Need to know:
- Employers need to do their due diligence to find out how their employees expect to feel appreciated while working from home.
- Simple gestures, like verbally recognising employees, can motivate them and increase productivity.
- Increasing flexibility for employees who cannot work their normal hours can take the pressure off and help keep them more focused.
The Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has put employers in an unprecedented position that would have been incomprehensible 12 months ago. Employers have had to swiftly change their way of thinking as the world’s workforce moved almost overnight to being predominantly home-based.
When it comes to rewarding and recognising employees, there are a host of benefits that will transition nicely, boosting morale and, in turn, increasing productivity.
Iain Thomson, director of incentive and recognition at Sodexo Engage, says: “We all have different challenges trying to work remotely but it’s just trying to do what you did before but doing it remotely, and if you have the mindset there’s not really anything you can’t achieve.
“[Employers] can move all [their] team interactions, social events and all that [they] would typically have, online. They can still do these, they just have to put a bit more fun behind it. This is the new normal, use the tools and technology you have access to.”
Small gestures can make a huge impact
To keep morale high in these uncertain times, simple gestures like a thank you can speak louder than any physical reward. Employees may be feeling under pressure and a little lost, so encouragement that they are doing a good job could spur them on.
“Even just a ‘thank you for that, it’s really helped me get through today’,” says Thomson. “It doesn’t have to be budget-busting ideas; more than ever it’s about accessing what [employers] have and making the best of what [they’ve] got.”
Maddie Pozlevic, experience leader at Perkbox, adds: “Appreciating their work is more powerful than [employers] actually think. It’s important to explain to people the impact of their work and it might be obvious to [employers], but [they] need to make sure it’s obvious to [employees].
“If [employers] gather the data from exit interviews, [they] are very likely to see a common pattern that says ‘I wasn’t recognised for the job I was doing. What’s the point?’ People really care about the job they are doing and they always want to be part of the bigger picture.”
Recognising personal challenges employees are facing
Some employees may be cracking under the pressure of having to work a nine-to-five day while juggling childcare or looking after a sick relative. Reassuring employees that it is okay to allow work to take a back seat at certain points of the day, as long as the work gets done, is totally acceptable.
Organisations need to acknowledge that most people are not working from home, but they are at home trying to work, says Michael Rose, director at Rewards Consulting. If an employer understands this, then it can have people working flexible hours to achieve the output they would normally have if they were working in an office environment.
“Employees are trying to work at the hours they are needed to, where they are needed, but in terms of achieving stuff, organisations need to say ‘We know you are at home trying to work. We understand, we’re grateful. You are pulling out all the stops to achieve the output, but we know the possibility that your hours may change, and that’s okay. Obviously you need to be around at the times you need to achieve stuff, but if you need to work early or late to get stuff done, then great,'” he explains.
The personal touch
With technology being so heavily utilised during the current pandemic, benefits may become a little bit faceless so trying to reward employees in ways that makes them still feel connected and motivated such as delivering something to their home address, like a thank-you card or a gift that the whole family can use, should be the new normal says Thomson. “[Employers] can deliver a strong message to say ‘thank you for your support’ with a gift card which an employee can redeem online at a retailer of their choice, or ‘have afternoon tea on us’, that goes down quite well, or even a supermarket voucher.”
Giving staff an afternoon off after a deadline has been met can also work well, says Pozlevic. Employers need to remember that it is all about the gesture that they value the employee’s work and the impact they are creating, while also trying to be as flexible as possible. “It is about talking to employees first and then building the strategies around it,” she says. “Talk to them and understand what they care about and what they need rather than guess. Not all employees have the time to get involved with extracurricular activities, some may simply appreciate a meeting or call free day.”
As well as rewarding employees for their individual achievements, finding ways to reward employees that fit in with the organisation’s culture can significantly boost productivity. Group challenges on social media, sending out healthy-eating packs so a team can all virtually eat lunch together, or arranging remote team bonding activities, such as online painting classes, can go a long way in making an employee not feel forgotten and appreciated by their organisation.
“Anything that brings the team together and uses rewards as a prize,” says Pozlevic “It really depends on what behaviours [the employer] wants to encourage. If team unity is the priority, maybe recognise the winning team and send Deliveroo vouchers so they can have a virtual lunch together. At Perkbox, our employees decided to open a running club and if they achieve a certain number of kilometres, the [organisation] will reward them and donate to a charity. It’s all about what employees care about.”
Encouraging people to share their experience of being recognised is also a great way to motivate employees, says Thomson. “Some employees are posting pictures [on social media platforms] of how they utilise rewards. ‘I had a delivery today, here is my new summer dress’, allowing colleagues to share and comment.”
Boosting motivation while working remotely is all about working within the realms of the new normal. That means encouraging more interaction online, says Thomson. “If we can encourage people to comment on what they’ve received or ordered as a result of a gift an employer has sent them, it’s all the better to create the social interaction and increase motivation.”