Back to Basics: Appreciating Your Employees in a Remote World

For some employees, this time of year would be spent buying school supplies and enrolling in fall activities. But this year, those same employees are facing a vastly different reality when it comes to sending their children back to school.

The unknown of whether students will be distance learning or back in the classroom (and how that’s going to affect the workday) is likely to be a major source of stress for a significant number of your employees. Many are trying to “make it work” by balancing the health, safety, and education of their children with their professional responsibilities. Unsurprisingly, this is affecting how engaged your employees are.

A recent Gallup poll found that employee engagement dropped 7% in June - the lowest it’s been for any other national crisis. It’s more important now than ever to engage your employees - the connection they have to their job, colleagues, and company directly impacts their commitment and productivity; yet we know it’s challenging to maintain and grow engagement in a virtual workplace that was forced and unplanned for everyone. And now, with many facing the unknowns of back-to-school policies and societal unrest, traditional recognition efforts and programs may not be effective for your remote workforce in the age of COVID-19. It's time to re-evaluate human connection in the “workplace.”

So in the spirit of back-to-school (even if it’s remotely), let’s get “back to the basics” and talk about employee recognition.

Employee Recognition 101

If you have remote employees, shout-outs at a company-wide event or decorating their desk just isn’t happening anymore. You may consider sending e-gift cards or mention their names on a Zoom call, but depending how that person likes to be recognized, these traditional recognition efforts are likely to not be impactful and fall flat. As a manager, where do you start?

One of the most important roles you can play in times of crisis and uncertainty is that of a leader. A recent Gallup study showed that employees look toward those in a managerial position to provide four key needs: trust, compassion, stability, and hope.

In other words, we crave human connection and these needs are more important than ever as we face these uncertain times. Your employees need to feel valued and appreciated. They need to feel that all their hard work, which is about to become increasingly more difficult now that the school year is getting ready to begin (or not begin), is acknowledged. They need to know that you have their best interests at heart and that you understand and care for them.

Now, we know that your employees aren’t the only ones facing difficult times. Did you know that disengagement among leadership and management is one of the largest contributing factors to dropping levels of engagement in general? Managers carry a lot on their shoulders, and when you have a 70% influence on your team’s engagement, employee engagement typically bottlenecks at the managerial level. You may be facing the impossible task of having to decide between survival and layoffs, and you may even have children of your own who are facing the uncertainties of going back to school and what “distance learning” really means. So, we want to make employee recognition easy for you.

Here’s a hint: don’t underestimate two small words in the English language that carry a big punch…”Thank You!”

Thank You Notes Your Employees Will Love

A meaningful and well-timed “thank you” is an easy, but powerful, way to show your gratitude for your employees and let them know how much you appreciate their contributions and efforts in the face of today’s crazy times. As the world changed, the power of a genuine “thank you” note has not. These notes don’t have to be complicated, and you don’t need to be face-to-face for them to make an impact. In fact, aren’t most thank you notes written with distance in mind?

Now over the years, fewer and fewer people write thank you notes. And when they do, it’s gotten increasingly easier to be generic and less meaningful. But a simple personalized note can go a long way. It will help you create personalized recognition experiences that show your employees that you care and understand the unique situation each of them is facing.

Don’t worry about where to get started. We’ve got a quick guide here with nine tips on how to write thank you notes your employees will love:

Click to DownloadTip 1 – No “Dear John” greetings…unless the recipient’s name actually is John!

A thank you note isn’t saying “thank you” unless you greet the recipient by name. Despite your best intentions, failing to do so makes the note sound like you don’t really care. In a remote world, this type of personalization carries an even bigger impact on feelings of appreciation and motivation.

Tip 2 – It’s all about the timing

A thank you note is simple but powerful when done right.  It’s all about the timing. Don’t wait to express your gratitude! Make sure to deliver your appreciation and recognition as soon as possible to avoid reducing the impact.

Tip 3 – Don’t forget the why

While it may be obvious to you, it might not be so obvious to your employees. So when you are expressing your gratitude, particularly remotely, make sure to clearly state why you are grateful for what they do. Knowing that specific “why” is motivating and will help you reinforce the behaviors you need to be successful during this time!

Tip 4 – Don’t be a copy machine

A personal note isn’t personal unless it’s personal. A “fill in the blank” form letter is the highest form of insincerity, so get to know your employees and speak to them as the unique individuals they are. There’s a time and place for copy and paste, and a personal note isn’t one of them!

Tip 5 – Don’t beat around the bush

While you may know how much you value someone, it’s probably not clear to them. Rather than assuming they know, just tell them! It doesn’t even have to be a grandiose gesture - a simple thank note you will do.

Tip 6 – Avoid the formal when possible

While it’s important to be professional, don’t forget about human connection. A handwritten “thank you” note is a lot more meaningful than a formal business letter - especially in today’s remote world!

Tip 7 – Length doesn’t matter

When writing a thank you note, you’re not writing a novel. A few well chosen words of gratitude goes a long way!

Tip 8 – Use your manners

If you’re writing a thank you note, don’t forget to say “thank you.” Yes, it happens more than you might think! Those two words go a long way in showing your gratitude and appreciation.

Tip 9 – Rewards aren’t always necessary

Depending on the person, sometimes personal words of appreciation are more powerful and motivating than tangible rewards. That’s why it is so important to know your employees on an individual level and how they tick.

Employee Appreciation

In the end, the way we respond now will be remembered long after we return to “normal” – whatever that may be. There is no question that employee appreciation is one of the leading drivers of engagement which directly correlates with the success of a business, but in times of crisis it is essential.

While many employees look toward management as a source of leadership, who does management look toward? Let’s head back into the classroom.

Do you remember Newton’s third law? For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Admittedly we may be stretching it here with this law, but if you show appreciation and support toward your managers (who again, have the greatest influence on engagement), they will turn around and show the same to their teams. As always, workplace culture (whether remote or in person) starts at the top.

The impact of appreciation is timeless and hasn’t changed, no matter how much has changed around us. Employee recognition never goes out of style and everyone within the organization needs it. Remember, we are all in this together and right now we have the opportunity to ensure we will all come out stronger in the end.


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