How to reward employees working from home

Businesses around the world are finding themselves having to try experimental new ways of working thanks to the coronavirus pandemic of 2020. While the idea that employees are often allowed to work from home is nothing new, it has tended to be rationed, and presented as a perk to assist work/life balance. The majority of an employee’s work time would still be spent in the office, with those connections and that communal feel dominating.

That all seems quite old-fashioned now. In industries where employees are largely desk-based, wholesale remote working has taken over, and by and large, employees are beginning to get used to it. An interesting and unexpected by-product has been a new-found realisation that offices might not always be necessary in the traditional sense. There are reports of some companies having their eyes opened by the reduced costs of home-working, and vowing to move to a much more scattered workforce in the future, perhaps retaining a smaller office for meetings, client liaison and such like.

But the location of staff is just one thing. There are lots of business processes that will have to change in this new environment. Our own area, employee reward schemes, is one such example. So how can companies continue to offer reward schemes when workforces are remote? Here are three important points.

1. Everything has changed, nothing has changed

The first thing to note is that while everything seems to have changed, the core business, the staff, the clients and suppliers remain exactly the same – and are ideally on course for growth. If you had a reward scheme, there’s no reason why that has to end. The key reasons – encouraging enthusiasm, loyalty and excellence – don’t suddenly disappear because they’re working from home.

2. Motivation is decentralised

There could well have been certain individuals in the office who were responsible for motivating staff, whether that’s in an official capacity or just through the force of their personalities. They can still play a role, but for obvious reasons, it’s much harder to reach out to people sitting at home. You’ll need to find other ways of ensuring staff are staying on top of work and having great ideas, and rewards systems help to keep that going.

3. Rewards are more results-based

There’s always a risk with rewards schemes where monthly gifts are handed out that the strongest personalities get the perks more frequently than the equally talented shrinking violets. Popular, sociable people are naturally more likely to get noticed and receive votes – and, it has to be said, might also be more confident when it comes to self-promotion.

Suddenly, the force of character counts for much less. Quietly competent employees might well shine when the spotlight is off the big personalities, and start producing excellent, considered work. They could also prove to be much better at time management when they’re not constrained to the 9–5 lifestyle. Remote working gives you the perfect opportunity to look out for the real stars who are keeping the engine of your business going – and to reward them appropriately.

Things will be back to normal eventually – if you want it

Plenty of businesses have got over the initial shock of the lockdown and social distancing, and have started to reappraise the way they are working.

While nobody would have chosen this tragic pandemic as being the motivator for change, there will undoubtedly be positive repercussions of the way we work. Cities are already reporting plummeting CO2 and NOx levels thanks to the lack of polluting traffic.

Businesses who have talked about reducing their carbon footprints for decades are now being exposed to accusations that they could have cut emissions long ago if they really had had the will. It’s going to be hard to return completely to normal after this.

It’s time to really start looking at how your staff fit into your business in the medium term. It almost certainly won’t be as painful as you think.

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