Appreciation and (Newly) Remote Workers
At this time of social upheaval as a result of the COVID 19 outbreak, it’s more important than ever to find ways to stay connected to each other. As we all respond to the ever-changing landscape of quarantine, social distancing, and new work arrangements, we wanted to share information about showing appreciation to one another while working remotely.
This information was gathered as part of our research on virtual teams and people who regularly work remotely, and there are some valuable lessons we can use during this time to encourage each other.
Changes in our daily work cultures impact (and create new challenges) in how we relate to those with whom we work. One key question that has arisen: How do you effectively communicate appreciation to your team members in the context of long-distance work relationships?
Communicating appreciation effectively when separated by distance from colleagues is challenging – but our research shows it can be done. The foundational aspects of appreciation (the need to communicate regularly, in ways meaningful to the recipient, and authentically) remain the same, but the specific ways of doing so often differ.
In the 2019 edition of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, we devote an entire chapter to address the issue of appreciation with remote employees, and virtual teams. We share specific examples of successful remote appreciation that both managers and employees have shared with us, and the resulting guiding principles we discovered.
Differences in Appreciation Desired?
We began to wonder if those individuals who were in long-distance work relationships desired to be shown appreciation in the same ways as employees who worked on-site. That is, do employees who work remotely have different preferred languages of appreciation than those in the general workforce?
To find out, we conducted a research study where we compared almost 90,000 individuals who had taken the MBA Inventory. The majority of individuals had completed the general workplace version of the MBAI but over 2,500 used a version specifically designed for Long Distance workers.
We found that employees in long-distance work relationships chose Quality Time as their primary language of appreciation more frequently (35%) than workers on-site (25%). The majority of these switched from Words of Affirmation to Quality Time being their primary appreciation language (48% in general work settings to 38% for long-distance employees).
So it is important for supervisors and colleagues to keep in mind that many remote employees value Quality Time with their colleagues more highly than those who work in face-to-face settings. Specifically, using videoconferencing to “check in” and including them in team meetings virtually and setting up times to talk about non-work-related topics.
From a practical perspective, the single most important lesson we have learned for effectively communicating appreciation to remote colleagues is that one must be more proactive than in face-to-face relationships.
One of the biggest barriers to overcome in showing appreciation over a distance is the lack of opportunity for those short chance encounters that occur when colleagues work in the same location (in the break room, walking through the hallway, sitting together in the conference room waiting for a meeting to start). All of these provide the occasion to be able to chat for a few minutes, “check in” and see how your colleague is doing. In long distance work relationships, these events don’t occur and need to be more frequently planned.
Secondly, we found that, when working away from colleagues, individuals desire to connect visually with their coworkers. While email, texts and phone calls are sufficient media for most communication, occasionally connecting visually (videoconference, Skype, FaceTime) with one’s team members is highly desired. (NOTE: for those who aren’t used to working from home and connecting visually, you may need to give them a “heads up” text or email, so they feel sufficiently prepared to be seen on screen!)
Daily work life, as we have generally known it, has recently changed for many. These differences in the way life is being lived creates lots of unknowns and stressors. We don’t want to add to our own stress by disconnecting with others with whom we have supportive relationships.
While communicating appreciation in long-distance work relationships takes time and forethought, it can be done and it is important to do so. Take proactive steps to stay connected with your colleagues (including sending humorous emails occasionally! and we will all weather the storms we are facing better!Tags: Remote Working, Work at Home
Categories 5 Languages of Appreciation, Appreciation, Communication, Remote Employees, Virtual teams