The working world has changed immeasurably over the past three months. So much so that watching a re-run on TV including a crowded restaurant or two colleagues shaking hands is starting to look a little alien. 

In the corporate world, millions of employees worldwide have been sent home with laptops in tow, tasked with remaining as productive as possible and keeping businesses operating. This mass shift to remote working has long been muted, but few would have foreseen a global pandemic as the catalyst to mass adoption. 

Will remote work remain a core part of the economy? Perhaps. British bank Barclays commented recently that the expense of huge office space is starting to make less sense after seeing the successful transition to distributed teams. Scroll through LinkedIn though and there is something of a balance. Some loving the lack of a commute in the morning, but others missing the buzz of the office and seeing their colleagues. 

However, whilst many businesses have pulled out all the stops to make sure their staff can get work done from the kitchen table or the unused box room, the next steps for many HR departments will be ensuring that the culture of an organisation can translate across to a digital workplace, that motivation levels remain high and employees are engaged. 

And making sure your people know they’re appreciated, either through formal employee recognition or simple words of affirmation, has a large part to play in making that happen. 

Why employee recognition is so important for distributed workers

Organisations had been starting to get a grip on their engagement issues over the last decade, with Gallup showing a slow but definite uptick in engagement scores.But even before the current pandemic, more than six in 10 workers still said they hadn’t received any form of recognition over the last year. And for organisations who have been forced to work remotely almost overnight, there are now potentially fewer opportunities for spontaneous thank yous to take place in the absence of specific recognition initiatives. 

During periods of change and stress, it’s so important that the people working to help an organisation through choppy waters understand that their efforts are recognised and appreciated. Beyond helping to boost productivity and maintain motivation, feeling appreciated can also support psychological safety and feelings of job security. 

In fact, a recent survey from Josh Bersin found that US workers are more concerned about keeping their job than their personal health right now. So, whilst being recognised frequently has been shown to be the biggest single contributor towards boosting engagement, in times of rapid change, understanding that they’re doing a great job can prove a great comfort too.

How to ensure recognition remains part of regular working conversations 

Adopting a social employee recognition program can prove extremely effective for newly remote teams, helping to stimulate recognition activity and making sure daily achievements can be shared with everyone. It creates a space purely dedicated to good vibes, where employees can freely recognise colleagues and managers can see the great things their people are getting done – despite not being in the office. 

One of the great challenges for HR when teams are distributed is trying to carry across a culture to an online workplace, especially where different teams can easily become siloed. Recognition initiatives which integrate corporate values at their core helps to ensure that a positive working culture can remain, whilst integrations with the likes of MS Teams and Slack ensures that recognition remains part of the daily working conversation. How has your organisation approached recognition and employee engagement for a newly remote workforce? Let me know in the comments below!