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Employee Engagement

19 Unique Ideas for Employee Incentive Programs [Remote-friendly]

Sriram Palaniapan
Last Updated November 27, 2023

Did you know that remote employees are 75% more likely to experience burnouts at work?

Do you want to know why this is the case?

Well, the biggest reason for this is that remote employees do not feel as connected to their workplace as they used to when in office. They also do not feel as appreciated and recognized as before (weird, but true!). And no, they are not being unreasonable.

Remote employees feel this way because of the lack of direct one-to-one communication. And the only way to help them feel and work better is through a good employee incentive program. Don’t worry - we’ll help you devise an employee incentive program. 

In this article, we will walk you through some remote-friendly employee incentive program ideas. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at techniques that can improve the morale of your remote employee !

Do I Need to Care About Team and Employee Morale?

Well, if you think you can do well without good employee morale and well-being, you cannot be more wrong. As David C Novak, founder of oGoLead says, “When you put people first and then surround them with processes and disciplines that recognize their efforts, performance will soar.”

When employees are happy, they are bound to perform better. Therefore, creating a positive company culture and devising a good employee incentive program is the best way to run your business.

Steve Flanagan, the commercial director of Bupa says. “Improving the health and well-being of our employees makes good business sense. As a leading provider of workplace health services, we see every day the difference it can make to a company’s bottom line and the impact it can have on employee morale and motivation. It offers a ”win-win” all around. Employees benefit from better support for their health. Companies benefit from less absence and an increase in productivity. And society benefits from improved public health.”

Employee morale

What is an Employee Incentive Program?

Employee incentive programs are small to large initiatives in an organization that encourage employees to work better and stick with the company. Their primary company goal is to appreciate and reward the best-performing people in the organization while increasing employee success rates. These are small tokens of motivation, recognition, and appreciation.

Employee incentive programs are generally of three kinds:

  • Monetary: These programs allow for some kind of monetary benefit to the employees.
  • Social: These are generally seen as verbal appreciation or public recognition within the organization.
  • Moral: Helping people do the ‘right’ thing through guidance.

Benefits of Employee Incentive Plans

When sincere words or recognition might change someone’s life is uncertain. Therefore, it is important for managers to always have employee incentive programs going on. Here are some reasons why your organization cannot do without one:

  • Better Team Morale: The more an employee feels appreciated through incentive programs, the better their morale will be.
  • Healthy Competition: Each team member will want to get the next big incentive. Therefore, there will always be a sense of healthy competition within the team.
  • Employee Loyalty: If you give people everything they need to feel good about their work, they will want to stay. Incentives are a great way to retain employees in the organization.
  • Better Productivity: The better the loyalty and morale, the higher the team performance will be. Not only does your staff gain personally and professionally through incentives, but your business will see some serious benefits as well!


Effective Employee Incentive Program Ideas for a Remote Team

Now that you know what employee incentives are and why you need them, we will not take any more of your time. So, here are some employee incentive program ideas that you can run for your team of remote workers:

1. Offer Equipments to Work From Home

The most direct and best way to give incentives to your remote team is by sending them essential work from home equipment. When employees are working from home, they might have to incur extra expenses to create a workspace for themselves at home. Wouldn’t it be great to get that extra load off their chest? In fact, you can even pay for their internet connection!

While looking for work from home equipment for your employees, you can get them much more than a computer. You can even get them working desks and chairs to make their work as comfortable as possible. 

Make sure you help your remote employees fix their back, neck, and general body aches. Any physical ache or discomfort will lead to more burnouts, making productivity go for a toss.

The best way to make this plan work is by creating a list of essentials that you can send them other than their working devices. You can then mail this list to your team and ask them to choose things they would like to have to make work from home comfortable for them. Then, get them the equipment they need!

Work from home physical well-being
(Source: Physical stress is common with inadequate WFH equipment)

2. Long Weekends and Vacation for the Win!

Everyone likes a holiday, especially when they are working from home. Why? Because even the most razor-focused people end up getting distracted with chores to be finished at home. Therefore, any extra holiday gives them the much-needed breather to relax at home.

While 5-day working weeks are great, the best way to incentivize holidays is by surprising your employees. If you can, consider giving an occasional Friday off to your remote employees. You can even do this on alternate weeks for different teams. Be prepared to be shocked by the number of people who’ll thank you for this!

Long weekends or vacations help remote employees really connect with their families and personal lives. And the better and more comfortable they are in their personal life, the better they will be able to work.

If you have the budget for that, you can even buy a flight ticket for your employees to get them on a much-deserved vacation.

3. Send Surprise Chocolates and Gifts

Surprises are the best way of letting people know that you appreciate them and have been thinking about them. And who doesn’t like to be thought of?

For this precise reason, sending chocolates and gifts is super-cool. But how about making them more special? Send them gifts on general days when they won’t be expecting anything. Just amaze them. However, you can do this on special occasions like birthdays or festivals as well.

Employee gift boxes

(Source: Employee care packages for improving morale)

4. Send Them Food or Offer Delivery Discounts

Who doesn’t like free food? Everyone does! And with the pandemic, food delivery has become every person’s addiction. So, why not feed your employees unapologetic or guilty pleasures in the form of incentives?

Cooking every meal every day while working from home can be a little cumbersome for remote staff. Therefore, you can either fix a day in a week or a month when you send them a meal.

The great thing about this incentive is that you can choose what to do with this option. You can either send whatever you want to, get discount coupons, or send money into their food wallets. The latter two will be even more special because your team will get to enjoy a meal of their choosing at any time they like.

Through this incentive, you will help- alleviate some stress off your employees. Moreover, you will also be supporting small local businesses through delivery options.

5. Plan Game Hours With Awards

The biggest reason why people feel slightly secluded while working from home is that they do not get to personally connect with the people they are working with. So, what can you do to help your team feel connected while they are working from home?

Well, one of the best ways to do that while incorporating incentives to the mix is by having online award shows.

When you have video award shows, your team will obviously get a way to engage with one another. Also, such award shows help the awardees get not only the rewards they deserve but also a public appreciation that can go miles in improving their confidence.

These award shows can be very rewarding and entertaining. They can act as a great way to break monotony within your organization.

6. Shoutouts in Company-Wide Groups

This works the same way award shows do. Other than the benefit of getting appreciation in general, getting public appreciation is very helpful to make employees feel good.

You can have something as simple as an ‘employee of the month’ award. However, make sure that you keep the awards rotational so that it’s not just one person receiving all the appreciation.

Verbal appreciation goes a long way in boosting people’s morale. Therefore, you can create a company-wide appreciation group where you announce every month’s top performers. Personalized and special messages of appreciation will make employees yearn for this and will hence encourage them to work better.

If you want to make this even more competitive and exciting, you can also give a small bonus to top performers every month.

7. Personalized Messages From Bosses Are The Best!

Do you have a large organization? Surely, managers would have at least three to five people reporting to them. And there’s no second thought about this - employees look for recognition from their managers. Therefore, you can have managers focus on every member of their team and have them send personalized appreciation messages from time to time.

As an HR professional, this is a win-win for you. This will not only boost employee morale but also make sure that each manager pays the right amount of attention to their team.

Personalized messages, regardless of how brief they might be, help people feel like a part of the team, even when they have not worked together in the same office space. This is not only a great incentive technique but also works great for team building!

8. Start a Book Sharing Club

This might sound a little silly, but stay with us! At least some people in your organization will have some passion for the written word, right? But again, buying books and getting recommendations is not simple. So, why not foster their productive passion and help them grow through this nifty incentive?

You can create a Google form asking employees about the books they have always wanted to read but haven’t bought them yet. This way, you will get a list of books that your team wants.

Create a group of people who would like to participate in this activity and then hand a book to every person. When they are done reading it (maybe put a maximum time limit for it?), they will pass it on to the next person and the chain will go on.

Now, your employees will get to read free of cost, your organization will have a cool library(of course with books in various homes), and people will have something more to talk about instead of just work.

Employee book club

9. Promote Fitness and Wellness Virtually

It is very important to keep in touch with the fact that your team is human(we weren’t considering writing this but as harsh as it may sound, a few companies do forget this!). Therefore, while they are getting all your problems fixed, they need some time and attention for themselves as well. All you need to do is devise ways to help your team be fit and healthy while working from home.

As an incentive, you can either offer them discounts for mental or physical health rejuvenation services. Or, you can also help them by setting up online counseling or yoga sessions during work hours.

You can also use this effective employee incentive program to retain employees in the organization. Not many want to leave an organization that prioritizes their employees’ health. 

10. Help Their Career Grow Through LinkedIn Recommendations

LinkedIn is a wonderful way of creating business and professional connections. Recommendations by industry leaders or anyone relevant can help people grow on the platform.

As a token of appreciation, it will be great to write a LinkedIn recommendation for your top-performing remote workers. This doesn’t only help their career growth but also helps them connect better with you. This can also prove a great practice because writing a shining LinkedIn recommendation to two of your people will only take five minutes.

This incentive doesn’t take too much effort but speaks volumes. Moreover, even on LinkedIn, this shows wonderful employee engagement, making you a great recruiter. This ain’t a fixed incentive with proper terms and conditions but can turn out to be something your remote employees have been awaiting.

11. Send Your Staff Care Packages 

Another great way of keeping your remote team happy and healthy is by sending them care packages. These packages are sweet and simple but go a long way in making an impression in your team’s mind.

So, what can you send in these packages? Well, you can send work from home care essentials such as scented candles, chocolates, lotions, healthy snacks, and more.

12. Offer Them Free Online Learning Courses

To really show your team that you care and do not only think of them as people who get things done for you, you should help them grow. While you can take care of their health through wellness programs, here is a great way of helping them grow professionally.

While working from home, there’s no osmotic learning. People don’t get to learn by overhearing a conversation between people. Therefore, you can make up for the lost learning through online courses.

You can either ask your employees the things they would like to learn and master or devise courses according to their job profiles. Make sure the online courses do not burden them.

This incentive is a great way of helping people raise professionally. It should also be noted that the best way to retain employees is not by keeping them restricted to your organization but by helping them outgrow themselves.

13. Offer An Annual Salary Raise

Annual appraisals might be the most obvious employee recognition program that almost all organizations follow. Since appraisal depends on the performance of employees, they stay at their best performance and offer top results to get the biggest scoop at the end of the year.

Annual appraisals are also a great token of appreciation for your employees who have been loyal enough to you for a long time.

While this is not a remote team-centric employee incentive program, it is an effective way to keep the motivation ball rolling. While looking for hidden gems, we should not definitely not forget the obvious ones.

14. Keep Their Families in Mind

While thinking of employee incentive programs for remote employees, remember that they are living with their families. Therefore, they will feel a lot more appreciated if you keep their loved ones in mind too.

While this might be too much work and gifts for organizations, you can keep a record of their family members and birthdays. Even if you cannot send them something, just wishing them on their birthday would be a memorable gesture.

Moreover, you can add a little something for their family members in the next care package you create.

15. Help Them Create a Personalized and Flexible Work Schedule

While working from home, it is easy for people to get caught up in their home lives. It is important to remember that everyone’s home doesn’t look the same. While someone might not have household responsibilities, others might have old parents and young children to look after.

Therefore, it is important to stay empathetic about work schedules and home lives, especially when your team is working from home. Flexible hours are the best way to help people ease working from home. 

However, while devising this employee incentive program, ensure keeping some guidelines at hand. There should be some time when your entire team is working so that coordination becomes simple. You can maybe add early and late login limits that will keep people from working entirely in the night or too early in the morning.

With a personalized and flexible schedule that fits right into their homes, people will be jubilant and will feel recognized by their organization.   

16. Encourage Them to Follow Their Dreams  

Yes, even if they mean leaving your organization or their job profile behind.

As Angela Ahrendts, the senior vice president of Apple rightly says, "Everyone talks about building a relationship with your customer. I think you build one with your employees first", make sure that your employees feel comfortable with you before they make customers feel comfortable with you.

While working from home, everyone might have a dream they want to pursue other than what you have to offer. While someone might want to grow within their job profiles, others might want to take up side gigs. Regardless of what those dreams are, you can always play a definitive role in helping them achieve the same.

If they are doing something creative out of work, you can share it with the company to help them grow. Or, you could also buy them some equipment or courses they might need.

Helping your team beyond their job profile will surely make them feel more recognized and appreciated within their work.

17. Buy Them Video Streaming Services

Everyone loves Netflix and those who don’t haven’t used it enough yet:P When working from home, people save a lot of time they usually spend in transit. Therefore, their binge-watching might know no bounds while working from home.

You can surprise your staff by buying them streaming services like Netflix/Amazon prime video. 

To make this incentive even more fun, you can offer company-wide screenings of the most popular shows or films. This will not only keep employees entertained but will also encourage team building.

Video streaming service gift

18. Gamify Awards and Incentives 

Do you want to add another nuance of fun and competition to the effective employee incentive program you chose? Well, you can very well gamify your incentive programs in a way that everyone knows who’s in line to be the next awardee.

Confused what we’re talking about?

Well, you can pin a leaderboard on the group chat box. Here, whenever a team member achieves something, you can add a score to their name. Therefore, at the end of the incentive period, whoever has the highest score, wins.

However, to keep competition healthy, you might want to keep an incentive winner off the game for the next few times, depending on your organization’s size.

19. Offer Them Office Visits

If your team is remote for reasons other than Covid-19, why not pay for their visit to the office? If only some of your employees are working from home, they will like interacting with everyone else working from the office.

Another spectacular thing about this is that they can make a whole vacation out of this visit. Isn’t that a double win for your employee?

Frequently Asked Questions

Why use incentive programs when you can use verbal appreciation? How much incentive is too much incentive? Do employees see through such managerial tactics?

Do you have similar questions in mind? Well, you’re not alone! These questions pop up all the time. Therefore, we are here to answer some of the internet’s most frequently asked questions regarding employee incentive program ideas. 

Why Should we use monetary employee incentives instead of regular verbal appreciation?

Answer: Well, we do see the temptation here. Why spend extra money when words can do the same trick, right? Well, while it is true that 65% of workers prefer non-cash awards, the rest of the staff don’t prefer the same.

When thinking of bringing appreciation to your staff, both verbal and monetary rewards are important. While verbal appreciation feels good and boosts employees, there is a reason why people are working. It’s for monetary compensation and hence adding that to verbal appreciation is the icing on the cake.

The Financial incentive works best for most employees because it gives them a sense of achievement, appreciation, and also security. Therefore, make sure your incentive programs amalgamate both verbal and monetary bonuses.

Why not pay employees more instead of regulating an employee incentive program?

Answer: Humans seek appreciation and appraisals. Therefore, employee incentive programs give staff the feeling of having done something special. This sense of achievement keeps them motivated and growing.

While paying employees well is a great idea, it can also become a business loss because incentive programs do not take up as many resources as paying extra cash to employees. Moreover, regardless of how much everyone is paid, they will still expect some sort of reward for a noteworthy effort.

Do remote teams need more incentives?

Answer: The answer for this can be both in the affirmative and negative. While remote workers do need more communication and verbal appreciation to feel connected and recognized, they might not need monetary incentives.

The point here is that if your organization is going to open offices in the future, too many incentives in the remote model will make things difficult for both you and your staff in the future. When the office opens, getting the same incentives will become more difficult. This shouldn’t demoralize your employees.  

The best way to help remote workers feel good is by building a successful remote work culture in your organization. This way, while you can work with the same quantum of employee incentive programs, you can still do the extra bit your remote team needs to feel good.

What are some unobvious ways to make employees feel good?

Answer: Yes, we see it too, building an employee incentive program is a very direct way to make employees feel good. It can be seen as a cheap managerial tactic not appreciated by your team. However, there are better ways to make employees happy too.

Some spectacular ways to boost employee morale without being too obvious about it are:

  • Creating good work and a positive work environment
  • Offering as much flexibility as possible without hindering the business
  • Continuous check-ins
  • Offering as much verbal appreciation as possible

You can also adopt some low-yielding but quickly recurring incentive programs to keep the morale high at all times.


There you have it! All the reasons why you need to build a healthy employee incentive program for your team right now. After all, it is crucial to enhance all your digital employees’ work experience to improve retention rates. 

All the employee incentive program ideas that we have mentioned in this blog are simple to follow. You can either use them as they are or modify them according to what your organization's work culture is. All that matters is being able to send inspiration and motivation your remote staff’s way.

We hope you are able to get the best results out of the employee incentive program of your choosing! If you need any help with keeping your team engaged and energized, you should contact NectarHR to help you get the most out of your remote team!

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