Pizza parties are a fun addition to the work day, but to best show employees your appreciation, you need to do more than share carbs and cheese. And this maxim applied long before 88% of companies directed their staff to work from home. Many employees are still working remotely while the COVID-19 crisis unfolds and may remain offsite for months. That’s why leaders need effective strategies to ensure their teams feel valued, even from a distance.
According to projections from Upwork’s 2019 “Future Workforce Report,” 73% of all U.S. teams will have remote workers by 2028. It’s easy to imagine this timeline will accelerate, now that we know what’s possible with videoconferencing tools and a good internet connection.
At the same time, a recent Gallup report showed that only one in three U.S. workers “strongly agreed” they received recognition for their work in the past seven days. Employees who don’t feel recognized are twice as likely to say they’ll quit in the next year. Receiving well-deserved praise can make staff feel engaged, and increased morale is good for your business.
My company, JotForm, has always had a flexible work policy, yet the pandemic prompted us to be more intentional about how we support our staff, whether they’re in the office or at their kitchen table. Here are four ways to say “thank you” and reward your teams for their effort and commitment.
Give your teams the tools they need
Budgets may be tight, but remote employees should have everything they need to work effectively. From personal technology and software to basic supplies like desk chairs, tables, and paper goods, don’t skimp on the essentials. Our teams use a digital form to submit their wish lists and delivery addresses. It’s an easy way to collect these requests in one place and turn them around fast.
Leaders should also ask employees what they need, personally, to do their best work. Do they want more one-on-one meetings? More time to simply focus and complete their tasks? Maybe they also need telehealth resources or help with at-home ergonomics. Listen closely and establish multiple channels for staff to share their thoughts.
Make time to listen and connect
Many organizations have discovered the value of informal check-ins during COVID-19. It’s important for employees to know you’re available to hear new ideas, answer questions, and discuss their concerns. The pandemic has also encouraged many of us to be more vulnerable with our coworkers.
As Jenn Hyman, cofounder of Rent the Runway, recently told the host of NPR series How I Built Resilience, “People are always telling you and asking you to show up as a leader, and I think that what this period has taught me is that sometimes you just have to show up as a friend, and show up as a human.”
Boundaries and walls meant to keep colleagues at distance naturally come down when pets and children crash video calls or a UPS delivery person suddenly rings the doorbell during a meeting. We all have messy, imperfect lives, and connecting remotely has “created this intimacy around our team that I’ve never felt so strongly before,” said Hyman.
Healthy organizations are always honest with their teams. When employees work remotely, it’s even more important to keep people in the loop. For example, you could send a weekly email update or hold regular online Town Hall meetings. Solicit questions and answer the submissions in front of the group.
As always, meetings are the perfect opportunity to express your appreciation. When conducting meetings, share specific, tangible examples of work that exceeded expectations, or highlight someone who went the distance for a customer or colleague. Even if you think your gratitude is obvious, make a point to offer honest and authentic praise. It’s nearly impossible to overdo it.
Further, considering how employees want to be recognized is also a good practice. Some people love to get a public shout-out, while others respond better to one-on-one conversations. You could also send a handwritten note or call someone for a quick chat. According to the same 2016 Gallup report, “the criteria for recognition should align with the purpose, brand and culture of the company and should reflect its aspirational identity to inspire others.” In other words, walk your talk, and reward people who do the same.
Offer tangible rewards
The pandemic-led downturn will prevent most companies from giving bonuses or pay raises in the near future. However, you can still offer valuable rewards for great work; extra time off can be banked for later. Additional mental health days can give employees a much-needed break while they juggle home, work, and family responsibilities.
With conferences and live seminars on hold, ask your teams what and how they want to keep learning. Online education platforms can give employees the opportunity to brush up on both hard and soft skills. Don’t forget that remote workers can still receive promotions or expanded responsibilities that capitalize on their strengths.
You can also donate money on behalf of your teams to Black advocacy groups, social justice, anti-racist organizations, or other causes that reflect your company values. Finally, gift cards to local businesses and restaurants offering takeout are always welcome (pizza included).
Aytekin Tank is the founder of JotForm, a popular online form builder. Established in 2006, JotForm allows customizable data collection for enhanced lead generation, survey distribution, payment collections, and more.