- Employers should first identify how employees want to be recognised for their efforts so what they offer resonates with them.
- Regular communication can be an effective way to support remote workers and adjustments should be made for those who raise concerns.
- Employers should avoid any risk of proximity bias, whereby they provide more benefits to staff who are right in front of them and, whether it is intentional or not, adopt an out-of-sight, out-of-mind attitude for remote staff.
More than one-third (36%) of 1,000 UK remote and hybrid workers have experienced loneliness because of their working arrangement, according to a poll titled Loneliness: combatting the hidden impact of hybrid working that was conducted back in February and March 2022 by Silicon Reef. This highlights the importance of employers regularly checking in with their remote workforce to ensure their needs are met and to recognise their efforts.
Acknowledging remote employees
Remote workers should be afforded the same opportunities and attention as staff working on-site, so employers need to have clear communication channels in place to ensure they engage with their remote workforce as easily as those in the workplace. Fostering collaboration and inclusion is often critical to keep employees feeling connected and supported, but this can be more challenging with a remote or hybrid workforce.
Recognising employees for their efforts is particularly important for those that are not as visible as their in-office counterparts, says Rob Boland, chief operating officer at Reward Gateway. Creating a weekly reminder on managers’ diaries to check in can establish a continuous recognition culture.
Educating managers and employees at all levels on the value of recognition and how recognising staff contributes to a more productive, collaborative environment is key to a successful recognition strategy. “Through an employee engagement hub or platform, personalised notes and e-cards can be shared with remote workers,” says Boland. “Post these on a social recognition wall to amplify recognition moments across the business. This is an inexpensive way of making people feel valued and less isolated. Integrating reward and recognition programmes on a platform can also be a great way to empower managers to elevate those recognition moments even further.”
Employers should first identify how employees want to be recognised for their efforts so what they offer resonates with them; many schemes can work successfully for both staff in the workplace and those in a remote work setting.
One example is using a pre-paid card system, which employers can put money on for employees to use wherever they are based, says Jamie Mackenzie, business programme director at Sodexo Engage. “Staff can pop out of the office at lunch to use it or put it towards their weekly shop at home,” he explains. “Creating a fluid and easily adapted benefits structure means that it does not matter where employees are, they can still feel valued. E-vouchers and voucher cheques are also great for a flexible approach to employee Christmas gifts, annual rewards and incentive strategies.”
Regular communication can be an effective way to support remote workers and adjustments should be made for those who raise concerns.
Offering them the opportunity to come into the office to meet and socialise with other team members, amending working hours or duties, or holding more regular wellbeing meetings may be beneficial, says Kate Palmer, HR advice and consultancy director at Peninsula. “Arranging both in person and virtual social events and activities can be a great way to develop camaraderie and alleviate any feeling of isolation or exclusion,” she says.
Keep remote staff in mind
Recognising the efforts of remote workers not only helps to retain talent and keep employees engaged and motivated, but it is also important in driving productivity and performance. If employees feel that only those who go into to the workplace are rewarded, they may end up feeling neglected.
Organisations need to create a flexible benefits structure built on the understanding of the importance of a work-life balance, says Mackenzie. Enabling easy access and mirroring different opportunities between remote and in-office groups will provide an equal opportunity for all to feel appreciated.
Not shining a light on achievements and recognising efforts can push employees to feel isolated and disconnected, which, in turn, can lead to disengagement.
Proactively ensuring visibility and recognising the contributions of remote workers is critical to keep people motivated, and ensure that the right behaviours are repeated, explains Boland. “Employee engagement platforms can help encourage collaboration among remote and non-remote workers and help organisations build cultures of recognition and appreciation,” he says.
Meanwhile, payroll and HR services firm ADP’s 2022 People at work report, published in November 2022, highlighted that 54% of UK workers agree that by working remotely they are noticed and recognised for their contributions, opposed to the 45% who work on-site.
Sirsha Haldar, UK, Ireland and South Africa general manager at ADP, says: “Perhaps this is because some employers may overcompensate with remote workers and go out of their way to recognise them if they don’t get regular face to face time. That said, if organisations do not have the tools and processes in place to ensure all employees, remote or otherwise, are recognised equally and fairly, they could be at risk of losing some of their best talent.”
Replicating workplace schemes for remote workers
The way that employees work is changing, as are the benefits and reward schemes they want to access. This means that workplace recognition schemes do not need to be exactly replicated for remote staff, but instead can be adjusted to allow for flexibility in how they are accessed, says Mackenzie. “To create a strategy of this kind, employers can work with an engagement solutions expert to find creative ways to communicate well with staff and make sure everyone is aware of engagement programmes,” he explains. “I would recommend putting communication, technology and good leadership at the heart of this.”
Employers should avoid any risk of proximity bias, whereby they provide more benefits to staff who are right in front of them and, whether it is intentional or not, adopt an out-of-sight, out-of-mind attitude for remote staff.
The difficulty with implementing alternative schemes depending on where staff are based is that one group could argue they are being treated less favourably than the other.
If staff in the office are allowed to leave early one afternoon or dress in casual clothes for example, this message should be passed on to remote workers, says Palmer. If employers are to reward in-workplace employees with a voucher or gift card, they should ensure that there is an online voucher available to give to remote staff, or that a physical copy can easily be sent to them.
Smart employee communications, such as those sent through an engagement platform, can provide visibility on remote workers’ achievements through digital shout outs or highlighting remote workers’ goals and accomplishments through blogs or videos.
This can help employees in a physical workplace join in with a celebratory moment when a colleague who works remotely accomplishes a goal, or vice versa, says Boland. “When employers think with a digital-first mindset for their employee experience, it will naturally be more inclusive for remote staff, who are mostly digital-first,” he says. “By centralising experience, engagement, recognition, reward, communication and wellbeing tools into a digital space, employers can ensure that all of employees can easily access what is important to them.”
As long as employers keep their remote employees at the forefront of their strategies and agendas, while also considering what works best for their workforce as a whole, they are more likely torecognise them as effectively as on-site workers.