How to Show Appreciation While Managing Remote Workers
15five recently surveyed 500 managers and executives and released the following statistics about remote workers:
- 53% of companies in the U.S. continue to have standard workplaces, with nearly every employee coming into the office 4 or more days each week.
- 37% have a main office with some people working remotely.
- 10% have no office space at all.
These statistics point to more and more work relationships existing in the context of remote locations. Increasing numbers of employees work in locations separate from their colleagues and supervisor, with “virtual teams” occurring across cities, states and countries.
The combination of these two factors creates a challenge for managers that needs to be addressed: How do you effectively communicate appreciation to your team members in the context of flexible work arrangements? (In fact, this question led us to develop the long distance version of the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory – to provide practical action steps with remote colleagues.)
Appreciation Across Long Distances
Even though words of appreciation can be easily communicated across long distances using email, text or phone calls, challenges in doing so effectively remain.
One of the biggest barriers to overcome is the lack of opportunity for those short chance encounters that occur when you work in the same location – coming into the office in the morning, while getting something in the break room, walking through the hallway in the office, or 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 others are doing. In long distance work relationships, these events don’t occur.
The result is that most, if not all, interactions with your long distance co-workers are focused on work and the tasks at hand. This, in turn, can make your relationship feel very cool and distant with no personal warmth involved at all. One of best ways to overcome this challenge is to intentionally schedule some interaction times focused primarily on “chatting”, hearing about what they did over the weekend, and sharing what is going on in your life as well.
Words of Affirmation
Words of affirmation usually 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 also can be helpful.
Reaching those employees who value other types of acts of appreciation can be even more difficult. However, in our work with work groups who have team members spread across cities, states and the globe, we discovered two important facts: a) communicating appreciation over long distance can be done effectively; and b) to do so, takes more planning and intentionality than in same location relationships.
For those who feel valued when others choose to spend time with them, the following actions can be helpful in long distance work relationships:
* Schedule a call occasionally just to chat.
* Give them your undivided attention when you are talking on the phone (don’t multi-task).
* Set aside some time to talk about non-work related topics at the beginning of a scheduled call.
* Set up a videoconference with your team, as a group, to chat and get caught up with one another personally.
Acts of Service
In the area of providing some act of service, we have found the following actions to be effective in communicating appreciation between long distance co-workers:
* 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 menial task for them, so they focus their energy on tasks only they can complete.
* Work out a plan to answer their phone calls or emails for a specified period of time, so they can focus solely on a getting a project done.
When getting some small gift for your long distance colleagues, a little extra effort can be quite impactful:
* Find out their favorite lunch spot and arrange to pay for their meal.
* Do some investigation about their preferred place for coffee and dessert and get them a gift certificate there.
* Send them some food, spices, magazines or sports memorabilia that are hard-to-find where they currently work.
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, not producing to their capabilities and eventually quitting.
Take the time and effort to communicate how much you value your staff who work in a different physical location than you do and the return on your investment will be well worth the cost.
Tags: long distance work relationships, remote, virtual
Categories 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, Employee engagement, Featured Post, MBA Inventory, Relationships