Rewards, Recognition, and Virtual Work: 8 Ways to Adjust Your Programs

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Apr 21, 2020
This article is part of a series called COVID-19 Coverage.

Managing your virtual employees and a parallelly active rewards and recognition program during this COVID-19 pandemic can be challenging. At this crucial moment, providing your employees with laptops isn’t sufficient. It’s high time that employers understand the necessity of a tweaked rewards and recognition system to keep the employees happy and engaged amidst the fear and uncertainty brought in by the pandemic.

Before anything else, every employer and leader should get these basics right.

  1. Understand the value of human connection, promoting constant social interaction, and collaboration.
  2. Even when the new challenges of a virtual workplace hinder attention, encourage and boost the morale of the employees to be successful. Remember, merely telling them to ‘get the job done’ is never going to help.
  3. Make sure that technology operates seamlessly, helping workers to perform their job in different ways.

The number of remote workers has risen by 115% compared to 10 years ago, and this figure increased dramatically with the onset of COVID-19. One of the key findings related to this trend can be found in the New York Times bestselling author Dan Schawbel’s book, Back to Human: How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation. It is based on a groundbreaking study named “Global Work Connectivity” by Future Workplace and Virgin Pulse. The study found that remote workers are more likely to quit because of loneliness and low engagement.

It seems to be a troubling fact when more than the majority of the workforces have moved to remote working. With no one looking over your shoulder, the hundreds of interruptions and those non-stop notifications from the social media accounts, disengaging from the job is easier than we thought.

Is your workplace rewards and recognition program Coronavirus ready?

A simple way to keep your remote workers up and kicking is to motivate them through rewards and recognition constantly. However, to meet the demands of the virtual workplace, your traditional rewards and recognition style will have to see a sea change. Now, you need to have a smarter rewards system to make it holistic, well rounded, and, most importantly, to suit the ongoing experience. To avoid confusions, you can provide a clear work from home policy to your employees, describing the modifications in your rewards and recognition program.

Here are a few ways that you can implement to modify your employee rewards and recognition program to fit the virtual workplace during the pandemic.

1. Invest in innovative ways to encourage face to face communication

When it comes to employee engagement and recognition, face to face communication is the most powerful. Programs like Zoom, Skype allow us to host virtual meetings which can be utilized in revealing significant achievements. You can celebrate successes together with applause and cheers, just like you do in the physical workplace.

Your employees can socialize and share victories, which will also help in relieving the feeling of isolation that they sometimes experience while working from home. You can also initiate a water cooler conversation among your employees that provides the right break to their work, discussing and encouraging their hobbies, interests, and other things. It brings people out of their shells leading to improved engagement levels and productivity.

2. Make use of recognition tools

Employee recognition was essential then and is still very much relevant today. The COVID-19 pandemic is probably the best time to acknowledge the importance of digital rewards and recognition platforms. With advanced cloud-based tools, managers can now instantly recognize and reward employees from anywhere.

There is another thing to it now. If earlier you were used to quarterly or monthly appreciations, it’s time that you understand the importance of consistent and frequent recognition now. Make sure that your remote employees are remembered regularly and rewarded with real-time tools and applications. It has become increasingly essential to raise the team’s morale and bring them together without breakdowns. If their efforts aren’t recognized often, very soon you might have to deal with productivity problems.

3. Give employees a bonus to spend as charity

As a part of your corporate social responsibility, step up to help others get through this hardship created by COVID-19. Pay your employees a bonus and encourage them to donate the same as charity to help the needy at this hour of crisis. Your recognition platform can make community donations easier. You can track the outflow of the funds by adding a charity list wherein your employees can make individual contributions. To make it a hit, thank the employees and encourage them to inspire others to do the same.

4. Create a virtual workplace culture

Kids and pets should no longer be a problem in the virtual work culture. Several groups have already brought in interesting concepts like ‘Virtual Team Lunches,’ ‘Virtual Bulletin Boards,’ and ‘Family Fun Friday’ to provide a lighthearted break to the working parents. Employees can showcase their kids and pets, as they spend time having lunch together.

See some examples at work:

  • Vox Media hosts a regular storytime for parents with babies. Its CEO Jim Bankoff recently joined with families through Zoom to read stories.
  • The advertising department of The New York Times arranged a ‘pet parade’ for all to show off their pets.
  • LiveIntent built some new Slack groups with #the-bark-side, #thedailybaby, #parentsofliveintent, and #WFHTipsandTricks, where people can remain optimistic and successful, said SVP Kerel Cooper, a global marketing agency.

Thus, you need to make efforts to embrace the new work-life balance of your virtual team. What can be a better recognition than this?

5. You can still make use of gift cards

Employees love gift cards, and nothing else can replace it. A Digital gift card is another great way to amp up your employees during the quarantine. They can get it emailed and schedule it to be redeemed later on some special occasion. It sounds like it’s the perfect opportunity to stock up.

6. Help employees to stay healthy

Meet your team virtually for some workout classes or meditation sessions. Offer them tips to get through this pandemic with better mental and physical health.

To make it enjoyable, you can host a virtual coffee meet and happy hours. You can also arrange a virtual trivia night, encourage them to watch a television show together, and also make the best out of these difficult times by connecting with them through humor. Just add funny memes on your social media every day! You will soon recognize the power of fun and laughter in creating team spirit.

While talking about boosting employees’ spirit during this crisis, we cannot miss noticing Amazon’s initiative. The company announced that all its employees diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed into quarantine would receive up to two weeks of pay. “This additional pay while away from work is to ensure employees have the time they need to return to good health without the worry of lost pay.” the company said in an online post.

7. Support employee growth with professional skill development opportunities

One innovative means of rewarding and honoring workers from afar is by giving them opportunities for professional growth. Provide your employees with discounted or free online courses on professional development and help them flourish. Doing this will help them learn new skills and techniques to handle work better, which will show up in their performance review. It will again make them eligible for their regular bonuses.

8. Say ‘Yes’ to public recognition

Make sure that your recognition platform has a social feed to ensure that the acknowledgment of accomplishments in public. Everyone should be able to view what’s going on within the organization and also be able to participate in the recognizing process.

You can also make use of channels like Slack and LinkedIn to share peer stories, making remote employees feel connected to each other, celebrating wins, and driving motivation.

This article is part of a series called COVID-19 Coverage.
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