- More than one-third of remote workers prefer to be rewarded with written or oral words of affirmation, as does nearly half of the general employee population, according to a new study, the Motivating by Appreciation Inventory. Responses from 130,000 employees from across the U.S. revealed the differences in reward preferences between on- and off-site workers. The study's author, Paul White, Ph.D., workplace relationship psychologist and business consultant, said that a new challenge for employers is finding appropriate ways to show remote workers appreciation.
- White spent four years gathering data on the connection between motivation and perceived appreciation among workers, especially as it relates to remote workers. The study found that words of affirmation topped the list of preferences for both fully remote workers and onsite staff, followed by quality time (35% and 25%, respectively); acts of service (19% and 22%); and tangible gifts (7% and 6%).
- White said the most important lesson from the findings was that employers must be more proactive about finding the most effective communication of appreciation for remote workers. And that may require noting another study finding: remote workers demonstrated a desire for more contact with other workers by video, as opposed to email, text or phone.
More employees are working remotely, a shift that has created more than a few challenges for employers. Zoe Harte, senior VP of HR and talent innovation at Upwork, previously told HR Dive that the difficulty in finding talent in a tight labor market accounts for some of the rise in remote work. Employers are "casting a wider net," and workers with in-demand skills have more leverage, increasing the possibility that more hires will be remote workers.
One of the bigger struggles for employers, as mentioned by the study, is ensuring remote workers are as engaged as their onsite counterparts. While nearly three out of four workers would leave their current job for one offering remote work, a Softchoice study revealed, not all employees prefer such arrangements to working in an office.
Not every job lends itself to remote work, either. But employers that can shift work to a remote position may need to install a clear remote work policy. Employment experts say policies should:
- Be fair and uniform, which means deciding what positions are eligible and ensuring that all managers are on board.
- Be clear and transparent.
- Specify the tools remote workers will need to perform their jobs.
- Determine how remote workers will interact with on-site staff.
- Be flexible, which might mean starting with a pilot program or asking current remote workers what they would want in a policy, what's working and what needs changing.
Additionally, remote work is increasingly becoming a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The 6th Circuit, earlier this year, upheld a lower court’s ruling that an employee's request to work from home after a surgical procedure requiring 10 weeks of moderate bed rest was reasonable. While employers aren't obligated to offer employees remote work opportunities, the ADA requires accommodations for workers with disabilities, and that might mean making exceptions to remote work policies.