By this point, it’s clear that remote work is here to stay for plenty of industries and individual businesses, and this isn’t a bad thing! From employees saving time on daily commutes to employers saving money on the cost of office spaces, remote work offers many benefits for everyone involved. In fact, one study found that 80% of employees say remote work makes them happier and 74% say it improves their mental health.
Despite these benefits, there is one major downside to remote work: the lack of in-person interaction makes building relationships challenging.
How do you get around this hurdle? Businesses have found a variety of creative solutions in the past few years, including a heightened effort to recognize employees working from home. Remote employee recognition can take many forms, but the main objective is to show remote workers that you care about their wellbeing, appreciate their hard work, and see them as invaluable members of the team.
To help you create or improve your business’s remote employee recognition strategy, we’ll cover the main benefits and 13 virtual recognition ideas you can start using today. Let’s get started!
Benefits of Remote Employee Recognition Programs
Intentional, frequent recognition can work wonders for engaging your remote employees. Along with making it easier to build relationships in virtual spaces, here are some of the key ways remote employee recognition can benefit your business:
- Increased retention rates: Recognition makes remote employees feel valued, increasing the likelihood they’ll want to stay with your company long term. Consistently being recognized in personalized ways can also boost employee happiness and general job satisfaction.
- Team-building: Managers and team members shouting out one another’s accomplishments fosters a supportive culture that brings teams closer together. On top of that, many of our virtual recognition ideas are fun, casual activities that employees can do together, helping them to build relationships despite not working side-by-side.
- More motivated employees: For many employees, knowing that peer recognition, structured rewards programs, and corporate gifts are on the table will push them to succeed and make them more excited about driving business goals forward.
- Higher productivity: Increasing employee motivation and happiness naturally leads to higher levels of productivity. Recognition strategies that focus on improving employees’ work environments also aid in increasing productivity for remote workers.
Keep in mind that to truly reap these benefits, you need to choose types of recognition that will be meaningful for your employees. Preferences may vary for different teams and individuals, so pay attention to which strategies work best for which employees.
With that said, let’s dive into our list of virtual recognition ideas you can use to build out your company’s remote employee recognition program.
13 Virtual Recognition Ideas to Engage Remote Workers
Explore these ideas to find the right recognition strategies that fit your company’s values, culture, and employee preferences. Don’t be afraid to try something new!
1. Let employees recognize each other with eCards
Being recognized by a supervisor is nice, but being recognized by a peer can be even more meaningful. Peer-to-peer recognition puts all employees on an equal playing field and empowers them to appreciate each other, creating a more encouraging work environment.
Lean into this strategy by designing a collection of digital greeting cards for different occasions and making them available for any employee to send to another. Using intuitive tools like eCardWidget, you can easily create eCard designs and embed a sending widget into your company portal. Then, any employee can choose a card, write a personal message, and send off their appreciation!
Your team can use eCards for remote employee recognition in a number of different ways, such as:
- A manager recognizing a team member’s accomplishment.
- Team members recognizing each other’s work.
- One employee thanking another for their help on a project.
- Managers or team members celebrating someone’s birthday or anniversary with the company.
- Managers thanking an employee for participating in corporate giving or volunteering programs.
- Leadership reinforcing company values by highlighting examples of them in action.
You can create as many eCards as you like, just remember to design them with your goals in mind. Take a look at how Modivcare approached their employee recognition eCards:
These are just a few of the eCards this company’s managers and team members can send. The eCards range from highlighting company values to celebrating holidays and personal achievements. This approach allows employees to be recognized for both work accomplishments and major events in their personal lives, both of which are valuable for building relationships remotely.
2. Build remote employee recognition into your company culture
A one-time recognition campaign won’t make a major difference in your employees’ engagement levels or job satisfaction. To see results, recognition and appreciation need to be an integral part of your company culture.
Along with investing in peer-to-peer recognition, you can also try:
- Adding a new company value about supporting and celebrating each other.
- Sending positive comments from clients or customers directly to relevant team members.
- Scheduling regular check-ins with managers to discuss and improve company-wide recognition initiatives.
- Making an effort to encourage the employees who frequently encourage others.
Feel free to get creative, but keep in mind that the most effective way to build recognition into your culture is simply to recognize employees often.
3. Recognize employees in real time
A key aspect of any successful recognition strategy is timeliness. Applauding an employee for completing a project two months ago doesn’t have the same impact as congratulating them the day they finish.
Whenever possible, recognize your employees in real time. Telling employees they did a good job face-to-face is best, but sending a quick email or Slack message right away also works. And remember, you don’t have to wait for an employee to do something amazing to recognize them. Regularly recognizing employees for small actions and accomplishments helps you build that culture of appreciation and encourages them to sustain that level of achievement over time.
4. Send occasional gifts and care packages
For some people, words of affirmation are all they need to feel valued and motivated to succeed. For others, however, tokens of appreciation in the form of tangible gifts are more meaningful.
Sending occasional gifts or care packages shows remote employees that you’re thinking of them. Popular employee gifts include:
- Merchandise branded with your company name and logo, such as t-shirts, notebooks, stickers, or water bottles.
- Self-care boxes full of items that promote health and wellness.
- Monthly subscriptions for streaming services, audiobooks, or even specialty coffee.
You can send these gifts randomly as a fun surprise or on special occasions like birthdays, work anniversaries, or joining the team. Make sure to take employee preferences into account when choosing gifts to ensure they’ll be appreciated.
5. Publicly recognize employees in meetings
When developing your company’s overall remote employee recognition strategy, include opportunities for both private and public recognition. Certain employees may have a strong preference for one or the other, so ask managers to take note of which individuals or teams prefer which type of recognition.
To appeal to those who want to be publicly acknowledged, shout out team members during meetings. This can be as casual as “Thanks to Tom for pushing that deal forward” or as formal as adding a highlight reel of employee accomplishments to company-wide meetings.
6. Host virtual events for employees
One of the perks remote employees miss out on by working from home is company events. Virtual events may not feel the same as in-person gatherings, but they can still provide a space to build community, help team members get to know each other, and give employees something to look forward to. Consider hosting virtual:
- Team lunches
- Group classes, such as cooking or painting classes
- Retirement parties
You can also set guidelines that enable team members to plan and schedule their own virtual events. This gives employees more flexibility and allows them to plan exactly the kind of events they want to participate in, taking out the guesswork for leadership.
7. Give out recognition awards
Another avenue for public recognition is to give employees awards for high achievement. Go the traditional route and award an employee of the month, or create your own awards for things like embodying company values, promoting team harmony, or growing in their role. You can also have one award that the entire team votes on.
Recognition awards don’t have to be tangible items like trophies (though they can be!). Just publicly identifying someone as a high achiever and giving them a digital certificate can be sufficient to express your appreciation. If you give out awards on a regular basis, such as quarterly or at your annual Christmas party, they can also serve as motivators.
8. Celebrate employees’ personal milestones
Working remotely means you often miss out on the casual conversations you would’ve had throughout the day with coworkers in the office. This makes building relationships more difficult, but not at all impossible. One way to facilitate those casual conversations and recognize employees as people rather than just workers is to celebrate major events in their personal lives.
Use your company eCards to recognize when employees get married, have a baby, graduate, or move to a new place. You might also send a small gift like a bottle of champagne to show your support.
9. Start an employee rewards program
A structured rewards program can give employees something tangible to work towards and make them more excited about new initiatives and projects. These programs can work in a variety of ways, such as:
- Everyone at the company receives a certain gift when you reach a major business goal.
- All team members can order a gift of their choice at a set price point once they complete an important project.
- Individuals can earn rewards at different levels by completing certain milestones, such as closing 20 deals or recruiting 5 new employees.
Build excitement for the program by hosting a kickoff meeting where you announce all of the available prizes and explain how employees can earn them.
10. Provide professional development opportunities
Part of remote employee recognition is showing your remote workers that you’re invested in them as people. By providing opportunities and resources for general professional development, you’ll send a message that you want to help employees grow and succeed in their careers.
Consider giving all employees a stipend that they can use to take online certification classes, attend conferences of their choice, or subscribe to research publications in their field. Or, ask employees what skills they’d like to develop more and make an effort to provide them with extra resources or mentoring.
11. Send gift cards for small accomplishments
As we mentioned earlier, recognizing employees for small actions and achievements can be just as impactful as celebrating the big wins. To make these small shout-outs more meaningful for employees, consider sending digital gift cards along with a note of appreciation.
Small $15 or $20 gift cards can be a real motivator to go above and beyond. Choose gift cards to places like Starbucks, Amazon, or DoorDash that are widely appealing and useful, or personalize gift cards for individual employees based on their preferences.
12. Upgrade their WFH setup
Since everyone works from their own homes, remote employees’ work environments can vary drastically. You can recognize remote employees’ needs, improve their environments, and increase productivity by upgrading their work-from-home (WFH) stations.
Do this by either providing a regular equipment stipend or by periodically sending gifts like:
- Desk organizers
- Charging stations
- Noise-cancelling headphones
- Standing desks
- Laptop stands
To get a sense of what items would be the most useful, send out a survey. Ask employees what items they currently use, what they’d like to have, and what items they think are overrated.
13. Ask for feedback often
This last virtual recognition idea is critical. For your remote employee recognition efforts to make a difference to team members, they have to be relevant and well-informed.
If you keep sending Amazon gift cards employees don’t use or scheduling team happy hours that only a few employees enjoy, you won’t improve relationships or motivation. Instead, send out regular requests for feedback on your recognition programs—and on other aspects of the business. Ask for remote employees’ input on day-to-day operations, project management, and more to gauge their satisfaction and make improvements.
Genuine recognition includes valuing and acting on team members’ ideas, opinions, and preferences. Your remote employees want their voices to be heard, so give them plenty of opportunities to do so.
Final Thoughts and Additional Resources
A thoughtful, robust remote employee recognition program can improve the lives of your team members and the health of your business. Choose the strategies that work for your company, and focus on making every act of recognition genuine, specific, and personal.
To learn more about all the ways you can and should engage your remote workers, check out these additional resources:
- Peer-to-Peer Recognition: Fostering a Strong Work Culture. Read more about how peer-to-peer recognition facilitates team-building and a more positive work environment.
- Employee Engagement Software: Crash Course & 10+ Top Options. Dive deeper into various software options that can help you improve your remote employee recognition program.
- 41 Corporate Gift Ideas Employees & Customers Will Love. If you choose to add employee gifts to your recognition strategy, check out these 41 creative gift ideas.