With over 70% of full-time workers in the U.S. working from home due to COVID concerns, the remote work revolution is in full swing. Add the uncertainty of the future regarding the virus, and experts agree: the transition is here to stay for the foreseeable future. And while many remote workers are enjoying the work-life balance and flexibility this work arrangement brings, some are still navigating the isolation, distractions, and complications that remote work brings. As a result, employers should make every attempt to make their workers feel valued. One such way is through remote employee appreciation.
The idea of remote employee appreciation spans a wide gamut, giving employers the opportunity to give back to their employees in a variety of ways. So regardless of your budget or the size of your team, here are some ideas to celebrate the dynamic, hard-working people that make remote businesses run like clockwork.
The Importance and Benefits of Remote Employee Appreciation
Making your employees feel valued and appreciated is a vital component of management theory and part of a strong business model. However, this can’t feel like an empty gesture. Sending a generic email about a work anniversary doesn’t nearly have the same effect as a well-planned gift or activity.
It’s all about human psychology. No one wants to work a thankless job or feel unappreciated. This can cause resentment, high turnover, apathy, and burnout. Conversely, employee appreciation that actually says something or identifies a person’s contributions has a far-reaching effect. This may include an improvement in employee morale, work ethic, or company loyalty.
Unfortunately, managers often struggle with this idea. But it’s not a form of malice. It, too, lies within the realm of psychology. According to Harvard Business Review, this idea is the “illusion of transparency.”
The illusion of transparency is a cognitive bias in which people tend to overestimate how well their mental state is perceived and understood by others.The Illusion of Transparency
This theory puts forth that people overestimate how much others can read their emotions. Therefore, many managers believe they are showering their employees with recognition and appreciation, yet employees don’t recognize any such gesture.
Actionable Step: Because employees—especially in a remote work environment—can’t pick up on your appreciative cues as readily as onsite workers, you have to take some extra steps. So write a personalized email, buy gifts, or put together a fun activity. The idea is that going beyond expectation and being direct can make a drastic impact on the overall morale and engagement of your employees.
Remote Employee Appreciation Gifts
As part of a remote employee appreciation initiative, managers and employers have a seemingly endless amount of gift ideas. The key here is to provide something that your employees will enjoy and find useful. Still, use reason when regarding the size or dollar amount of the gifts. Don’t play favorites and don’t wreck your budget. Even with small, economical gifts, you’ll find a more responsive and engaged workforce. Here are some gift ideas to get your creative juices flowing.
Coffee and Tea
Every remote worker needs a jolt of caffeine to get their day started or pump their way through the 2 o’clock crash. That’s why a gift of coffee or tea is the gift that keeps on giving. Sending an assortment of teas, coffee (whole bean or ground), or accessories can send a message of thanks and praise. Plus, you just might find that your workers start to kick their addiction to sugar-heavy snacks—an added bonus for employers that provide health insurance.
If you manage a large team, you may not have the time to get to know each person on an individualized basis. As such, buying a gift that’s thoughtful or personalized can seem daunting. But that’s what makes gift cards such an awesome idea for remote employee appreciation.
Gift cards convey your appreciation while also giving employees the opportunity to buy something they like or need. While Amazon is a great gift card choice and has just about every item you can think of, check out these other companies to offer something a little different:
- Instacart (grocery delivery)
- Lululemon (comfortable athletic apparel)
- Book of the Month Club
- Best Buy
- Chewy (pet products)
- Disney+ subscription
According to some studies, certain aromas and essential oils have been linked to improved brain function and an increase in learning processes. They’ve also been shown to improve overall health while reducing the risk of certain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. In addition, scented oils can also add a relaxing smell to the home, something that your employee will appreciate. Some of the more popular essential oils and aromatherapy scents include:
You might not be able to soak up the smell of these oils, but your employees will certainly love the inviting and soothing boosts to their olfactory senses.
Candy and chocolate are two of the preferred snacking choices of remote workers. But these often provide a short-lived sugar rush that can lead to a crash during the workday. So to promote healthy living and foods that promote overall well-being, consider some healthy snacks for remote employee appreciation. This list might include:
- Fresh fruit
- High-energy trail mixes
- Protein and snack bars
- Dark chocolates (60% cocoa and up)
Not only will these snacks encourage healthy eating habits, but they will also provide the energy, antioxidants, and other nutrients to help focus and concentration.
Other Remote Employee Appreciation Ideas
If you don’t have the budget for a gift or you’re looking for blanket ideas that apply to your entire staff instead of individualized gifts, options still abound. Here are some ideas to showcase your remote employee appreciation while also reaping the resulting benefits as an employer.
Small Stipend for Home Office Use
Workers thrust into remote working may struggle to find space for a home office. According to the State of Remote Work 2020 Report, home office alternatives range from the dining room to the couch to a closet. (That’s right. A closet.) Therefore, remote employee appreciation dictates that you should provide a little something to spruce up the old home office. Not only will your employees love the gesture, but you’ll get a more productive workforce.
Employees can use this stipend for just about anything, including:
- Home office furniture
- A fresh coat of paint for the home office
- Other items to make work more comfortable and enjoyable
Bottom line: It doesn’t matter what your employees spend the stipend on. Either way, you’ll look like a hero.
Family life has been forever altered by the COVID pandemic. Kids staying at home, elderly family members needing care, and parents working from home are all part of the newfound equation. Yet embracing family life is a surefire way to endear yourself into the hearts of your employees. It shows that you have some insight into their personal lives, as well as empathy for their current living and working situation.
Here are some family-based ideas to show your remote employee appreciation:
- Disney+, Hulu, or Netflix subscription
- PlayStation Now for on-demand gaming
- Ingredient-and-recipe meal services such as Blue Apron or Hello Fresh, where kids can also learn how to cook
- Anything to help kids adjust to online learning
Branded Apparel and Swag
Almost everyone loves free stuff, but if you get something out of it as a business owner, you’re in a win-win situation. By providing branded apparel and swag, your employees can advertise your company, while also getting something they can use every day. This may include:
- Pens and pencils
- Branded stationery
- Coffee mugs
- Water bottles
Rewards programs are a stellar way to show appreciation for a remote employee group. It recognizes hard work and dedication while providing a fun atmosphere and friendly competition. You can make the program as extravagant or as simple as you’d like based on your budget. The important part is that you’re ramping up productivity and keeping your remote workers entertained and motivated to get the job done.
Whether it’s at work or outside of the office, everyone needs to vent every so often. You don’t have to play psychologist, but opening a forum for venting, rants, or other concerns can improve employee morale and show that the entire team—including yourself—can let off some steam without ridicule or backlash. Set some rules that keep these venting sessions outside of controversial subjects such as religion and politics. The result might just be happier, more appreciative remote workers.
In addition, an open-door policy allows employees to feel like they’re being heard. Few things are worse for an employee than feeling like they don’t have a voice or they’re underappreciated. This can foster perceptions like they’re merely a number or a cog in the machine. Implementing an employee feedback system or even asking for suggestions on how to improve the company offers a chance for interaction, which gives them an identity. In addition, you can obtain some fresh ideas that could boost your productivity or streamline a particular process, setting you up for success in the future.
Another way to implement remote employee appreciation is through instant recognition. Did a team member exceed their sales goals? Give them a call or instant message. Did your team finish a project under budget and ahead of time? Send them a thank you. Sometimes, the instant gratification that employees receive makes all the difference.
Remote Employee Appreciation Activities
If you don’t want to single out individuals or you have a large team, sometimes company-wide activities are the best way to show remote employee appreciation. Here are some ideas for activities that act as both a show of gratitude and a perk of the job.
One of the foremost concerns of stay at home workers is a lack of exercise. Remote work breeds a sedentary lifestyle, and many people feel the effects. Compound it with COVID restrictions, and some workers are reliving their “Freshman 15.”
Therefore, exercise programs serve not only as a form of appreciation but also an opportunity to integrate work with health and overall well-being. If possible, offer online exercise classes with a trainer or a company such as Peloton. When the budget’s a bit tight, ask for employee volunteers to host a morning or afternoon yoga or pilates session. The mix of relaxation and exercise can invigorate your staff and provide them with the tools they need for healthier living.
Semi-Regular Meetings…Without the Work
The daily meeting is something that workers have come to expect in both the remote world and brick-and-mortar offices. And while these meetings aid in organization and scheduling, they can definitely cross the line between necessary and arbitrary.
Therefore, to show your appreciation, schedule a semi-regular meeting where talk of work is outlawed. Discuss anything else. But work has no place in these conversations. You just might find that this boosts camaraderie between employees while providing an outlet for some solid goof-off time.
Fostering a bit of competition in the business world has its benefits. You push workers to reach or surpass their goals, which provides a substantial boost to your bottom line. But oftentimes, some more light-hearted competition is necessary if only to break the monotony of routine. That’s when you should throw a company-wide contest. Options for these might include:
- Home office decorating
- Jack-o-lantern or pumpkin carving
- Quiz nights
- Photo competitions
Essentially, you can take your workers’ minds off their job for just a short time while ushering in a competitive spirit. And just so everyone knows you aren’t playing favorites, let your staff vote on the winner for competitions and provide a small prize. It’s fun. It’s simple. And it’s a way to make the work from home environment all the more enjoyable.
Remote employee appreciation begins with awareness. When managers realize the sacrifices and contributions made by workers, they can empathize. And that’s a concept that employers must embrace, especially in a COVID world.
Much like a romantic relationship, you shouldn’t just throw these ideas and gifts out there on work anniversaries and birthdays. Spontaneity has a place within the realm of appreciation. Take a step back and reflect on how your staff has helped the business succeed. Then, turn that appreciation into a tangible idea that workers will enjoy. You just might be stunned by how small gestures can shape an entire work culture and provide an avenue for growth and success.
As an employer, have you had any brilliant ideas for remote employee appreciation? Or as an employee, have you ever been blown away by a gift or activity as part of a remote employee appreciation initiative? Connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube to share your comments. We’d love to hear from you!
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