Mindful Humans

How to boost the motivation of remote workers.

Amidst the second wave of the pandemic, employees confined to their homes since last March are finding that remote work is becoming entrenched. What methods should be used to ensure they continue to fully engage in their work?

Initially published in Revue Gestion.


Over time and distance, the motivation of many workers diminishes, as does their commitment to their company. Leaders are concerned about the potential effects this could have on workforce productivity and are seeking tangible ways to address the situation.

Fortunately, several measures can be implemented. However, managers must understand the essential conditions that influence their employees’ motivation and how these conditions may vary in a remote work setting.

Although motivation is primarily intrinsic to each individual, a company can activate three levers to nurture its employees’ motivation: autonomy, contribution, and a sense of belonging.



There is nothing more demotivating for an employee than feeling their supervisor breathing down their neck. Constantly depending on another’s approval to progress in one’s work or make decisions encourages disengagement and harms morale.

However, in a remote work context, many managers fear losing control over their team’s productivity due to distance. Consequently, they develop harmful practices by monitoring their employees more closely than ever before. Some frequently check if workers are online, if they respond quickly to emails, or if they are available for an impromptu discussion. Others even require their computer camera to remain on at all times to unequivocally demonstrate that the employee is in front of their screen.

In remote work, productivity management paradigms must evolve. It’s no longer a matter of measuring productivity based on hours worked. Managers must learn to assess performance based on results and establish control routines that allow employees to structure and optimize their workday themselves. They will thus obtain a double advantage:


  • maintaining control over productivity;
  • restoring autonomy to telecommuters and allowing them to organize their workday to improve their quality of life, especially by fully enjoying saved commuting time.


Bringing (virtually) managers together to discuss their remote management challenges and offering additional training are also effective means of raising awareness and adjusting practices.



Leveraging one’s skills and contributing to an important result is essential to nurturing the motivation of every human being. In remote work, this is just as necessary, but some challenges may emerge over time.

On one hand, with distance, an employee may feel stagnant in their development, as their interactions with experts are limited. The excessively high number of hours spent in meetings of dubious effectiveness also hinders momentum and the ability to work consistently. Do you feel like you’re participating in a 40-hour-long meeting every week since you started telecommuting? If so, you probably feel like you’re wasting your time.

On the other hand, achieving results is less visible in remote work. Think of the excitement that emanates from a team completing a project. When together, the joy of collectively achieving an important result becomes palpable. However, this contagious energy is less easily transmitted in a virtual world. And great projects often end abruptly when everyone is working remotely, without celebration or recognition.

Depending on the context in which your company is immersed, different avenues should be considered. Developing a mentoring system to create opportunities to interact with experienced individuals, taking advantage of government subsidies to provide access to more training, and reviewing the effectiveness of meetings are some winning practices that can be implemented. Encouraging moments of celebration when significant results are achieved is also a good idea.


Sense of Belonging

It goes without saying that a significant part of workplace motivation comes from the quality of relationships formed among colleagues. Many employees tolerate a job they no longer find stimulating because of the friendships and camaraderie that have developed over time. Chats around a coffee machine, corridor conversations, a few casual words exchanged at the beginning and end of meetings, lunches spent together—these small moments all help strengthen the sense of belonging to a team.

However, many employees lack these moments. In fact, the biggest challenge in remote work is overcoming loneliness, which becomes significantly worse when health measures require confinement.

Fortunately, technology partly addresses this issue. Using video conferencing with the camera activated helps add non-verbal language to a discussion, which aids in better communication. Inviting meeting participants to take a few minutes to exchange informally, encouraging spontaneous meetings, such as participating in a virtual coffee break, are practices that company managers can encourage.

Despite the challenges it entails, experts agree that remote work is taking root. Several prejudices have disappeared with the forced experimentation caused by the pandemic. The economic, health, and environmental benefits are appealing, in addition to contributing to employees’ quality of life as they learn how to fully enjoy it.

Although the health crisis brings its share of challenges that make adapting to remote work difficult for many, managers have the opportunity to provide some comfort in these unprecedented times by minimizing certain effects as much as possible.

Telecommuting, post-pandemic

What will remain of telecommuting once the COVID-19 crisis is behind us? It is enough to analyze the practices implemented in some innovative companies to see that there will be a clever blend of approaches. Organizations that have chosen telecommuting for their entire workforce for several years – such as GitLab, Basecamp, Automattic – know how to strengthen the sense of belonging by creating, a few times a year, impactful moments that physically bring employees together. For example, they invite all their employees to participate in activities for a week, sometimes professional, sometimes recreational, to strengthen camaraderie and trust.

Other companies plan coworking spaces – which allow workers to meet regularly – offer travel budgets to facilitate meetings between employees from the same region, etc. Organizations use physical spaces in addition to the virtual space of telecommuting, rather than the other way around.

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