Many organizations have had to adopt remote working arrangements in a hurry due to the pandemic. This shift may have been born of necessity, but it’s been welcomed with open arms by employees. After all, who wouldn’t love the flexibility of working from home while not having to wake up early, get dressed, and brave the rush hour traffic?
Remote work has benefits for employers as well. These can range from saving on floor space and energy consumption to actual gains in productivity. But if you’re going to benefit from full-time remote work across the team, you have to ensure that your employees are sufficiently motivated as well.
This can be a challenge because it’s hard to stay engaged when you never actually meet the people you work with. And there have been increasing reports of the mental health risks posed by social isolation. So how can you motivate a dispersed team?
Recognition and status
Recognition is a time-tested method of making employees feel appreciated for a job well done. And even though your people won’t report to the office for work any longer, you can still give them a tangible form of distinction. Mint a commemorative coin, print out a certificate of achievement, and send it in the mail; they can show it off at your next video conference.
Keep in mind, though, that recognition is part appreciation and partly about status. And as our lives have gradually shifted online over the years, social media has become the hub where most people fuel their status drive.
Thus, a few methods of delivering recognition are as simple and effective as a thoughtful social media post. Naturally, you’ll have to gauge each individual based on their preferences; some like to keep their social media profiles separate from work. But if you execute it correctly, it’s a great way to deliver a shout-out and positively stoke their status.
Tie-in to meaning
Still, not everyone is motivated by the thought of rewards or recognition. You might have a few employees who are happy to keep their heads down and grind away at work because they find it meaningful.
The search for meaning in work can lead people down different routes. Sometimes, it’s about feeling like your efforts are making a difference in the big picture. For others, meaning comes from personal development; they want to realize their potential.
For these types of workers, you want to emphasize the quality, consistency, and timeliness of feedback. Schedule some face time to discuss their goals; coach them for improvement, and explore possibilities for their growth. If they value making an impact, relate their output to your results. A personal message from a satisfied customer or member of the community can go a long way.
Offer more control
Another motivational approach you can experiment with is offering employees more control over their work. Remote work already provides them with flexibility, but autonomy is another matter.
If you haven’t already been collecting suggestions from your employees on how to improve, or ideas for process innovation, now is the time to start. From that pool of ideas, you can have your employee of the month pick one as a personal project, for instance. Free them up from their regular duties, and give them the autonomy to work on that project and see where it leads.
Even if it goes nowhere, you’ll have given them a chance to grow and learn by doing something out of the ordinary. You’ll demonstrate to everyone that their ideas are being considered and allowed to succeed. And your business will benefit from innovation if things work out. Everybody wins.
Make a game of it
Rewards, feedback, control: these are all options for you to motivate your people. But they are also vital components in a gamification strategy.
Many organizations already employ some form of gamification without realizing it. They put up KPI dashboards and use performance metrics to generate a competitive environment. However, the effect can be heightened if you are intentional.
Start your gamification process with a simple system, so that the rules are clear. Incorporate the mechanisms of recognition, feedback, and flexibility targeting the reinforcement of specific behaviors to improve performance.
Along the way, listen to suggestions and tweak the game for further improvement. You can lean on the social element as well, and make this a badge of recognition on social media. This way, your KPIs continue to be relevant and engaging as your work shifts to the virtual realm.