15 Remote Employee Recognition Ideas To Build A Culture Of Appreciation


Has the way you recognize your employees changed in light of COVID-19?

Now more than ever, our employees need to feel recognized. This is due to the fact that a reported 64% of employees feel that recognition and appreciation is more important while working remotely.

At the same time, only 1 in 5 employees say their organization has implemented new ways to reward and recognize them since the pandemic began.

With cancelled employee appreciation celebrations, banquets, and other inconveniences, many of our remote workers are missing out. 

That being the case, now’s the time to start thinking about how we can adapt our employee recognition efforts to account for social distancing and remote work.

Motivating Remote Workers During COVID-19

With remote work, there’s often a lack of boundaries between work and life. And money alone isn’t enough to keep our employees motivated.

According to insights from McKinsey, being rewarded and recognized for work is one of employees’ top concerns during the COVID-19 era. 

When we recognize and acknowledge our employees, it helps them take ownership and pride in their work. This not only increases work effectiveness, it also increases engagement and employees’ overall well-being.

15 Remote Employee Recognition Ideas for Managers
1. Peer-to-Peer Employee Recognition

Peer recognition is powerful because it can strengthen relationships while keeping employees engaged. The benefit isn’t limited to those who are on the receiving end either. 

Acts of kindness, like acknowledging a coworker, have been shown to boost production of neurochemicals in our brain — including dopamine and serotonin. When this happens, fears and stress are reduced while trust and empathy increase, leading to a Happiness Trifecta.

To introduce peer recognition to your remote team, encourage them to give each other positive feedback. This could be as simple as an email thanking a co-worker or a shout-out in a virtual meeting.

On a larger scale, employee recognition software can help you implement peer recognition throughout your organization in just a few clicks.

2. Share the Praise You’ve Received from Customers

Like many companies, you probably give your customers surveys to fill out. If it’s not surveys, you probably have some mechanism in place that enables them to give feedback about your company and employees.

If the feedback you’re getting is good, share it with teams and your entire organization. You can also recognize individual employees who’ve gone above and beyond to help customers.

To get started, you need to decide the best way to share the information with your employees. To do that, send your employees a quick survey asking how they like to receive information. 

It could be pushed via something like a monthly e-newsletter. Or it could be pulled from a “Customer Stories” section on your intranet. Taking the time to ask what your team prefers ensures you meet your employees’ needs.

3. Award an Employee of the Week or Month 

Employee of the month isn’t a new concept. But it’s one that’s often not used effectively. 

When recognizing your remote workers, it’s important that you use a fair process to select winners. 

When you’re developing an employee of the week or month program, base the frequency on your team size. The more opportunities for awards the better. But at the same time, you don’t want to give out so many awards that they lose value.

For the best results, decide which characteristics or values you want to award. This will help bring clarity to the award selection process.

You could also allow employees to nominate each other and use pulse surveys to have them vote on a winner if you get a lot of nominees.

4. Provide Frequent, Just-in-Time Employee Recognition

Rewards are good. But recognizing daily accomplishments is even more important. 

Try to make sending an email or calling to say “good job” the norm for your team. This sort of micro-recognition helps create a culture of support and shows your team you see how hard they’re working.

5. Acknowledge Your Remote Employees’ Personal Achievements

Try to keep up with what your employees’ are doing outside of the office.

Did they buy their first home? Return to school to earn their degree? Have a baby?

Recognizing what’s going on in their personal lives can build trust and strengthen your relationship, creating a more engaged workforce.

6. Acknowledge Your Employees Virtually

Team staff meetings and meetings with leadership teams are great opportunities to show your employees how much you appreciate them. 

At each meeting, select a couple of employees and try to say a few words about their recent accomplishments.

At the end of the day, employees want to feel valued. Publicly recognizing them shows everyone in the organization the value they add. It also makes praise the norm and can increase the peer-to-peer recognition your employees give to each other.

7. Hold a Remote Employee Appreciation Day

While you might not be able to do a traditional off-site or gathering, you can still take the day to recognize your remote team.

Schedule a virtual Employee Appreciation Day for your remote team. Choose a fun theme and ask everyone to dress up if they’re open to it. Find virtual backgrounds that go with your theme and schedule various leaders to speak. It’s a fun, easy way to spice things up a bit.

You can also send employee appreciation gifts to your employees’ home. Better yet, have food delivered to them from a local restaurant using a service like DoorDash, GrubHub, or Postmates.

It may not be the catered lunch you’re used to, but it can still be fun. When all’s said and done, consider giving them the afternoon off.

8. Acknowledge Quirky Milestones of Remote Work

Did you have a Zoom meeting without anyone forgetting they’re on mute? No technical difficulties? Do a quick shout out as the meeting wraps up.

Adjusting to remote work has been challenging for everyone. Being able to stay light-hearted about it and acknowledge these small wins will bring a smile to your employees’ faces.

Drawing on work from organizational theorist and psychologist Karl Weick, Mehrnaz Bassiri, an educator explains: 

“Small wins have transformational power. Once a small win has been accomplished, forces are set in motion to favour another small win and another small win until the combination of these small wins leads to larger and greater accomplishments.”

Many times, we overlook the small wins. But by acknowledging them, our teams can realize how far they’ve come and continue to grow.

9. Build Recognition into Your One-on-One Meetings

When many managers start one-on-one meetings, they are often centered around status updates and information sharing. But they have the potential to be so much more than that.

In addition to working on your employee’s long-term growth and development, one-on-one meetings are the perfect time to recognize your employees.

For example, if an employee recently completed a project, use the time to recognize their accomplishments. Make sure to be specific about what they did well.

10. Start a Celebration Electronic Newsletter

Looking for a way to highlight your team’s accomplishments? An electronic celebration newsletter may be just what the doctor ordered.

Consider putting together a monthly team newsletter celebrating your employees’ birthdays, births, adoptions, and more. You can also include individual milestones — like years of service and other accomplishments.

Once you have your electronic celebration newsletter ready, you can email it to your team, or post it on the intranet to publicly recognize your employees.

11. Send a Thank You Card to Your Employees

Sure, you could easily send off an email to recognize your employees. But in an increasingly digital age, nothing beats a handwritten card. 

Taking the time to buy the card, write your message, and mail it off shows your employees that you are prioritizing their well-being. It shows that they are important enough for you to invest your time in communicating with them.

Remote Employee Appreciation Gift Ideas

12. Treat Your Employees with a Sit-Stand Desk Converter

Even though we have been working remotely for a while, many employees still have make-shift work stations. 

A spare countertop. The dining room table. They’re doing what they can to ensure the work gets done. But their environment is suboptimal, which stifles productivity.

Beyond that, it  can also lead to long-term ergonomic issues for teams — in turn increasing workers’ compensation costs and absenteeism.

You can avoid this by being proactive and showing your employees you value their well-being by giving them a sit-stand desk converter. Unlike a sit-stand desk, converters can work with virtually any workspace. They are convenient and oftentimes less expensive than a desk.

13. Give Your Employees Local Treats for Accomplishments

Did an employee meet a performance goal for the first time? Complete a challenging project? 

You don’t have to invest a lot of time or money for a reward to be meaningful. Small rewards can be rather rewarding, too. For example, look at gift cards for a restaurant near your employees or send a flower basket from a local florist. 

Using a local-to-them business makes the reward seem more personal. This particularly true for large, geographically dispersed remote teams.

14. Let Your Employees’ Pick a Subscription for Their Recognition Gift

With lockdowns and social distancing, it’s important to try to focus on the small things. 

Letting your employees pick a subscription service for their employee recognition gift means they will have something to look forward to every month. It also serves as an ongoing reminder that you appreciate them.

Put together a list of company-sponsored subscription options and let your employees decide which one they want. 

From delicious SnackNation boxes to a Yogi box to celebrate the yoga lifestyle, the options are endless. Just try to focus on physical gifts rather than electronic subscriptions to make your recognition gift more memorable.

15. Give Your Employees the Gift of Health

For many years, gym memberships have been a popular way to show employees’ we appreciate them. But with the lockdowns in place, many aren’t able to use them. 

A study has shown that three in four Americans have gained over 16 pounds since March. This not only potentially puts them at risk for coronavirus complications, it also takes a toll on their overall well-being. 

Investing in a digital wellness program like Noom or Omada can help your employees take control of their health. It also shows them you value them.

Adapting Employee Recognition during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Creating a remote employee recognition program can be challenging. 

After all, we can no longer celebrate with in-person award ceremonies or recognition lunches. But in the age of technology, we can still show our employees that we appreciate them.

And that’s absolutely what you should do. If you want your team to reach its full potential, all of your employees need to know you value their contributions. To do that, you need to recognize their efforts as often as you can. 

What remote appreciation ideas will you try with your team? 

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