Employee recognition for remote workers: Why you’re probably not doing it enough
Updated 23rd October 2022
Remote work saved a lot of businesses during the pandemic, there is no question. And, by now, we're all aware of the swathe of huge benefits for both employees and businesses. But there are challenges too. Despite their valuable contributions, a lot of employers struggle to provide effective employee recognition for remote workers.
Remote teams play a valuable role in all kinds of organisations. But their isolation makes them easy to overlook, stuck in the shadows of their office-based colleagues. Without proper employee recognition for remote workers, they miss out on career opportunities and valuable support. And, remote work quickly becoming more expensive due to cost-of-living increases. They can't afford for you to overlook them, even if you can.
A fifth of remote workers aren’t getting the recognition they deserve
Ezra surveyed over 1,000 UK employees, which found that 20% felt that they weren’t being as effectively recognised when working remotely.
This is despite apparently working harder, as 55% reported that they were more likely to work longer hours since moving to remote work.
Data from the Office of National Statistics shows that, in 2020, remote workers completed an average of six hours of unpaid overtime per week, compared to just 3.6 hours for those that never worked from home.
Remote workers were also nearly 40% less likely to get a bonus than those who hadn’t worked from home over a seven-year period. ONS found staff who mostly worked from home were less than half as likely to be promoted as all other colleagues over a five-year period.
An apparent silver lining is that, on average, remote workers were paid 20% more than other colleagues. But it’s important to remember that, prior to the pandemic, a lot of businesses offered remote work to staff who had been there for a certain amount of time as a loyalty incentive and sign of trust. This means that remote positions have typically been more accessible to senior, more highly paid staff than ground-level employees.
Why remote staff miss out on recognition
The fact is, even though it’s not a majority, 20% is still significant. Remember, employee recognition for remote workers is a vital first step in giving them access to cost-of-living crisis support. Not only that, but the issue of remote workers unintentionally flying under the radar isn’t new. In fact, it's the result of an outdated mindset that working from home makes you lazy or uncommitted.
In 2013, Nicholas Bloom, an economist from Stanford University, conducted a work-from-home study with 16,000 employees and found that they were only half as likely to get promoted as their centralised counterparts, despite beating their productivity by 13%.
So, while things may have improved, there’s every chance that some businesses might fail to learn from lockdown once their physical workplaces open back up. One of the biggest challenges that remote staff face, in terms of being noticed, is that they tend to be out of sight, and therefore out of mind.
The colleagues you see every day are more likely to stick in your mind than the folks working behind the scenes, even if they happen to be your best performers. This is understandable to a point, but as more workplaces embrace a digital-first approach, there’s much less of an excuse to not be connected to your remote team members.
Why employee recognition is important
Lack of recognition can impact all employees. When a good job goes unnoticed or a sticking in some extra voluntary overtime is missed by management, the likelihood of repeating effort drops.
Not only are we less likely to engage in increased effort again, but overtime it can actually impact our employee engagement. This is bad news as we know a strong engagement level in staff leads to a host of benefits, including:
- Increased effort and productivity
- More attention and care
- Greater overall performance
- Reduced absenteeism
- Stronger employee retention
- Heightened levels of innovation
If a lack of deserved recognition reduces engagement, all the above are also put at risk. It's about making people feel valued, and consistency is key. You need to provide personalised employee recognition for remote workers at regular intervals throughout the year.
How to recognise remote employees more effectively
Managers need to take steps to address the imbalance and figure out how to recognise remote employees. So, here are some tips for improving remote work employee recognition, and some ideas for rewarding remote employees for their all their hard work and self-motivation.
Tips to improve employee recognition for remote staff:
- Implement digital recognition tools: Giving employees a platform to give each other recognition helps to strengthen their social bonds, while taking some of the pressure off of you as their manager. Some work cultures can even benefit from a points-based recognition system to promote healthy competition, but other cultures simply benefit from staff being encouraged to praise their colleagues.
- Use goal tracking to understand how everyone contributes: One of the simplest methods for how to recognise remote employees is by shedding light on how much they contribute. Using SMART Goals, OKRs, or whatever system suits your business, you can track everyone’s progress each week, and even connect employee objectives to broader company goals to show the difference remote workers make.
- Promote employee accomplishments: Telling someone that you appreciate their work is a great start. But we can go a step further. Whether it’s on company social media, a purpose-made Slack channel, or any other public or employee-facing means, it’s good to be able to highlight employee achievements where everyone can see.
How to show appreciation to your remote employees:
Recognition and perks are two different approaches to showing that you value someone’s work. So, while we’re mainly talking about recognition today, the right choice of perks and benefits can be the icing on the cake that shows you’re willing to go the extra mile.
- Invest in their home workspaces: Since the start of the pandemic, a lot of remote staff have had difficulties with tech and other equipment. But investing in high-speed internet, better computers or ergonomic equipment can give them the tools to succeed.
- Offer health-related benefits: Remote work is pretty sedentary. But investing in a good health insurance scheme, or providing gym memberships or health food subscriptions shows that you’re invested in remote staff wellbeing.
- Ask what perks remote staff want: We could spend all day giving you suggestions about employee recognition for remote workers. Or you could just ask your remote team what benefits actually interest them. Don’t assume they all want the same benefits as their office-based colleagues. Involving remote staff in these discussions is the best recognition you can offer them.