Communicating Appreciation to Remote Colleagues

June 24, 2024 9:00 am Published by

As a larger proportion of the workforce has moved to remote and hybrid work, it is reasonable to ask whether employees who work remotely have different preferences for being shown appreciation than those who work onsite. To find out, we conducted a research study with almost 90,000 individuals who had taken our online assessment, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory.

We found that Words of Affirmation continues to be the most desired appreciation language, but remote employees chose Quality Time as their primary language of appreciation more frequently (35% of employees) than workers on-site (25%). This finding seems logical – those off-site desire more time with colleagues than those who are interacting with their coworkers face-to-face.

One of the biggest barriers to overcome in showing appreciation over distance is the lack of opportunity for those short, chance encounters that occur when colleagues work in the same location (walking through the hallway or sitting together in the conference room waiting for a meeting to start). These provide the occasion to chat for a few minutes, or to check in and see how your coworker is doing. In remote work relationships, these events don’t occur and interactions need to be planned. In fact, the single most important lesson we learned for effectively communicating appreciation to remote colleagues is that one must be more proactive than in face-to-face relationships.

Let’s explore each of the appreciation languages and ways they can be used proactively in remote work relationships.

Using Words of Affirmation is not significantly different across long distances. You can share a compliment when talking or in writing. But there is less opportunity to communicate face-to-face, so arranging a videoconference can be helpful.

Most, if not all, interactions with long distance co-workers are focused on work and the tasks at hand. One of best ways to overcome this challenge is to intentionally schedule some interaction times focused primarily on chatting, hearing about what coworkers did over the weekend, and sharing what is going on in your life as well.

For those who feel valued with Quality Time, the following actions can be helpful:

  • Set aside some time to talk about non-work-related topics at the beginning or end of a scheduled call.
  • Give them your undivided attention when you are talking to them (don’t multi-task).

In the area of providing Act of Service, the following actions can be effective:

  • Agree to schedule a meeting or call when it is convenient for them, not according to your time zone.
  • Assign some staff assistance in completing some simpler tasks for them, so they can focus on a getting a project done.

When getting a gift for your long-distance colleagues, a little extra effort can be quite impactful:

  • Find out their favorite lunch or coffee spot and get them a gift certificate there.
  • Send them some food, magazines or sports memorabilia that are hard-to-find where they currently work.

To follow-up at a more personal level, we conducted a poll and asked those who were currently working remotely to share specific examples of ways others shared appreciation with them that they found to be encouraging:

  • Having coffee together via Skype to catch up on life outside of work.
  • Emailing funny pictures based on recent conversations.
  • Sending “celebration kits” including some small gifts and food.
  • Buy them lunch and have it delivered to them.
  • Make sure that issues discussed in the main office are shared with remote employees.
  • Send a handwritten thank you note to the team member’s home address.

While communicating appreciation in long distance work relationships takes time and forethought, it can be done and it is important to do so. Without ongoing appreciation and support for the work they are doing, employees who work remotely are more at risk for becoming discouraged, disengaged and eventually quitting.

Take the time and effort to communicate how much you value your remote team members and the return on your investment will be well worth the cost.


Need training resource geared toward remote employees? Check out our newly updated Virtual Appreciation at Work Training Kit!

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Published by
June 24, 2024 9:00 am

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