5 Strategies to Motivate and Appreciate Your Remote PR Team

January 21, 2023

Many more professionals have been working in remote or hybrid mode since the peak of the Covid pandemic. However, data tends to vary within different countries. Nevertheless, the new working mode raises new challenges from moving an entire team or most of a team 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 leaders. And that, in turn, affects how motivated and engaged they are in their roles. A recent global survey of 788 communication and PR professionals (79% female) from 40 countries revealed that 66% of respondents said their mental well-being has declined since the start of the Covid pandemic, 48% had considered leaving the profession because of their mental wellbeing, and 73% believed their organization should do more to support mental wellbeing in the workplace.

Your remote PR team members might be navigating 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, adopt the following five practices to motivate and appreciate your remote PR team as they deserve. You could use these guidelines directly if you aren’t in a team leader role or have been newly promoted. If not in a leadership position, you can still use your influence to propose these initiatives regarding possible constructive changes for all. Or you could quietly go directly to your team leader to tactfully make some of these suggestions.

If you have a team working in hybrid mode, you can read my articles on this topic:

1. Put worker well-being first

Approximately 63% of PRSA’s 2022 State of Mental Health survey respondents 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 underestimate 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 can put 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 the 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 from HR or 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 empathise with 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 between the individual and the 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 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 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, not everyone will be available simultaneously if employees work in different time zones. 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 the east coast to the 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.

So, hyper-focus on improving internal communication and relationships in your remote team. You can do this:

  • Overall preferred communication channel. After asking each team member about their preferred channel, reach a consensus on the channel most preferred – and use that one.
  • Keep your team informed. Ensure 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 schedules. 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 daily. You can also do this for bonding after work hours. Consider holding virtual games nights or watching movies together (e.g. via a Zoom screen share or a video platform. This approach might be helpful 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. Nothing discourages employees more 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 see them in person. This may mean regular check-ins with them and longer meetings to understand their needs and feelings.

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

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

Tips for listening better

These three levels of conversation can be a guide for you:

Level 1: Safe territory, e.g. sport, weather, pop culture, TV programs, and any other shared experience.

Level 2: Possibly controversial topics, e.g. politics (Donald Trump!), religion, dating and personal lives. Test the waters and back away if you can see they don’t want to discuss.

Level 3: Personal and possibly intimate topics, e.g. family, finance, health and work life. Don’t ask questions about these until you can see the door has been opened for further discussion.

PR people are well-known to be talkers. Listening is far from their most impressive quality. But if you talk a lot, you will dominate in a one-sided conversation that doesn’t satisfy the other person or people. So, ask questions, listen, and draw people out. They will like you a whole lot more and you will be creating a happier team around you.

Interestingly, Harvard University researchers found that when people talk about themselves, this behavior triggers the same pleasure sensation in the brain as food. Also, “individuals find opportunities to disclose their thoughts to others to be especially rewarding [in a conversation].” The evidence is there (even if it is in academic speak) – so listen attentively to others!

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! Ensure that all the hard work behind the scenes is celebrated with appreciation and recognition. Do this through private channels like Slack, Zoom and email, and indirectly via internal social media channels, 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 daily.

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 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 important, and they’ll stay motivated to do their best daily work.

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 for managing a remote PR team. Now it’s up to you to start putting ideas into action!

Images: Pixabay

Kim Harrison

Kim J. Harrison has authored, edited, coordinated, produced and published the material in the articles and ebooks on this website. He brings his experience in professional communication and business management to provide helpful insights to readers around the world. As he has progressed through his wide-ranging career, his roles have included corporate affairs management; PR consulting; authoring many articles, books and ebooks; running a university PR course; and business management. Kim has received several international media relations awards and a website award. He has been quoted in The New York Times and various other news media, and has held elected positions with his State and National PR Institutes.

Content Authenticity Statement. AI is not knowingly used in the writing or editing of any content, including images, in these newsletters, articles or ebooks. If AI-produced content is contained in any published form in future, this will be reported to readers.

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