Remote employees are becoming more and more common in the modern workplace. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly a quarter of US employees do some or all of their work from home.
While the trend is positive across virtually all industries, it’s particularly common in certain fields. For instance, more than 50% of technology workers report spending some time working remotely, while the number of employees working remotely in the healthcare sector is substantially less.
Given the shift toward remote work, many companies are now asking themselves how best to keep employees feeling engaged and recognized from afar. The task is daunting, as many of the typical one-off opportunities that managers used to take when recognizing team members don’t naturally present themselves in an environment with distributed employees.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to more effectively engage and recognize remote team members:
- Make Time for Real Conversations
Messaging tools like Slack are great for quick questions, but encouraging real conversation makes a big difference. Not only is much of communication about inflection, facial expression, etc – but conversations, whether over the phone or through video chat, encourage folks to ‘check in’ on each other more generally. These pleasantries can feel like inefficient uses of time, but in fact, they provide a crucial opportunity for employees to connect and recognize each other.
- Support Continuing Education
Employees who work remotely often have less built in access to training and educational opportunities than someone working from headquarters. One way to truly show your remote employees that you are invested in their development is to provide them high quality access to online learning opportunities. One example is Udemy for Business, which gives employees access to a set of educational courses to complete on their own time.
- Offer Mentoring Opportunities
Mentorship relationships often occur naturally in traditional workplaces. However, that’s often not the case in workplaces with substantial number of remote employees. Consider being more prescriptive with a mentorship program if you have a substantive remote workforce, surveying junior employees about they type of mentorship connections they would appreciate and then proactively connecting them with senior members of your organization.
- Recognize Special Occasions
There are key times to remind someone they are valued, such as birthdays, work anniversaries, onboardings and farewells. For these occasions, consider replacing the paper card that’s passed around and signed in a traditional workplace with an online group card for employee recognition. With Kudoboard, for instance, colleagues spread across the globe can add messages, pictures, videos or GIFs onto a collaborative card to celebrate a recipient’s special occasion.
- Surprise Them
Ever wonder why gambling is so popular (even though the odds are often bad)? It’s the psychological concept known as intermittent, variable rewards. In other words, an occasional surprise reward to recognize an employee’s efforts can make a big difference. We’d rarely recommend that a manager be more unpredictable; however, using this strategy judiciously by being a bit creative about when you provide a boost can be surprisingly motivating.
- Bring Everyone Together
Remote workforces are a tremendous asset. However, there’s nothing that can replace an in-person gathering to foster connections and make recognition feel real. No matter how committed you are to a remote workforce, consider some regular cadence (quarterly, bi-annually, etc.) to bring your employees together to ensure that a cohesive culture continues to thrive.