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15 Virtual Employee Recognition Ideas: Elevate Morale Remotely

Your hunch is correct. Turnover rates are still plaguing companies, and your ability to thrive depends on paying attention to employee feedback. Fortunately, that feedback has been abundant and includes some actionable takeaways.

According to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center, one of the top three factors causing employees to resign was feeling disrespected at work. That’s good news for you as a remote leader.

Although pay and development opportunities are significant factors, the other piece of employee recognition is intentionally showing appreciation. And you can easily influence retention rates with a robust employee recognition program.

As a remote leader in the middle of a technology boom, you have more options than ever before. In fact, we gathered 15 employee appreciation ideas to show recognition for your remote team.

But before you dive into building a better system, take a moment to explore the nuances of employee appreciation in a remote setting.

Understand the power of employee recognition

Your remote workforce is likely leveraging digital communication tools already. Think Slack and Zoom, virtual collaborative spaces, and asynchronous work hours. On one hand, those are essential to getting work done.

However, it’s shockingly easy to miscommunicate or feel left out—especially for more reserved team members. Impromptu team building around the water cooler isn’t accessible from a home office. The absence of those casual everyday encounters can lead to feelings of isolation or detachment.

Read more: How to Create a Sense of Belonging in a Remote Work Environment

Recognition—once a straightforward task in physical office spaces—becomes nuanced when miles and screens separate us. Something is missing, but it’s hard to pinpoint it. 

The human element can often feel diminished in a remote setting, even with an intentional thank-you email. After all, there’s no casual nod of approval in the hallway and no spontaneous “good job” in the break room.

15 Virtual employee recognition ideas 

It’s time to reimagine your remote employee recognition programs.

Consider some of the following options.

1. Digital gift cards

A modern take on the classic bonus: offer digital gift cards from popular online platforms or local businesses. It’s a versatile reward, allowing team members to choose something they genuinely want or need.

Consider some of the following digital gift card options for rewarding your distributed team:

  • Breweries
  • Coffee shops
  • Donations to a charity
  • Kids’ museums
  • Local restaurants
  • Meal-delivery kits
  • Online fitness classes
  • Subscriptions to streaming services
  • Theater tickets
  • Wineries
  • Zoos

2. Flexible work hours

Whenever possible, consider offering flexible hours. The freedom to choose work hours can significantly impact your team’s mental health and home life

Even if you can’t support a fully flexible schedule, consider implementing core hours of availability to facilitate team meetings and flexibility.

3. Growth opportunities

Acknowledge stellar performance by offering challenging projects or roles. Demonstrate faith in an employee’s capabilities by providing growth opportunities. Supporting development is a potent form of recognition. 

Remote team members feel like you’re invested in their future health and well-being as they build skills that will benefit them long-term.

4. Health and wellness packages

Prioritize well-being as a sign of appreciation. Offer subscriptions to meditation apps, virtual fitness classes, or mental health resources. 

Recognize the importance of holistic health to emphasize your company’s care beyond work deliverables.

5. One-on-one check-ins

Ensure you facilitate communication with leadership through open office hours and one-on-one check-ins. 

Personal attention can significantly boost morale and help you learn about your team’s interests and skills. Familiarize yourself with their accomplishments and offer your experience to help them set and achieve goals.

6. Online courses or workshops

Invest in your team’s growth by sponsoring online courses or workshops. 

Don’t limit classes to only those relevant to your company. Instead, support your team in pursuing their interests and career goals independent of the company’s interests.

 Set aside a budget for employees to spend on books, courses, or seminars of their choice.

7. Personalized thank-you notes

Never underestimate the power of gratitude. The key is to send personalized emails acknowledging individual achievements. It’s a small gesture with a significant impact, making employees feel individually valued and appreciated.

If you’re comfortable on camera, consider recording a quick video to send a visual high-five.

8. Remote team retreats

Depending on the size of your organization, you can elevate virtual team bonding with scheduled retreats. 

You don’t necessarily need to rent out a resort, either. The retreat could be a well-organized online game night with dinner for each participant.

9. Shout-out channels on collaboration tools

Set up dedicated “shout-out” channels on platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams. It’s a space for team members to publicly praise peers, fostering a continuous culture of recognition and positivity.

10. Spotlight features

Celebrate your team members’ stories. Dedicate a section of your company newsletter or intranet to spotlight employees monthly, highlighting their achievements, passions, and personal journeys. It’s recognition that resonates both professionally and personally.

Make participation optional to ensure more reserved employees don’t feel pressured to share their stories.

11. Subscription boxes

Send a little surprise to their doorstep. Curate monthly or quarterly care packages tailored to an employee’s interests. 

If you’re unsure, set a budget and let them choose. It’s a tangible way to say, “We appreciate you.”

12. Surprise days off

Everyone loves to play hooky. Offer up unexpected long weekends. Random days off are like saying, “Take a break; you’ve earned it!”

13. Virtual coffee breaks

Bring back water cooler chats—digitally! 

Organize casual, non-work-related virtual coffee breaks for employees to bond, share, and receive appreciation in a relaxed setting.

Consider a gift card raffle to encourage attendance.

14. Virtual award ceremonies

Transform regular team meetings into celebratory events. Spotlight accomplishments with a monthly or quarterly virtual award ceremony with digital certificates and enthusiastic team applause.

Depending on your team members’ personalities, you can leverage fun GIFs and Zoom backgrounds during these ceremonies.

15. Mail a thank-you

There’s a charm in tangible tokens of appreciation.

Whether a package of company swag, a houseplant, gourmet chocolates, or a heartfelt card, mailing a thank-you bridges the remote gap, making employees feel a bit closer.

Tips for personalizing virtual employee recognition

Recognition, while universally appreciated, is most impactful when it’s tailored to the individual. 

Just as it doesn’t work with clothing, a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work when it comes to recognizing individual team members.

And just like you wouldn’t gift the same birthday present to all your friends, recognizing employee efforts should be unique. You must consider each team member’s personality, actions, and preferences. Use the following tips to build a thriving remote employee recognition program.

Know your team

Before you can personalize your recognition efforts, you need to get to know your employees, including their interests, hobbies, career goals, and personal milestones. 

Casual conversations can offer valuable insights, ensuring your recognition efforts resonate deeply.

Customize or rotate rewards

Not everyone is wooed by the same perks. Some might appreciate an online course subscription, while others treasure a day off. If you don’t have the resources to tailor the reward to the employee’s needs and preferences, strive to offer a bit of variety.

Consider personality as well. While one employee might appreciate public praise, another might prefer a quiet, personalized note. Be versatile in your recognition formats to cater to different personalities. Unsure? Just ask.

And don’t underestimate the power of a team shout-out when they’ve been working on a big project. Personal accolades are essential, but recognizing a team’s collective effort can amplify camaraderie. 

Connect recognition to value

For some employees, aligning their efforts with the company’s core values holds immense importance. 

Recognize employee contributions in a way that highlights how they embody these values.

Offer both regular and spontaneous recognition

While scheduled recognition is essential, don’t wait for a calendar event to show your appreciation. 

When an employee least expects it, spontaneous recognition can be incredibly gratifying.

Measure the impact of virtual employee recognition initiatives 

As the adage goes, “What gets measured gets managed.” This is as true for business KPIs as it is for recognition initiatives. While appreciation efforts stem from a place of gratitude and goodwill, gauging their impact is essential to ensure they’re hitting the mark.

Here are a few ways to measure the impact of your recognition program: 

  • Absenteeism rates
  • Employee engagement surveys
  • Employee net promoter score (eNPS)
  • Open feedback channels
  • Participation in recognition programs
  • Productivity metrics
  • Pulse checks
  • Quality of work
  • Retention rates

Boost your remote workforce through virtual employee recognition

Sometimes, the most compelling evidence isn’t in graphs or numbers. Listen to the stories within the organization—the thank-you notes, the shared moments of gratitude, and the appreciative Slack messages. These narratives often paint the most accurate picture of impact.

Using those metrics, you can ensure you’re creating a remote recognition program that supports a thriving culture, which is one of the critical factors that will help you stay ahead of trending retention curves and become an employer of choice.

One of the best ways to support employees and show them you’re invested in their success is by providing continuous growth and development opportunities. With the Learning Cloud from WorkRamp, you can create engaging, effective employee training programs from new hire onboarding to upskilling and reskilling to leadership development.

Learn more about how the Learning Cloud can help you support employee career growth. Contact us for a free, personalized demo. 

Complete the form for a custom demo.

Kimberli Lowe-MacAuley | FlexJobs

Kimberli Lowe-MacAuley is a Content Coordinator for FlexJobs. With a background in recruiting and training, Kimberli spent the majority of her career in leadership with Fortune 500 companies before joining the FlexJobs team. Now she empowers job seekers and employers with actionable tips to build a flexible work culture.

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