Keeping Remote Employees Happy for the Remainder of 2020: 8 Ways to Show Appreciation

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When COVID-19 first found its way to the US, many office workers made the switch to a work from home lifestyle rather abruptly. As the pandemic rages on and continues to affect us stateside, more than a few companies are keeping their teams remote until at least 2021. While some people might be really excited about this news, the initial gleam of the WFH experience has worn off for others. In order to finish the year strong despite the circumstances, it’s more important than ever to keep remote employees happy and find ways to boost company-wide morale.

From surprising the team with some employee appreciation gifts to hosting a virtual happy hour, here are eight ways to show appreciation.

1. Set clear expectations, and openly welcome clarifying questions.

This one might seem simple, but it’s often overlooked. When teams are dispersed and people don’t get the chance to ask quick questions about projects in passing at the office, it can be difficult for employees to understand the details of what they’re working on. As much as possible, take the time to clearly explain the goals of a project, outlining expectations for the tasks on the agenda. Allow opportunities for questions to be asked to avoid any confusion that might take more time in the long run. When employees feel like they are clear on their goals, they’ll be better able to meet them.

2. Inspire camaraderie with matching company swag and an excuse to show it off.

It can be difficult to feel as though you’re part of a team when you don’t get to see everyone like you used to, and this lack of in-person interaction can certainly put a damper on company morale. To help employees feel more connected to each other, consider shipping some company swag to their homes. Whether they receive a baseball cap, branded mug or pair of custom socks, encourage everyone to upload pictures of themselves using their swag to Slack!

3. Introduce and onboard new team members with care and kindness.

It’s one thing to start a new job at normal times. It’s another to start one in the midst of a global pandemic. Many of the tips for how to make new employees feel welcome apply to remote teams, and it’s arguably even more important to dedicate time and effort to helping new employees feel welcome and connected when you can’t be there in person. Set up times for different team members to introduce themselves to their newest colleague individually, and consider hosting a larger Zoom lunch for the whole team, on the company if possible.

4. Have a motivational speaker come and address the team to share tips and tricks.

There’s so much to think about at work and at home that it can be difficult to figure out how to balance it all. Every remote employee is juggling at the very least their home life and their personal life and might welcome the opportunity to hear from an expert on how to manage their busy schedules through the end of the year and beyond. If the budget allows it, or you have a talented friend in the field, consider inviting someone who has expertise in the WFH lifestyle who can share practical advice.

5. Remind them that you TRUST them, and then remind them again.

While at this point it sounds a bit cliché, the truth is these really are uncertain times, and employees continue to be worried about keeping their jobs when millions of others have lost theirs. While you likely cannot guarantee job security, what you can do is express how much you continue to trust each and every single individual on the team to achieve their goals no matter where they work from or whether they have to take a break in the middle of the day to feed a hungry child or let out the dog.

6. Offer collaborative opportunities that inspire employee connections.

Studies have shown that encouraging peer support and friendships can help those who are feeling isolated, and this can extend to remote teams. To combat this feeling of disconnection, create opportunities for employees to get together with one another in a casual way. Whether it’s letting everyone end their Friday a little bit early for a virtual happy hour with the team, or building out an online mentorship program that pairs junior and senior employees, the team can be emotionally connected even while keeping socially distant.

7. Send them a special gift just because.

A little something special can really go a long way when employees are feeling disconnected and maybe even a little bit sad or anxious. From apparel to a bottle of wine, there are endless options for employee appreciation gifts that will make the team smile. You can even consider sending something special for each individual that speaks to their unique circumstances at the moment (think: a gift card to the local pizza joint for the busy mom of four or a quieter chew toy for the team member whose pup is always squeaking throughout the Zoom calls).

8. Offer incentives for reaching goals, and publicly recognize great work.

When you can’t physically pat your employees on the back at bagel breakfast at the office, you might have to get a little bit creative with how you reward them in this new virtual world. Incentivize work (or even well-being) goals and take the time to give personal shout outs to those who achieve them. By making the goals and rewards fun, you inspire a little bit of competition amongst the team without applying unnecessary pressure.

Looking Forward to 2021

Most of us planned out entirely different 2020s than what we’ve all collectively experienced this year so far, and odds are we didn’t predict making a swift transition to remote work that would end up lasting all the way until at least 2021. While the WFH lifestyle is not without its own challenges, thankfully, there are ways you can show your appreciation for your team for staying committed and doing their best.

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