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5 ways to manage your remote PR team so it is motivated and appreciated

Although 74% of professionals think remote work will be the new norm, it may take longer than expected for this to happen, considering the challenges in helping an entire team adapt to a work-from-home environment. Remote workers often struggle to feel connected to their coworkers. Many of them don’t feel supported and appreciated by organizational leaders. And that, in turn, influences how motivated and engaged they are in their work. This article explains how to manage a remote PR team successfully.

Your remote PR team members might be navigating all of this now or in the future. So, it’s essential to help them through these struggles and avoid related consequences in the coming years.

As a manager and leader, to motivate and appreciate your remote PR team as they deserve, adopt the following five practices. If you aren’t in a team leader role, or you have been newly promoted, you could use these guidelines directly. If not in a leadership position, you can still use your influence within the team so these practices are adopted.

1. Put worker well-being first

Approximately 63% of respondents in PRSA’s 2022 State of Mental Health survey agreed that the PR industry is somewhat or significantly more stressful than other industries. The stress is caused mainly by being in understaffed teams (65%), followed by being overworked (61%), and by pressure from bosses (49%). Other surveys in 2022 consistently showed PR was in the top 10 most stressful occupations, as discussed in this US article by CareerAddict and by the UK’s National Accident Helpline.

Communication is a soft skill that literally every person uses. Therefore, many senior managers tend to think they know all about communication, and they tend to under-estimate its complexity, unfortunately. And therefore, they decide that cutting comms staff numbers is a logical move when times are tough. Often these comms staff numbers remain below the level they should be, which increases stress on those remaining.

Understand that the stress doesn’t disappear because your team works from home. Neither do understaffed teams, overworked employees, and the pressure you’re capable of putting on your team as their leader. Therefore, you need the skills to manage a remote PR team well.

You can help your remote team manage their work stress by putting their well-being first. This means prioritizing their physical, mental, and emotional health with intentional resources and support for all.

Start by normalizing discussion about mental health. You may be able to talk about mental health and emotional wellness in direct 1:1 discussions, and you can encourage those conversations in Zoom calls and similar.

Schedule formal meetings to discuss mental health support and resources either from HR, or from external sources. Create a remote work environment that fosters open communication, where mental and emotional health is openly talked about.

Practice compassion and empathy

Also, practice compassion and empathy to help your remote team members feel comfortable coming to you for well-being support. Even if you are not a team leader, you can provide empathy and compassion to colleagues when you feel this would help them.

Empathy is our feeling of awareness toward other people’s emotions and an attempt to understand how they feel. It’s the ability to ‘put yourself in another person’s shoes.’ Empathy is an understanding of our shared humanity.

Compassion is an emotional response to empathy or sympathy, and creates a desire to help. Unlike empathy, compassion creates emotional distance from the individual and situation.

Examples of empathetic responses
  1. Acknowledge their pain. Show you understand how the other person feels.
  2. Share how you feel about their pain.
  3. Show gratitude that the person opened up.
  4. Show interest in them.
  5. Be encouraging to them
  6. Be supportive of them.

2. Hyper-focus on your team’s internal communication and relationships

We can assume that PR teams communicate with each other more easily than in teams from other disciplines. And internal team communication is easier to maintain within a team when in-person in the office. This is because everyone has access to each other whenever they need them.

We can assume that PR teams communicate with each other more easily than in teams from other disciplines. And internal team communication is easier to maintain within a team when in-person in the office. This is because everyone has access to each other whenever they need them.

On the other hand, facilitating internal communication in a remote team is much more complex. Remote workers don’t have the luxury of popping into your office spontaneously. Or going to another floor to meet with others as needed.

Instead, internal communication in a remote PR team is slower. For example, if employees work in different time zones, not everyone will be available simultaneously. This applies especially in geographically wide countries like the USA, Canada and Australia, where the time zones are at least 2-3 hours apart from east coast to west coast.

As a result, workers have to wait for answers to questions, which disrupts your team’s workflow. Also, slow communication frustrates team members, causing them to lose focus and enthusiasm.

  • Overall preferred communication channel. After asking each team member about their preferred channel, reach consensus on the channel most prefer – and use that one.
  • Keep your team informed. Make sure you give your team as much information as they need so they feel they are an essential and valuable part of the group. There are many tools and approaches you can use for this.
  • Regularly remind your team that the organizational mission is paramount. If people understand why their task contributes to the mission, they will feel more driven and committed. When managing a remote team, this tends to be forgotten due to the fragmented nature of the group. It is too easy to fall into the trap of simply allocating tasks without mentioning why they are important. So, ask yourself questions like “Why is this task important?” “What will it achieve?” and “Why does it matter?”
  • Create space for strengthening team relationships. You can reveal your personal vulnerabilities, and then engage in intentional questions, and focused listening to explore motivators, interests, and more over time.
  • Offer your team the flexibility to manage their working hours. Remote work has several disadvantages, such as the lack of social interactions, but they can be counterbalanced by trusting your employees to manage their schedule. Whether it is going for a run, taking care of the kids or running an errand, your team will perform better if work isn’t an obstacle to what they need to do in their personal life.
  • Set up regular group and individual meetings. Some teams even connect on a daily basis with a 15-minute huddle every morning, talking about their major priorities for the day, asking for help if they need it, and offering to jump in if any team members need support.
  • Team socializing to strengthen their relationships. Among other initiatives, your team could participate remotely in drinking a coffee or eating lunch together. You needn’t involve everyone every time. For instance, you could hold virtual lunches once a week, where different employees can ‘meet’ via video, and chat as they would in the office. Also, you could arrange open virtual coffee breaks, pairing up different employees to connect via video. This is great for strengthening bonds between people who don’t necessarily work with each other on a daily basis. You can also do this for bonding after work hours. Consider holding virtual games nights or watching movies together (eg via a Zoom screen share or a video platform. This approach might be useful to celebrate the different cultural festivals of your team members as well, especially if they are located in far distant regions.

3. Listen to your team

If you really want your team to feel appreciated and motivated, listen to them. There’s nothing that makes an employee more dispirited than when they feel their boss doesn’t care about what they have to say.

You’ll need to be more intentional about listening to each team member when you don’t get to see them in person. This may mean regular check-ins with them and longer meetings to dig into their needs and how they’re feeling.

You’ll also want to keep an ear out for what employees say to each other. Often, coworkers reveal things to each other that they don’t feel comfortable telling their boss. So, get in those remote collaboration sessions and pay attention to what’s happening in chats to get even more employee feedback.

It is important to ask your remote team for feedback about current work activities. Do they find communication works well enough? Do they feel there is anything preventing them from doing their best work? What could be improved to make their work day more effective?

Not only may you get some really great suggestions that improve quality and productivity, but these suggestions would also show your team that you care about them and you value their opinions.

4. Recognize and celebrate hard work and achievements

When your team works from home, their contributions can be easily overlooked because you don’t have so much contact as when you see them in-person daily, but don’t let this happen! Make sure that all of the hard work happening behind the scenes is celebrated with appreciation and recognition. Do this directly through private channels like Slack, Zoom and email, and indirectly via internal social media channels as well, so they know how much their efforts matter. Recognizing achievement is key to motivation.

Another thought to manage a remote PR team well is to emulate Muck Rack, and hold a ‘Weekly Wins’ meeting on Fridays where team members can share and celebrate victories they’ve had over the week, especially if these haven’t been recognized. It’s great for morale and validation, offering a nice way for everyone to know what everyone else is working on in a laid back environment. It creates togetherness among team members who might not interact on a daily basis.

If your team is not too large, you can give them gift baskets for holidays, birthdays, work anniversaries, and other accomplishments – filling them with gift cards, headphones, mugs, water bottles, wellness items, and class vouchers.

5. Give your team credit

Too many leaders want to take credit for the work accomplished by their team members. The complexities of doing everything remotely mean their contribution should be praised even more than in an office-based role.

Take modest credit with the remote team for their successes. Give the credit to the individuals on your team. They’re making things happen no matter their location. As a facilitator, you’re just making their jobs easier. Of course, your role is huge. But make them feel  they’re important, and they’ll stay motivated to do their best work every day.

Motivating and appreciating your remote PR team is crucial

It’s easy for remote workers to feel disconnected from their coworkers, unsupported by leaders, and alone. Because of this, they don’t feel appreciated or motivated to excel in their roles. You can ensure your remote team doesn’t experience this by putting their well-being first, focusing on internal communication, actively listening, showering them with tokens of appreciation, and giving them the credit they deserve. This article has given you a range of good ideas to manage a remote PR team. Now it’s up to you to start putting ideas into action!

Images: Pixabay

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