Carl, a freelance web developer, had just a few extra minutes to stop by the post office before picking up his daughter from school. He was expecting a check from a job he had completed the month before. Carl quickly grabbed the envelope and stuffed it in his pocket to get to the school on time. When he finally opened the envelope that evening, accompanying the check was a handwritten note from the client, “Thank you! Your work enhances mine in ways you seldom see.”
Jenn works full time for a local business. She is one of a handful of people at the company who work remotely. Although it’s an excellent fit for her, she feels disconnected from the rest of the team. When Jenn stopped by the office for a monthly meeting, her boss made sure she noticed the newly created “Wall of Fame.” There was her picture, along with three other high performers. She couldn’t help but grin. Maybe out of sight does not mean out of mind, after all.
According to the U. S. Department of Labor, employees who voluntarily leave a job often cite lack of appreciation as a primary reason for exiting a company. With remote employment on the rise, showing appreciation can become even more of a challenge. Learn to speak what Gary Chapman and Paul White call the languages of appreciation. Showing gratitude can become a powerful leadership habit.
Texting, emails, and applications, such as Basecamp and Trello, are the primary means of communication across the distributed workforce. They contribute to efficiency and allow us to work across continents. They can be one of the most convenient places to express appreciation. Personal messages are meaningful. For those employees who like public recognition, your company’s social media can be a place to show your appreciation. And although it may be a little more work, don’t neglect the power of an old-fashioned, handwritten thank-you note.
Sometimes the best communication happens when you pick up the phone and talk to someone. Don’t let a work problem be the driving force behind a phone call. You can call to express appreciation for work done on a project. For those remote workers who like public appreciation, don’t forget to invite and name them at company recognition events.
Acts of Service
Acts of service will be the language that speaks to some of your employees. The next time you need to talk to your accountant who works from Thailand, offer to have the call in her time zone instead of yours. One perk that is lost when an employee works remotely may be administrative or logistics help. Connect your remote employees with home office staff to handle some of the routine tasks, such as booking plane tickets. Free up your remote worker’s time for what he is best at. Arranging for some coveted mentoring or training for your distributed workforce can also be a much-appreciated act of service.
At the beginning of a project, arrange a video conference to introduce all those involved in the project. Explain the project AND have a time of informal conversation. Then, when the web developer is waiting on information from the copy editor, communication will likely go more smoothly. Another way to connect your employees is to have a “hackathon” to get the job done. You could arrange a common location for the event, or your team could work with an open video link. If you order pizza for the group at the office, be sure to send a pizza gift card to the remote employees, as well!
Some people enjoy appreciation expressed through gift giving. Find out your employees’ favorite restaurants. Send a restaurant gift card with a thank you note. If your company has quality swag, such as branded coffee thermoses or the latest outdoor wear, send a sample to your freelancers, too. Gift giving doesn’t have to come at a high cost to you. Give credit to your employees through a byline. Acknowledge your remote employees on your website. If you give out Christmas bonuses, don’t forget the freelancer who gave you six months of work earlier in the year.
Thank you never goes out of style. Be creative with your distributed workforce. Appreciation is contagious, and the ripples will be felt in your business and beyond.
Need additonal inspirtation, check out the following resources:
- The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. By Gary Chapman and Paul White. 2011