Everyone loves it when they get a pat on the back for a job well done. But unfortunately, COVID-19 has forced many organizations to shift the workplace to a remote setting—making it impossible to offer your employees “pats on their backs.”
Although it has become more challenging to recognize and reward your hard working employees, you simply cannot risk not having an employee rewards program. Why? Aside from making you look like a bad boss, having a poor employee reward culture often leads to voluntary employee turnover—a massive problem that causes American companies to lose over $1 trillion per year.
While it’s impossible to have zero turnovers in your organization, you as an HR leader or executive can take steps to reduce it to a minimum and retain their best workers. To help you, we’ve compiled over 36 employee reward examples and ideas for remote and distributed teams.
Take a look at the examples and see which of them will benefit your employees and your organization.
First, though, let’s consider some facts about the importance of employee rewards and recognition.
Why Employee Reward and Recognition Matters
It Helps With Employee Retention
The best way to keep employees happy is to make them feel valued and give them opportunities to grow within your organization.
For example, this LinkedIn report reveals that 94% of employees will stay longer in an organization if it helps them grow and learn. Therefore, offering tangible rewards that promote professional development will help you cut down on employee turnover.
It Improves Productivity
When well-structured incentive programs are in place, they can boost employee morale and performance by 44%. Furthermore, 85% of workers feel more motivated to work better when they have an incentive. This makes having an employee reward program a no-brainer.
It Attracts Talent
Companies find it challenging to recruit top talent. If you face this problem, including incentives can help you snag the best workers.
When you use the employee reward examples and ideas for remote staff below, you’ll be seen in a good light externally and look more attractive to the right talent.
36+ Employee Reward Examples and Ideas for Remote Teams
1. Offer Varied Work Schedule
You can reward employees by offering them a varied work schedule. This might include letting them enjoy non-traditional work hours as the business allows.
For instance, if you discover your employees do their best work in later hours of the day, you could draw up a flexible schedule that maximizes their productivity.
Flexibility is part of the future of work, and you should look to incorporate it in your organization if you haven’t already done so. For example, you can allow hardworking employees to set their hours for a week.
2. Invest in Their Professional Development
One way to show you appreciate your remote employees is to look for ways to help them grow professionally actively. Many employees are happy when employers go the extra mile to offer professional classes for free or at subsidized rates.
Check out professional development classes offered in the locality and sign up your entire team. By providing an opportunity to engage in professional development, you’ll be supporting their mental well-being and create a sense of loyalty in them.
3. Give Out Company Swag
Everyone loves a great sweatshirt with the company logo on it, and if you have company apparel, giving them to employees is one way to reward them.
Mail them company-branded items when they’ve done well, reached a milestone, or simply as a sign of appreciation. It’s a win-win situation — they get to feel appreciated and get some cool merch while you get some free publicity.
Check out our blog post "19 Meaningful Company Swag Ideas For Employees" if you want some extra ideas & examples.
4. Encourage Peer-to-Peer Recognition
An employee recognition software like Nectar offers you an excellent way to motivate employees and build camaraderie within your organization. When employees are recognized for their contributions by their peers, it uplifts everyone and builds an incredible workplace culture that boosts engagement and productivity.
5. Leave a Thank-You Note in the Mail
The shift to remote work has caused many businesses to become more reliant on technology for communication. Apps like Zoom, Slack, Google Meet, and co have taken over how managers and employees communicate.
Flip the script with a handwritten note to your staff. A simple “Thank-You” note mailed to the home of an outstanding employee can make them very happy and feel appreciated. If you like, you could include other gifts like a care pack or gift cards.
6. Write a LinkedIn Recommendation
This next idea is simple but quite powerful. Taking a few minutes of your time to write a LinkedIn recommendation can significantly impact your staff. The recommendation will be visible to anyone who views their profile and publicly endorses your employee’s skill.
You can be sure that such a pleasant surprise will boost morale and show your people how much you care about them and their dedication to work.
7. Give a Gym Subscription
Another employee reward idea is to pay for their gym subscription or a fitness program that they like. This is incredibly thoughtful considering that many people working from home might likely become less active than when they physically came to the office.
If they follow through with the subscription, they’ll feel better physically, emotionally, and mentally — which can make them even more of an asset to your organization.
8. Give Time Off for Personal Development
Stimulating employees with projects and tasks that fit their interests, strength, and passion is one way to keep them engaged and happy.
You can reward employees by giving them time to work on any project they choose during the week. As with all excellent employee reward ideas and examples, this will benefit both the employer and worker.
9. Send a Handwritten Note to Family Members
Your people are concerned about what their families think of them, and you can use this to plan your next employee reward. This time, send a handwritten note to their significant other or family member, telling how important the work your employee does is.
Employees will be glad that their loved ones know how awesome they’re at work.
10. Pay For Their Favorite Music Service
Music streaming platforms like Spotify, Google Music, Apple Music, and others help employees listen to and curate playlists that help them get through their day. Offering to pay for 3-6 months’ worth of subscriptions is one great way to reward your employees.
Your thoughtfulness might surprise them and will make them feel seen and appreciated by management.
11. Mention Them in the Next Company Newsletter
Does your organization run a newsletter? If so, you can give your staff a shoutout in the newsletter, specifically telling all readers the tremendous contribution the employee has made. This public recognition will bring a smile to their face and spur them to do even better.
If you don’t have a newsletter, you can make the shoutout on the company blog.
12. Provide Work-From-Home Equipment
One of the most effective employee appreciation ideas for distributed teams and remote workers is giving them the equipment they need to get work done efficiently and conveniently.
If you’ve been observant, perhaps you’ve heard your workers complain of issues relating to back pain, neck pain, posture, and similar problems. These are because of working from home on chairs and desks that aren’t suitable.
Your organization can eliminate most of these issues by providing employees with ergonomic office equipment.
To get the right equipment, have employees submit a list of what they need. Then ship the equipment to them. Not only does this make employees excited and happy, but it keeps them healthier.
13. Pay For Their Video Streaming Service
As with paying for the music platform, this reward involves paying for their next video streaming service subscription. Again, you can use a rewards platform like Nectar to give them redeemable points for their hard work, which your staff can convert to pay for their next subscription.
14. Create an Appreciation Video
Whether on an individual or organization-wide level, creating an appreciation video is a meaningful way to show your staff that you value the work that they do.
As an HR leader, you can get managers to shoot videos thanking their team for the hard work they’ve done for the month or quarter and playing it at your next meeting.
15. Create a Mentoring Program
Employees might find the transition to remote working difficult and, if they’re new, might find it hard to understand the company culture.
With a mentoring program, you can have veteran employees mentor the new workers. Doing so shows that you trust these existing workers and is an opportunity for them to display their expertise.
16. Send Snack Boxes
Working from home means employees can no longer get all the snacks they used to from the office’s kitchen. So why not send some of these snacks to them?
Sending snack boxes will show your employees how thoughtful you are and give them one less thing to worry about as they go about getting their work done. Caroo is a service that allows you to send healthy snacks to employees whether they're in the office or working from home.
17. Offer a Wellness Program
A virtual wellness program is an excellent employee reward. These programs show your staff that you’re interested in their health and wellness during the pandemic.
Creating this type of program is relatively simple. After establishing fitness and wellness goals, setting a budget, and program rewards, you can use a recognition and rewards platform like Nectar to distribute the rewards efficiently.
Your employees will enjoy the rewards from the platform and be encouraged to keep healthy as they work from home.
18. Send Them Flowers
Flowers are lovely gifts to send to someone to let them know you’re thinking about them. You can reserve sending flowers for your employees’ special day, say, maybe a birthday or work anniversary.
Although it seems small, this gesture shows appreciation and helps workers fight off any feelings of loneliness that they might have due to working from home.
19. Plan Virtual Game Nights
Having fun at work has become even more critical in this work-from-home period. The isolation of remote work can lead to disconnection and loneliness. Setting aside time to connect with co-workers can lead to improved workplace happiness and engagement.
You can reward employees with virtual games like Ice Breaker, Donut for Slack, and the likes. These games will provide your workers with a great time and give them a chance to bond and work better.
20. Publicly Praise Their Work
Public recognition is one of the easiest ways to galvanize a worker into getting even better. However, remote and distributed teams might have a hard time getting recognized for the work.
Fortunately, Nectar lets you send shoutouts from your work messaging apps like Slack and Microsoft Teams.
21. Create a Virtual Book Club
Have you got book lovers in your team? A great reward idea is to create a virtual book club to keep them engaged and excited about work.
A book club gives these employees a way to talk about their favorite authors and books without looking like nerds. You can even create a Slack channel dedicated to this club and have small rewards for employees who complete the ‘books of the month.’
22. Host Virtual Awards Ceremonies
A virtual awards ceremony can break the monotony of remote work and is an opportunity for your staff to dress up and have fun.
Awards like “Employee of the Month” can be celebrated with your distributed workforce. With a recognition platform, managers can nominate team members who have worked pretty hard throughout the month.
Collate the results and announce the winner. Then, you can make it more official by highlighting the winner on your company’s social media pages, website, or blog posts.
23. Grant Extra Vacation Days
This next employee reward idea benefits your people and can make it easier for you to hire top talent. The idea involves making it convenient for staff to take breaks away from work by granting extra vacation days.
You can make the vacation sweeter by giving perks like a subscription to a lounge, spa gift cards, movie passes, and restaurant gift cards via your rewards and recognition program.
Chances are your employees who get these extra days would chat about it with their friends, which might tempt them to want to work for you.
24. Donate to Your Employees’ Favorite Charity
Lean in on your employees’ philanthropist side by offering to donate or match their donation to a charity of their choice. You’ll be giving to charity while building a stronger relationship with your staff and learning more about them.
25. Recognize Them on Social Media
Social media platforms are excellent tools to help you show how much you appreciate the efforts of your distributed team.
It’s cheap, easy to do, and will reach a broad audience. This form of public recognition will be pivotal to the loyalty of your workforce.
26. Make Them Ambassadors
Making your workforce ambassadors involves making them feel appreciated and part of the team. You can reward them by inviting them to represent the company or their department at networking events or a meeting with a big client.
Inviting them to be part of projects they usually wouldn’t be a part of is another way to reward them as great employees.
27. Encourage Praise From Customers
Does your staff’s job require one-on-one interactions with your customers? If so, you can encourage these customers to leave reviews about your organization’s customer service experience.
You can then go on to share these reviews within your organization’s communication channels. These reviews would help you know what areas need improvement and help your staff feel seen and appreciated for their work.
28. Acknowledge Victories Outside of Work
Your company should encourage a great work-life balance. Doing so involves showing a bit of interest in your employees’ lives outside of work.
For example, send a special gift or note when your employees celebrate events and milestones like birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and completing a marathon. Such thoughtful gifts are sure to put a smile on their faces.
29. Buy Them Food
Employees working from home might be running out of creative recipes for every dinner. Also, after working so hard through the day, they might be too tired to cook, especially if they also have to take care of their kids.
One way to reward your best employees is by giving them gift cards and discounts for food delivery apps and restaurants.
30. Share Profits
If your company can do this, then sharing profits is one way to reward them. Offer them a portion of the annual profit—this can make them work even harder knowing that more profit for the company means more profit.
31. Celebrate Their Anniversaries and Birthdays
A virtual workforce shouldn’t stop you from celebrating special occasions with your workers. Keep company culture alive by celebrating occasions like work anniversaries, birthdays, and other special days.
You can make them feel special on these days by buying gifts, hosting a virtual party, and sending a snack basket or cake.
32. Commend Them in Person
Remote work often means human connections are frayed, but you can combat that by commending your employee in person.
Where it is possible, you can meet with your employees for a cup of coffee. And where COVID restrictions make it challenging to meet physically, you can use digital tools like Zoom, Skype, etc., to still keep in touch. Sacrifice a few minutes of your day to get on a video call with them simply to appreciate the work they’re doing.
33. Zoom Call With the CEO
Special recognition from the company’s head goes a long way in boosting your employees’ morale.
Your CEO can choose to send out handwritten notes or hop on a Zoom call with the employees you intend to reward.
34. Gamify Your Rewards
Healthy competition can keep your workforce engaged while remote. Seeing your name on a leaderboard can make you work harder, which is true for most employees.
So, reward them by gamifying rewards. Have a leaderboard showing employee reward points and watch as they work harder to be at the top.
35. Offer Virtual Events
Major events, from music festivals, concerts, conventions, and comedy shows, have gone virtual. Therefore offering an exceptional worker a ticket to any of these virtual events is one way to reward them.
Offering event tickets is a perfect employee reward idea that’ll make them comfortable and valued, allowing them to have a great time with others without jeopardizing their health.
36. Be Open to Suggestions
Your workforce wants to feel that their opinions and input matter, so allowing them to give suggestions and thoughts is such a great employee reward idea.
Have employee feedback platforms in place to help you. For example, Nectar offers 360 recognition and feedback that will come in handy as you implement this reward system.
37. Recognize the Little Things
Recognizing the little things your staff can go a long way to motivate them. For example, have you noticed a worker that’s always punctual to virtual meetings? Offer them a badge or title on the company’s recognition platform.
It will motivate not only that particular employee but also the rest of the workforce to do more.
38. Offer Personalized Rewards
Ask your employees what they’d love to have as a reward, and reward them accordingly. For example, specific staff might need laptops, upgraded equipment, and high-speed internet access because of remote work.
Gift them according to their needs and watch their eyes light up in happiness and gratitude.
Let Nectar Help You
Building a company culture around recognition and reward will do wonders for employee engagement and productivity. Although you might not be able to offer a special parking spot, there are still many other employee reward ideas that can work for your remote team.
So, take your time to examine this list of over 38+ examples to see how you can make it work within your organization. Then, once you’ve decided on the ideas to go with, you can use an employee recognition and reward platform like Nectar to implement those ideas.