Motivating teams in a remote work world: The ACT lens

February 14, 2023

By Magda Voigt, ICF Coach

Remote employees' motivation has been a hot topic since the world of work changed. And people are still getting accustomed to it every day. 

Is motivating your remote teams challenging? How do you approach it? In this article we explore the ACT approach, standing for:

  • Awareness
  • Communication
  • Trust

The first step to motivate people is to understand them and be aware of their unique needs.


This understanding will help you craft motivational strategies that will work. In the end, most people value autonomy. So when they are heard about their individual needs and ​feel ​they can make their own choices (and that the choice is given to them in the first place!), that will often go far to create 'motivated teams'.

Another key strategy is to incorporate some simple coaching techniques, and to start asking questions, instead of creating your 'motivational packages' based on assumptions.

How much time do you spend on really getting to know your team, exploring and revealing motivators, drivers, interests, passions? How much time do you spend on staying curious for a little bit longer by asking questions? How much time do you spend on truly listening to all of their responses?

Teams are virtual, but the people in these teams are real.  

Do you know what makes members of your team unique?

Do you know what your teammates are feeling today, at this moment?

If you knew which “me” (happy, disengaged, struggling, excited) you were emailing, you might choose different words. You might not send that email at all. You might pick up the phone or connect over video.

Communication is key.


Communication is key in all businesses, but this is even more so the case when managing a remote team.

Anxiety and stress can start to creep in when remote workers feel like they don’t know what’s going on. Keeping your team members in the loop with transparent and consistent contact can make a huge difference, and help to create a more enthused and engaged team.

And remember that ‘Virtual Distance’ is different from ‘Physical Distance’. Virtual Distance can occur no matter where people are located. Virtual Distance is a measurable disconnect that happens when human beings rely heavily on smart, digital devices to communicate. Become aware that Virtual Distance is strongly embedded everywhere screen-based interactions happen: between people sitting side-by-side or amongst team members scattered across the globe. It can help you to see your teams from a different perspective. ​ 

Restore shared context. Revealing shared context and making appropriate adjustments can have a profound impact on performance.

Develop techno-dexterity. This is the ability to act deliberately when communicating, understanding which message to deliver when and through which channel. By thinking about the who, what, when, where, and how of messaging and by including how much context the other person might need to fully understand your message, you will reduce Virtual Distance and improve performance.

To make it all happen, the foundation of trust is needed.


Trust is an incredible motivator. Do you trust people that the work will be done, even if they put in different hours than you expect? Do you trust people that the results will be delivered, even if they put in different approaches than you expect? Do you trust your people, or do you rather track them?

If you gravitate towards micromanaging and monitoring remote employees, constantly checking in and wanting routine updates, you may erode the sense of trust between you and your team. In order to motivate and influence people, it’s important to know how to trust others and work to become a trustworthy leader. In order to do this well, effective delegation skills (we recommend leaders to learn the ‘Stewardship Model’ of results-based delegation) becomes paramount. 

So ACT when leading and motivating teams in a remote work world. Check levels of your Awareness, examine your Communication styles, explore if you build the culture of Trust.


Karen Sobel Lojeski, The Power of Virtual Distance: A Guide to Productivity and Happiness in the Age of Remote Work, John Wiley & Sons Inc (2020)

Erica Dhawan, Digital Body Language: How to Build Trust and Connection, No Matter the Distance, HarperCollins Publishers Ltd (2021)

Paul J. Zak, Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High-Performance Companies, AMACOM (2018)

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