Top Five Remote Employee Motivation Problems

motivation in remote - problems
Managers of remote employees often worry about their teams losing their motivation. Here are the top five things to look out for.

Motivation can sometimes be a hard characteristic to come by. You’d hope that the company you just ordered your new pair of matching his-and-her lederhosen would be motivated to send them to you in a timely manner. You’d hope that your dentist would be motivated to not find any cavities. And you’d like to feel confident that after thinly-veiled threats your neighbor would be motivated to stop feeding your cat bologna. Managers are among the top people in the world who have to worry about motivation and, thanks to the surge of remote workers, it’s no longer just in-house staff who need motivation. In fact, according to AllBusiness, remote American workers have doubled in the last 30 years. So how can managers keep track of remote employee motivation? According to our article The Top 5 Tips For You to Consider When Hiring a Developer, the first step is to hire someone who demonstrates initiative. And while that may sound like a daunting task, DistantJob provides a platform for businesses to be connected to motivated developers. The second step is to identify which motivation killers could sap your remote worker’s productivity. Here are the top five culprits:

Lack of Communication

If lack of motivation were a disease for remote workers, then lack of communication would be the main symptom. By not communicating well with your remote team, you’re risking the health of your virtual office network. In our article Why Does Remote Sometimes Fail? we related that, “because remote workers are far away and not physically present in the office, there is an increased risk for a communication breakdown, which can turn the arrangement from a nice perk into a real headache.” Lack of communication can lead to procrastination or even the loss of talented workers if it’s not remedied quickly. Make sure you check in with your remote workers to verify they understand their tasks, both day-to-day and overall.


With poor communication, procrastination can quickly follow. This could be simply because your remote worker may not understand their tasks and uses their frustration as a reason to procrastinate. However, not to throw you completely under the bus, procrastination may be born entirely from the remote worker. If they work better with accountability, suggest an app such as Focusmate, as discussed in our Virtual Accountability article.


According to my 7th-grade social studies teacher, humans are social creatures. We are often motivated by each other in the need to show off, do as well, or even keep up. This can be a key motivator in an office environment but is sadly lacking for remote workers. Senior career writer at FlexJobs, Rachel Jay observed: “A lack of engagement can lead to isolation and loneliness, a lack of passion for the company’s vision or goals, and feeling unhappy and unappreciated.” Our recently published article discussed the impact telepresence robots may have on isolated remote workers but for now, it’s important to make sure your workers feel engaged.

Invisible (Undervalued)

There is certainly a time and a place someone may want to feel invisible, such as shopping with grandma when she announces suddenly and loudly that she’s out of Depends and “be a dear and grab a pack or two.” But for remote workers, there’s a big danger of feeling undervalued. Managers can sometimes fall into the trap of being so caught up with the needs of in-house staff, they may neglect to check on their remote employees. Which may lead to your remote team feeling undervalued. In fact, our article Motivation Killers: How to Avoid and Counter Them, goes over how dull routines can weaken motivation and the remedy is to show how their contribution matters and how it drives the company forward.

No Growth Opportunities

One of the biggest factors that push employees to opt out from remote work is the fear of losing their footing on the corporate ladder. This fear is not entirely unfounded. SloanReview at MIT did a study about growth for remote work and found that managers typically promote those workers who demonstrate “presenteeism,” meaning workers seen at their desk during regular hours are viewed as “responsible” and “dependable.” If they are seen at their desks early, late, or on weekends, they’re upgraded to “committed” and “dedicated.” However, even when physically out of the office, there are still some key traits you can look for when considering remote members for promotion. From our article Making Remote Team Members into Managers, we mention things like going the extra mile, supporting colleagues, leadership skills (such as being in control of their tasks), and turning negatives into positives.

People develop motivation in many different ways, some good, some bad. A barking dog who just pulled loose from his chain may motivate someone to run farther and faster than they might otherwise do. A manager taking the time to notice the hard work of a remote employee thereby motivates said employee to work harder as they bask in the glow of recognition. Whatever motivates you as a manager, remember that there’s a remote team that needs their motivation maintained. If you haven’t yet taken advantage of all the benefits that a remote team can bring you, we invite you to get motivated to try it by contacting us here.

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Casey Shull

Casey Shull

Casey Shull is a freelance writer who works with DistantJob to research and synthesise the best remote work related content into practical, accurate and actionable guides and articles on how to improve remote leadership and better manage your teams.

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