Out of sight should never mean out of mind. Your top employees may be postcodes away, but these workers are more important than ever before. In a world where remote work has become the norm and not the exception; it is integral that employers consider how they can reward and recognise team members - irrespective of their physical location.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, more than 40 per cent of employed people were regularly working from home during the first half of 2021. This was an 8.4 percentage point increase from the previous year. This shows how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way Australians work. Recent indications is that this figure continues to remain strong, highlighting the demand for flexible working arrangements.

Chances are, today’s leaders are managing a team that are a combination of on-site, remote and hybrid work. This does add some complexity, however with such a growing number of remote workers; it makes sense to start thinking outside of the box when it comes to reward and recognition. Employers can also access our article 'What is the difference between Reward and Recognition' for extensive examples. 

Here are 10 ideas to reward and recognise your remote workforce:

1. Get to know your team and their preferences

One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is to offer a generic reward or recognition that simply misses the mark. Football tickets to a prelim final may be your idea of heaven, but would your star performer prefer tickets to an art exhibition? Similarly, offering a team member the chance to ‘sleep in’ and start at lunchtime may be well received by your night owls – but your early risers will see this as more of a punishment. Get to know your team members and understand what they value.

2. Engage authentically and regularly with feedback

Remember that most remote workers are also quite isolated during their work day. The Friday sales meeting may just be the only communication that the employee has had. Consider an impromptu Teams call to tell your employee how much you valued their report or to provide feedback that you received from other stakeholders. By no means should leaders cross the line to micromanagement; this is more about replacing ‘in office’ casual recognition with a quick touch base. This reminds the employee that they may not be seen; but they are certainly valued.

3. Team lunches done differently

You may have 20% of team members that can’t make it into the office for the ‘thankyou lunch’ - or maybe they live in a different city. Ask your team member their favourite food and then organise this to be delivered at the same time as the physical lunch and connect via video chat. This sends a clear message that irrespective of location; their work is valued and appreciated and they remain part of the team.

4. Send a care package

Care packages have grown in popularity with the increase of remote working. Employers can be as creative as they like and they usually include things like gift certificates, company merchandise, games, food baskets to enjoy with the family or items to support a hobby.

5. Offer a virtual team experience

Has the production team hit their goals? Why not offer a team reward virtually! This may include sending a package to the employee’s home first – but then you can do anything from artist-led painting workshops to home cooking experiences. Remember – it needs to hit the mark so do your homework first.

6. Team recognition videos

These can be a fun way for key stakeholders to get involved in letting an employee know that their work has been recognised. This could be the CEO, peers or even customers! It is a fun and engaging way to recognise remote workers particularly when they least expect it.

7. Use ‘appreciation walls’ that the whole team can access

In the virtual world, there are many providers that offer tools for organisations to facilitate a process for all employees to get involved and recognise their peers, direct reports and seniors virtually. It creates an opportunity for leaders to encourage team members to live the values and to recognise others that do the same.

8. Home service perks

Consider offering cleaning, gardening or even meal home delivery vouchers to remote workers as a way to say thank you. When your home is also your workplace, it feels much better to know that everything is in order. Ask your worker what may be useful or valued by them and let them know that you would like to organise as a way to say recognise their contribution. Remember to be specific so the employee knows exactly what was valued!

9. Offer better technology

Remote workers rely on great technology as a basic tool; however many employers provide the basics and leave it up to the worker to source additional or better items. There are many ways that employers can leverage this reward – it will depend upon budget and the level that the employee should be rewarded based on their contribution or achievement. Aspects such as an extra monitor, tablet, a laptop upgrade, new apps or even better headphones are all popular items and usually well received.

10. A ‘home office’ upgrade

Employers are in charge of how nice and comfortable the work space is in the physical environment; however the remote workplace (as long as WHS compliant) is at the discretion of the employee. Consider creative ways to help the employee make this more enjoyable. Ideas include a more ergonomic chair, a standing desk, treadmill, a voucher for paint, art, desk organisation tools or even a new rug. The possibilities are endless but will make a difference to the employee’s enjoyment and comfort of the home work space.  

‘Out of sight’ should never be ‘out of mind’

There is no question that in recent years, leaders have had to be more agile than ever before. The days of seeing all of your team members each day are arguably gone, so it has never been more important to reflect on what reward and recognition looks like for a hybrid or remote workforce. Today is the day to reflect and consider how you are recognising and rewarding team members who are not in the physical workplace - and put a plan in place to ensure that distance is not the reason for a lack of recognition.

Further information

Employers are encouraged to revise their Remuneration and Reward strategy to ensure that there are tailored strategies to reward remote workers. Ai Group have experienced HR consultants who can partner with your business to improve organisational effectiveness and implement people strategies designed to retain talent. Employers can also access our training on managing remote workers. For assistance with your workplace matters, Members of Ai Group can contact us or call our Workplace Advice Line on 1300 55 66 77 for further information.

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Georgina Pacor

Georgina is Senior HR Content Editor – Publications at Ai Group. She is an accomplished Human Resource professional with over 25 years of generalist and leadership experience in a broad range of industries including financial services, tourism, travel, government and agriculture. She has successfully advised and partnered with senior leaders to implement people and performance initiatives that align to business strategy. Georgina is committed to utilising her experience to create resources that educate and engage and is passionate about supporting members to optimise an inclusive workforce culture that drives performance.