Before the COVID-19 outbreak, office and remote employees were usually offered differential engagement programs. Remote and distributed teams were left out of in-office employee engagement initiatives due to their physical absence, and engaging them was often overlooked.

However, a lot has changed over the last two month in the way remote engagement is approached. Organizations now are extrapolating their knowledge of managing remote workers to their regular employees, now working remotely. These circumstances have led to quite a few out-of-the-ordinary disruptions that will benefit the remote working economy in a big way.

Organizations and HR leaders are now scrambling for ways of engaging their remote employees as efficiently as they were engaging them before the lockdowns. They have come to realise the significance of designing an inclusive engagement and benefit program that suits both their desk as well as remote employees. Furthermore, offering remote work to office employees has been observed to be a great way to retain them and offer them flexibility.

Appreciation is one such engagement mode that lifts employees up the best way, even while working remotely. This article outlines some tested methods that renowned organisations across the world have adopted to engage remote employees.

How to Engage Remote Employees: Rewards and Recognition

Recognize the good efforts and behaviours

In the US alone, 4.3 million people work from home at least half of their work time – denoting the contribution of ‘remote working’ to the country’s workforce.

Since employees continue to add value to the business even while working remotely, it is important to recognise their exceptional contributions. Mechanisms need to be put in place to track and identify such efforts so as to reward such behaviors in time. Value-based awards, for instance, can go a long way in recognising efforts and behaviours that are commendable – despite the less-than-perfect remote working conditions.

Embed recognition in your company culture

While traditionally recognition has been top-down, it has never been more important to democratise the recognition activity if you have remote employees. Remote team members work in narrower silos – with very less cross functional interactions otherwise possible in an office environment.

Every manager and peer interacting with an employee needs to be empowered to recognize them by providing them with plentiful opportunities to appreciate each other – thus ingraining a culture of recognition. A social platform that allows peer to peer rewarding and spot rewarding is an ideal environment that nurtures a culture of recognition.

Recognize and appreciate in public

Recognition in public needs fundamental rethinking with remote workers amongst your employees. It is only with the help of organisational groups of communication platforms like Slack or teams or employee engagement platforms, can recognition in public occur. Distributed teams can definitely not be recognized in person and hence public recognition tools work best to let others know about their work.

Don’t hesitate to say thanks, and give kudos and high fives

Two-thirds of remote workers work with a team currently and sending out those e-thank you cards can make a difference in managing all of them in your teams. Communicating appreciation to team-members, remote or otherwise, never becomes too much- because these make your team members clearer on how they are adding value to the team goals. Celebrating small wins, small good work done – can all go a long way to help them sustain and thrive in the remote work environment.

Send your remote teams a surprise gift card or an experience reward

It is projected that by 2028, 73% of all departments will have remote workers – in other words, engaging a remote team member will become an essential part of team management.

One of the great ways to appreciate your remote-working employees is with a surprise e-gift to let them know their contributions are counted. These gift vouchers can generally be redeemed on a range of brands and events – based on the employees’ interests like a favourite movie or a book.

How to Engage Remote Employees: Feedback

Proactively share positive feedback and good news

Timeliness of recognition is the most important factor for its effectiveness. Constant and consistent communication, especially about the good things happening around, help in keeping the morale and productivity high for remote employees. These include appreciating a good-work done or announcing a company achievement – every bit of positivity counts.

If a customer or client has appreciated the efforts of a team, talk about it and acknowledge the efforts of that team

Like how all roads lead to Rome, all efforts of an organisation must be directed towards creating a valuable customer experience. If a customer appreciates such an effort, make sure to celebrate it in the best way. Announce it in the company social group, talk about what went well and name each and every one of the contributors. Such appreciations give out clear signals to employees about the customer-centricity values that need to live.

How to Engage Remote Employees: Communication

Use an engagement tool to spread happiness

Happiness and motivation are infectious. It is thus important that happy discussions, say – about a new customer acquisition or a great customer feedback – are not made in silos, through chats or mails. Despite various advancements in collaboration technologies, email still remains to be the predominant medium of communication with remote workers.

Engagement tools work best to really drive a culture of motivation and appreciation by circulating such motivating messages across the organisation.

Conduct electronic brainstorming sessions

Employees claim that brainstorming sessions are the most challenging during remote work, because they are not physically present with each other in a meeting room. Modern platforms can circumvent and almost more efficiently conduct brainstorming sessions using dedicated group conversations. For instance, in Empuls, managers can create either a dedicated brainstorming group (for conversations requiring documentation) or a group chat to quickly discuss action items.

Call out people who have done a good online demo, a webinar or anything remotely, then recognize and reward them

Remote working is a hitherto workforce management opportunity for many organisations and there are immense learnings to be made. In addition to the values that your organisation drives, practices that help remote working work, need to be reinforced. Appreciate employees who disrupted their functions to not only adapt but also excel during remote work.

Give a surprise visit to your remote team members and take them out for lunch or dinner

Sometimes, meeting face to face can become very important to work with each other with high efficiency. It is only when people spend time with each other will they understand each other the best way. Make way to such conversations by actually flying down to meet your remote team members once in a while.

For instance, Zapier has all their employees across their 23 locations across the globe, claims that in-person meetups are still important and have team meet ups at least twice a year.

Build a community around work, hobbies, interests etc for remote workers

While it is only natural to feel disconnected while remotely working, virtual communities are a wonderful way to bring together employees who have common interests which could definitely also include remote employees.When there is an active community involvement, the feeling of isolation reduces. Hence involve them in virtual communities in Xoxoday Empuls like any sports, hobbies, charity, book reading and training.

How to Engage Remote Employees: Perks and Benefits

Technology perks

The day to day WFH tools can make a huge difference to their productivity and job satisfaction. Having an extra monitor, a tablet, better headphones, a laptop upgrade, internet connection, or a new software can be very helpful. Consider giving employees an annual technology allowance so that they can pick and choose these benefits. For instance, a recent survey recorded that 75% of remote workers claim that they self-finance their home internet – an expense that the company could take up.

Home service perks

There are few critical services that, if taken care of, might add great value to the remote employees’ daily life. It should also help your team keep things running smoothly at home. These services could be that of cleaning, gardening, laundering, day care, food delivery or cooking. Evernote offers home cleaning service and JibJab Media offers laundry services for both their office as well as remote employees to help them enjoy their free time.

Home workspace

While there are dedicated teams in the office who work towards ensuring their office seatings are ergonomical – the conditions in which remote working happens is often overlooked. Offering your remote team a budget for upgrading their home office- should help them sort this out. 71% of companies do not compensate for the coworking spaces but the benefits of offering employees a proper office environment weighs very high against the costs – especially if the employee insists.

How to Engage Remote Employees: Localise Rewards and Benefits

Configure benefits and rewards

A majority of a company’s remote employees work from different geographical locations which leaves them blinded about their unique issues. Organisations end up failing to understand the real needs of remote workers as they don’t understand their location constraints so well. The best way to ensure this is the provide them the flexibility to choose a solution that fits their needs the best. By designing a rewards and benefits catalog program, you can give the remote employees the choice of using these benefits locally. Xoxoday plum gives you an expansive local catalogue that covers 100+ countries.

Respect local culture, rituals and beliefs

If your remote workers work from diverse geographies it is important to carefully consider their local culture. A classic example of how individualistic rewards work more effectively in the US than in China, is a demonstration. Thus, it is important to understand the regional culture to fine tune your reward policies and work schedules to align with their local rituals.

While technology can provide organisations the ability to collaborate, innovate, and co-create with remote team members, trust plays an overarching role in it. Managers need to work extensively towards nurturing intra-team trust and cohesion. Providing absolute clarity of deliverables through ongoing communication will help them effectively contribute to business results. Putting support systems in place like remote employee training and digital technologies help pace it up.

Once the downsides of “lack of face time” are overcome using robust digital technologies, remote workforces tend to thrive on trust, pervasive communications and real-time collaboration.

This post was written by Manoj Agarwal, Co-Founder of Xoxoday. It first appeared on Xoxoday’s website here. Check out more posts written about Employee Engagement on our blog here.