Our business landscape has made a great many changes over the last couple of decades as a result of digital developments. One is the ability to take advantage of the benefits offered by a remote workplace. The COVID-19 pandemic, of course, forced many companies to make this change, many earlier than they were prepared for. According to predictions by Global Workplace Analytics, by the end of 2021, 25 to 30% of the workforce will be working from home multiple days per week.

With remote work can come a range of challenges. Many of them revolve around the ability to maintain strong teams from a distance. Particularly for workers who are unused to working from home, the transition can be uncomfortable. It is, therefore, important for business leaders to provide support to help employees remain happy, healthy and productive in their new home workspaces.

Rewards and recognition are effective tools for boosting morale in the workforce. Let’s take a look at how they can do the same for remote teams. Here’s how your organization can use these programs and tools to ensure that employees who are out of sight don’t feel as though they’re out of mind:

Strengthen Connections

One of the advantages of the physical workplace is the potential for making connections. For employees, the ability to gather consistently in the same space can promote collaboration. The office is an environment for building and strengthening relationships with colleagues, leaders and the business’ values. Recognition often is part of the daily exchange and has an immediate effect on employee morale and retention.

In a remote workplace, collaboration tools can support recognition efforts. Chat groups and communication platforms bring the group into the same virtual space to work together, share ideas and opinions, and respond to colleagues’ achievements. Leaders should use video calls to give face-to-face positive feedback in order to remove the sense of disconnect that remote working can bring and to avoid the coldness of text interactions.

Using remote recognition shouldn’t be limited to experienced employees. With more businesses adopting remote working as a permanent solution, they must also consider it when developing onboarding programs. Schedule one-on-one virtual video meetings throughout the process to set expectations of the kind of support and encouragement new hires will receive throughout their time with the company. Take time to understand their development and career goals so that you can tailor training and praise accordingly.

Rethink How You Reward

We tend to use a set of standard and effective methods of rewarding and recognizing employees. Usually, however, they are most suited to the in-person office environment. Beyond the standard bonuses, shout-outs and promotions, it’s important for leaders to rethink how they reward employees in a way that is optimized for the remote workplace, including:

Local Rewards

Demonstrate that you value both the employee and their local community. When providing gift cards as rewards, don’t go for the standard global fare, such as Amazon or iTunes vouchers. Seek out businesses in your employee’s city, and offer rewards that reflect both their achievements and an investment in their community.

Recognizing Remote Work Behavior

Remote work is not always easy, particularly for employees who have had to transition to telecommuting in response to a crisis (like a pandemic). Recognize employees who have overcome challenges related to the change, adopted efficient remote behaviors and online tools, or made innovative suggestions for process improvements.

The Personal Touch

A key element of a recognition program that fuels engagement is heart. Get to know what is important to your remote employees; recognize what they value, and provide rewards that reflect those values. For example, you might consider making a donation to a cause they regularly support. Even something as simple as mailing personalized thank you cards can make a big impact.

Wellness Programs

Employee well-being programs are popular in most organizations today; however, it can be challenging to implement them in a remote workplace. While wellness shouldn’t need to be earned, it’s important to provide provisions that show that you recognize the specific strains of our current work conditions. Provide access to remote counseling and meditation apps to help employees maintain their mental health, or organize the delivery of ergonomic office equipment.

Occasional Deliveries

One of the mainstays of rewards in an office environment is taking everyone out for lunch when they have achieved a certain goal or bringing in donuts on a Friday. Work with delivery services to send workers lunch, and consider setting up a group call so that you can enjoy it communally.

Demonstrate Transparency

The office environment allows for a certain sense of community. As a result, rewards and recognition are often shared events, celebrated across the business. Too often, this element is missing from the remote workplace; each employee is confined to his or her own space, and, as a result, achievements are often kept between individual employees and their manager.

Regular performance reviews are key to effective management and should be part of the remote working landscape, too. They help reinforce positive behavior and increase employee engagement by providing a forum to discuss development. However, organizations should not limit the recognition of remote employees to these private conversations, as doing so can exacerbate the feeling that their recognition is isolated and limited only to direct supervisors.

Find ways for the team to regularly celebrate achievements together — even if it happens over a group call. Be specific: Leaders should talk about whom they are singling out for certain rewards or promotions, and why they are doing so. This approach works not only to help the team member feel valued but also to provide other employees with a clear message on which behaviors the business values and how they’ll be rewarded for them.

Rewards and recognition can be important drivers that help boost morale, improve productivity and reduce turnover. As our business landscape changes, we need to look beyond the standard forms of recognition that we use in physical office spaces. By optimizing rewards for remote workers, we can ensure they feel that leaders and colleagues value their contributions and continue to perform.