.

Monitoring tasks and processes in a brick and mortar office, which seems easy become quite different in the virtual world.

Two factors make the process difficult. These factors occur because most virtual employees are well skilled, and the lack of geographical barriers means there is no restriction on their job search.

Thus, when managers build a network of remote teams, keeping them dedicated and focus becomes quite a task.

Although the use of time tracking apps and freelance websites has helped managers to curb this problem in no small degree.

However, having virtual employees commit their best remains uncertain.

One sure way that managers can get virtual employees to commit fully to the vision and mission of the organization revolves around proper motivation.

Understanding that individuals are different, and what spurs them into actions and commitments are not the same will increase the organizations’ productivity and reduce the manager’s stress.

Therefore, finding ways to motivate virtual employees and secure their commitment will go a long way in helping businesses fulfill their goals.


7 Benefits of Motivating Remote Workers

Two factors hold and which makes any group of employees be productivity to any organization. The factors are the ability to carry out the assigned tasks and the willingness to carry out those tasks.

Sometimes organizations may recruit workers who are willing to work but do not have the know-how to carry out the job process.

What is common is that once employees pass through the rigor of screening by the hiring manager, which confirms the ability to work; they lose focus on the job when fully employed.

Therefore, to help employees find their lost spark, managers need to find new ways to motivate them to keep productivity on the rise.

Therefore, managers need to look at the following benefits they can derive from a well-motivated workforce who are committed to the success of the organization.

Here are seven benefits to be derived from a well-motivated team of employees:


  1. Job Satisfaction
  2. Cost Saving
  • Reduced Employee Turnover
  1. Disciplined Workforce
  2. Enthusiastic and Dynamic Employee
  3. Increased Efficiency and Productivity
  • Satisfies the Needs of the Employees


Types of Motivation

Recent efforts have led to the creation of new types of motivation. However, all these new classes still fit into the preconceived group of two categories. These are:

i. Intrinsic Motivation

This type of motivation derives its fuel from the need for personal improvement on the part of the employee.

On the surface, this kind of motivation seems beyond the sphere of influence of the manager.

Even in brick and mortar offices, identifying this motivating factor happens only in the off chance that a manager takes a keen interest in the affairs of their employees.

In a physical setting as opposed to a virtual environment, certain prejudices might cloud the decision-making process, which is absent in the virtual setting.

If it is this difficult to extract this in the normal office, what hope do managers of remote teams have in finding these trigger factors?

Although it seems hard, on a closer look, the need to continually communicate, which is the hallmark of an excellent virtual team makes this possible.

When managers of remote teams make it a point of duty to always communicate with their remote employees, they can find clues to such motivating factors.

Most times, clues to these intrinsic motivation factors come in the shape of hope and fear, i.e., some may be positive factors while others are negative.

It is the duty of the manager of the remote teams to listen with rapt attention over the communication channels and decipher these factors.


ii. Extrinsic Motivation

This type of motivation represents all things that spur employees based on external factors.

Gauging response to this kind of motivation is very easy for managers to deal with.

The pressure comes from outside the control of the employee and hence to achieve the satisfaction he or she must conform to certain principles.

Since the manager can manipulate this motivating factor, they must apply the utmost wisdom using this motivating factor.

Similar to intrinsic motivating factors, extrinsic factors can either be negative or positive.

The incorrect application might lead to the loss of an excellent highly skilled remote employee, or it may lead to complacency without the manager being there to offer guidance.

For managers of physical and remote teams, understanding some theories behind the creation of the types of motivations helps in having a broader knowledge and understanding when treating individual employees.

Some employees respond better when they have an external goal to achieve while for some, managers need to coax the urge from them.

Therefore having an understanding of the framework helps managers apply the right type of strategy to motivate each employee under their watch.


Theories of Motivation

Although there are many theories of motivation, this article will choose the ones that it believes will help the manager understand their employees in a natural way.


i. Expectancy Theory

In this theory of motivation, the central focus of its findings states that for people to be urged on to perform specific actions, they must expect a particular outcome from their efforts.

Thus, if a manager notices an individual or a group of employees have a highly competitive nature, tying certain rewards to the performance of a task will push such employees.

Therefore, it is vital for a manager always to notice the behavior of each member.

This kind of strategy works by using pay raises, bonuses, and incentives to urge such employees to deliver maximum efforts.

This theory can be useful in virtual teams dedicated to marketing, sales, advertising, and lead generation.

However, this theory must be done in a correct manner to create a healthy competition which will make the team achieve output more considerable than the sum of its part.


ii. Equity Based Theory

Proponents of this theory submit that individuals are motivated by a perceived level of fairness rather than reward when pursuing an outcome.

Although the reward for applying an effort is essential to these employees, the primary motivating factor comes from the presence or absence of equity in an organization.

In this set of employees, they define equity or fairness across both managers to employee relationships and employee to employee relationships.

When managers are fair in their judgment and actions, employees will also work in tandem, and this will affect the improvement of productivity in the organization.

Managers should guard against the selective treatment of employees, especially in remote teams where managers feel employees do not engage in office gossip due to location barriers.

Despite the location barrier, virtual team members always find a way of communicating and trade information in the process.

When there is a feeling of mistrust among team members towards the management, such a setting does not help in promoting productivity.

The most evident of this practice happens where the manager pays workers on the same level with the same job description and same deliverables differently because they are from different locations.

Remember, what’s sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander. 


iii. Arousal Theory

Here, followers of this theory believe that arousing emotional feelings in people motivated them.

Viewed this way, factors that arouse individuals span a broad spectrum of internal desires.

Unlike the other theories discussed that based their findings on an external factor to spur motivation, arousal theory believes that what motivates individuals is internal.

When an individual is at peace with himself and his surroundings, he or she tends to perform at their comfort level and find no need to strive harder.

However, when a man is not at peace within or with his environment, he strives and becomes motivated to achieve his comfort zone.

Therefore, managers of remote teams should always find those things that will continually challenge such individuals to aspire for a higher comfort zone.


7 Strategies for Motivating Remote Employees

i.  Incentive-Based Motivational Strategy

The use of incentives as a strategy for motivation revolves around the use of rewards such as promotions, pay raise, bonuses, gifts, and perks as bait to spur increased commitment and productivity.

An example of this occurs when an employee seeks promotion because of the increased pay attached to that position.

However, while being motivated by incentives is not a bad thing, individuals motivated by such views need to understand that behind every inventive lurks the responsibility attached.

Thus, managers need to be careful when using this strategy because, even though it is a positive method, it has negative undertones.


ii. Fear-Based Motivational Strategy

Using fear as a strategy for motivation is the opposite of the incentive-based approach.

They are different sides of a coin similar to the stick and carrot means of getting employees to perform to their best.

Although fear as a motivation tool is negative, one of the best ways humans learn is through avoiding conditions and situations that lead to pain.

Negative motivators, such as getting sacked in the event of failing to meet targets, serve to push people towards maintaining the desired productivity levels.

However, similar to a reward-based strategy, a fear-based strategy needs to be applied with wisdom by the manager so as not to demotivate and lose important team members.


iii. Power Based Motivational Strategy

One of the basic instincts of man is the quest for control; to have people defer to his authority.

Therefore, more than fear or reward, one strategy that can drive performance if applied in the right measure is the quest for power and control.

In remote teams, by tying this strategy to an identified performance will allow virtual employees who meet such specific targets to have control over their time.

Doing this will make employees work harder to meet those set targets. They do this in the knowledge that applying the correct effort leads to a measure of power over their time.

Another way it can play out is by setting a target whereby the meeting of such a goal will lead to the ability to create their mini teams.

Once created, they will have absolute control over, or the power can come in the form of monopoly over a territory.

Whatever way the power comes, managers need to be wary of creating power freaks who desire power in the extreme.

Remember, power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.   


iv. Affiliation Based Motivational Strategy

Managers can use the socializing nature of humans and the need to belong or affiliate to a group as a strategy to motivate most individuals.

The desire to connect with others and seek their acceptance drives individuals to complete tasks that seem out of reach.

When managers provide the avenue for team members to belong to certain groups after set tasks, it pushes individuals to strive to attain such laid down status.

Managers can make a game out of such activities in the form of virtual team building activities to motivate individuals towards achieving some goals.

Remember, no man is an island, and living in a community brings the best out of man.


v. Competence-Based Motivational Strategy

Managers can use the thirst to learn and the quest to be crowned as a master in a field to motivate individual employees.

Some individuals find the thrill of learning and applying the knowledge fulfilling enough to work extra hard.

Providing learning opportunities in the form of on-job training

helps individuals gain new ideas on the process of working on the tasks assigned to them.

Being in virtual teams should not be used as a barrier to oust remote teams for benefitting from avenues to learn and become better on their jobs.

Remote team training can be in the form of webinars and video courses to teach them new ideas.

Also, tying some training in exotic locations as a reward for completing specific tasks helps motivate employees.

vi. Attitude Based Motivational Strategy

This type of strategy as a tool for motivation is easy for mangers that are charismatic by nature.

They have the natural gift of stimulating their team members towards achieving a common goal. Using subtle tactics and oblique references, they inspire and coax their subordinates towards a change process.

Since it is a natural character, finding charismatic leaders tend to be a bit difficult.

However, some people think that it is possible to teach being charismatic. On the contrary, a wide range of opinion points otherwise on this subject.

Aside from the external influences of a charismatic leader, life-changing conditions can lead to such changes. Circumstances such as getting married, the birth of a kid, or the loss of a loved one can also create a shift in attitude.

In the physical office space, managers can detect such events with ease, which may be difficult in the virtual space.

Thus, managers need to have an open-door policy to communication in the virtual space and listen attentively to catch such vibes in remote workers.

In the event of employees losing a loved one, which leads to a change in attitude, they need to be given time off to mourn.

Providing support at such critical times helps employees wade through the conditions in a smooth way and come out stronger at the end, ready to commit and increase their productivity.


vii. Achievement Based Motivational Strategy

Similar to incentive-based strategy; the achievement-based approach believes that individuals become motivated by the process of achieving a goal rather than the goal itself.

Rather than the reward, the fulfillment comes from the joy of growth of their ideas.

Employees who fall into this category are always on the lookout for process improvements and are quite innovative.

They most times leave the comfort zone of their task schedule to find new ideas that can be added to help the business grow better.

These individuals are self-starters and will challenge the organization to become a better place by requesting the addition of ideas that work in similar areas into theirs.

Once managers come in contact with such employees, they need to nurture them and harness their potential for the greater good.

Since such employees always want to try their hands on new things.

Thus, managers need to provide a constant stream of ideas to them rather than a single and repeating job schedule.

Such employees need to always be on edge and it the job of the manager to find activities to motivate them.



For any organization to fulfill its goal, it must have a well-motivated workforce.

Once the employees are well satisfied, there is a guarantee that they will provide value to the company and its customer base.

Such a motivated workforce takes ownership, are loyal and committed to the vision and mission of the company.

Although the management decides the direction of the company, the contribution of the employees will determine the speed at which the company will fulfill its mission, vision, and goals.

Well paid and motivated employees provided with a clear path of progression will contribute to leaps in the company’s growth.





Author Bio

Awwal Lawal is a freelance writer, with a passion for exploring opportunities in the remote work space. A lover of outdoor activities especially home gardening and in his leisure time likes to play Scrabble. You can connect with him on Twitter @hawwal and LinkedIn @ Lawal Awwal.






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