Virtual Employee Appreciation Ideas [2021 Guide]

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Why are virtual employee appreciation ideas important?

2021 has been called ‘the year of the virtual employee’. A large part of America's workforce works from home today, logging regular hours for their employers without setting foot in the office. The benefits of remote work are obvious. Virtual employees get to skip the commute, and they cost their employer nothing in office space. In addition, virtual employees get to spend time with their families or attending to personal matters during break time. 

However, virtual work has its downsides too. For one thing, working from home can be lonely. A virtual employee might struggle in their new role and struggle to make friends and feel like they're part of the team in a virtual office environment. And virtual employees can feel isolated when they don't get the chance to meet face-to-face with their supervisors, teams, and other virtual employees.

Virtual employee appreciation can be a great way to help virtual employees overcome the isolation of virtual work, develop relationships with coworkers in other locations, and feel part of their team. While there are many virtual employee appreciation ideas, virtual leaders should focus on virtual employee rewards that are designed to help virtual personnel accomplish their goals, and motivate them to keep reaching for new goals in the future. 

Virtual employee appreciation statistics 

Here are some statistics that highlight the importance of virtual employee appreciation and recognition:

  • Virtual employees work longer hours than their office counterparts. A virtual employee might spend up to six days a week working from home and logging between 50 and 60 hours each week.

Remote staff appreciation may not be as easy to implement as standard employee recognition ideas, but it is just as important, if not more. Let’s walk through what you need to know to make virtual employee engagement a priority at your company, and improve employee morale and the virtual employee experience.

Recognizing remote employee achievements

Recognizing and celebrating the achievements of your remote staff can go a long way toward building a culture of appreciation. Remember, this doesn’t have to cost a fortune, and you can run a fully effective recognition program on a budget. It's free to celebrate your team's accomplishments on social media, and it won't cost you much to publish a video that tells the world how much you think of your virtual staff. More ideas for virtual employee recognition:

  • Run a virtual awards show recognizing the greatest virtual achievements of the year during Employee Appreciation Day.
  • Set aside the first five minutes of every virtual meeting to talk about your remote staff achievements and express appreciation for specific areas in which they have been successful.

Virtual employee engagement ideas

Virtual leadership staff can help virtual team members build virtual bridges to their virtual teams by offering opportunities for virtual meetings one-on-one with virtual leaders.

This individualized approach is different from traditional office settings, where leadership may have frequent meetings with higher-level virtual employees and managers. However, the individualized approach allows each virtual team member to get support based on his or her needs, and can help make virtual work less stressful and more fun. Peer support and peer recognition can also boost engagement and employee retention, so don't be afraid to ask your remote team to check in on each other. Some more virtual employee engagement ideas include:

  • Encourage virtual team leaders to establish one virtual manager per 5 to 10 people, meaning that each member of a five-person team would have his or her own virtual manager while there would be one overall team leader for the entire team.
  • Stay in contact with remote employees outside of work hours. Managers should set a precedent by checking virtual channels regularly, so virtual workers don't have to worry about bothering their bosses during off-hours.
  • Let your remote team not only know when they're doing well, but also how they can improve upon or what could be changed in future projects or tasks.

Virtual employee appreciation ideas

Many of this year's top best practice guides for virtual management recommend creating a sense of company culture through remote employee recognition activities that develop relationships between coworkers, across departments and locations. 

Some virtual managers feel they don't have to do team-building activities because remote employees aren't physically together, but they should still work to find ways to help their remote workers build rapport and create a sense of community with each other.

Virtual employee appreciation activities for virtual teams include: 

  • Make constructive feedback an everyday activity. This can be done with emails or, for a more streamlined approach, try an employee appreciation app like Matter!
  • Conduct virtual quarterly digital town hall meetings where virtual managers set up a chat room for discussion, including virtual team members who wouldn't be able to attend a non-virtual event in person.
  • Plan special interest days where everyone gets time off from work at the same time. In return, all they have to do is log into a chatroom or video conference call to check in and chat. 
  • Run virtual retreats. Virtual management can bring teams together for one week at a time to work on company goals and product launches in an immersive environment. Virtual retreats have been shown to increase morale by 20 percent when done regularly, in conjunction with virtual weekly check-ins and channel activity during off-hours.
  • Plan a virtual Employee Appreciation Day celebration where virtual recognition is given to every member of your remote workforce. Don't forget to include fun, informal hang-out times as part of your virtual celebration! One fun idea: give everyone gift cards for take-out and have your entire remote team eat together.
  • In a tech-obsessed culture, it can be difficult to build genuine relationships with people, especially in the workplace. Robert Reffkin shares his tips and tricks for establishing authentic connections on the job. See TED video below.

 Virtual employee appreciation software

Virtual employee appreciation software is one of the first steps towards virtual management, as many companies are experimenting with remote productivity apps like Slack as a way to engage their virtual staff. As more companies give their employees some form of allowance for working from home, managers need tools for addressing problems before they become serious and tools that help them to encourage staff and provide regular recognition, without having to rely on email or face-to-face meetings. 

That’s what is behind the growing popularity of virtual employee appreciation software like Matter. These software programs are an enormous asset when it comes to virtual teams, and allow managers to recognize virtual accomplishment and give constructive feedback to employees daily using emails or messages within the virtual company app. 

Final tips on virtual employee appreciation

Virtual employee appreciation has become an important topic in remote work management. Here are some things that you might want to consider when it comes to implementing your appreciation program or integrating new ideas into an existing one:

  • In virtual workplaces, virtual managers know that remote teams have a smaller pool of people to rely on for ideas and input. Even if management is virtualized across the entire company, think of ways to provide individual support for each virtual team's needs. 
  • Bear in mind that participation should never be forced or expected from virtual employees who might not want or need to be highlighted for their work. For a virtual team leader, the goal should always be to show appreciation to virtual employees who make a difference. So if your remote workers don’t want to be called onto a virtual stage, find another way to show them how much you appreciate them.
  • Remember that virtual managers should balance recognition with accomplishments. Don't go overboard with virtual rewards and virtual gifts, but when you do provide a gift or reward, make sure it's something special.

Employee appreciation is something virtual managers and virtual employees should agree on as virtual team members work to collaborate and contribute to projects. High morale is good for everyone!

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‌Cover Photo by
Jerzy Wierzy
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