How to recognise people working within remote and hybrid teams

To paraphrase Maya Angelou, people will always remember how you made them feel. So, it’s no surprise that recognition plays such a key role in attracting and retaining top talent. Recognition, when delivered properly, ensures employees feel respected, appreciated, engaged, and perhaps most crucially, seen. Unfortunately, like many pillars of workplace wellbeing and company culture, it’s often neglected and regarded more as a nice-to-have than a must-have.

How to recognise people working within remote and hybrid teams

But neglecting recognition is a mistake companies can no longer afford to make, especially if teams are exclusively working remotely or in a hybrid way.

Why recognition (and gratitude) may be affecting your remote team’s wellbeing

Feeling appreciated and recognised is an integral part of people’s mental wellbeing. While our need to be recognised exists in all areas of life, it’s especially true in today’s workplace. Studies show that 66% of employees would be willing to switch jobs  due to “not feeling appreciated”, and 40% say they’d work harder if recognised more often.

Remote teams are even more invested in recognition and appreciation, with 64% viewing it as more critical when working from home than when working in the office. This makes sense, as remote work can make it harder for people to feel socially connected and valued by their colleagues – words of appreciation can help bridge that gap.

It’s important to note that recognition isn’t a synonym for reward. While reward and recognition are often either falsely equated or set up as an inseparable pair, I’d argue that recognition needs to happen on a far more regular basis. For the most part, recognition is lower cost but employees value it just as highly. In fact, according to a study by BambooHR, a third of employees would rather be recognised for their work by leadership in a company-wide email than receive a monetary bonus of $500 that isn’t openly publicised with the greater team. In a Deloitte survey, 54% of employees said they preferred a verbal thank-you when being recognised for day-to-day accomplishments, while only 7% said they would want a gift.

The takeaway? Recognition is just as important as reward (and sometimes more so). Direct, sincere feedback goes a long way. Rewards, while tangible, can feel transactional. It’s also not always possible to deliver them in a timely way (they may need approval by a manager), which can dilute their effect. Recognition, on the other hand, is relational and can be shared by anyone in the company, at any time. These expressions of gratitude and appreciation help reduce churn and improve productivity and engagement. They also foster social connections (crucial for remote teams) and boost your workers’ happiness.

In remote and hybrid teams, where people connect in person less often, people must be recognised regularly to strengthen relationships and keep morale and motivation high.

Building a foundation of gratitude

Workplace initiatives always work best when leadership walks the talk. What does this mean in practice? That leaders, from C-suite to line managers, must make thanking and sharing their appreciation, as well as promoting peer-to-peer recognition, a regular and ideally, public habit. Recognition shown by line managers is especially key, as it shows employees that their direct manager understands their workload and the effort they put into their work.

If your organisation is new to remote working, embedding recognition into your communications may feel a bit strange. The opportunities to casually run into people at the coffee machine or catch people at in-person company-wide meeting are reduced.

That’s why creating regular opportunities for your remote team to share positive feedback using digital solutions, such as company-wide email, chat channels, or virtual meetings is so necessary.

As a hybrid team, Koa Health offers leaders and teams the chance to regularly share words of gratitude and appreciation in our company-wide weekly meeting. Another place leaders can publicly congratulate team members for work well done is in our company-wide Slack channel and in Small Improvements, the programme we use for performance management.

As we grow and evolve as a company, we’re committed to growing and evolving our approach to recognition, too. We believe that gratitude is a key element in taking care of our team, and we’re always looking for new ways to show our appreciation.

Whatever tools you may use, here are few tips for more effective recognition with your remote or hybrid team:

1. Be immediate 

Communicate positive feedback as soon as possible. This is especially true for daily accomplishments but is also true for more ambitious long-term projects where you’ll want to show appreciation periodically for smaller milestones. Don’t wait for a formal event a long way of – you can always include further words of praise and a reward at a future gathering if need be.

2. Be specific 

Include details like who, what, and how in your words of recognition (i.e. who helped you, what they did, and how it made a difference). Avoid generic statements like, “Thanks to x team, they’ve been really helpful”. For special occasions, send a handwritten thank you card. It is a great way to make someone feel singled out in a positive way.

3. Be flexible 

While generally it’s best to recognise team members publicly, it’s also important to adapt to employees’ individual personalities and preferences. If the person you want to show appreciation to is shy and hates being put in the spotlight, even for something positive, thank them privately, instead.

Ensuring timely, thoughtful employee recognition is especially challenging for remote and hybrid workplaces. But it’s an absolutely essential part of creating a company culture that supports your employees across different ways of working, time zones, and locations far and wide.

The author is Ricardo Soares, people manager at Koa Health.

This article is provided by Koa Health.

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