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3 Essential Tips for Motivating Your Team: Work From Home Edition

You’re probably already well aware that your staff is the lifeblood of your business. They work diligently and consistently toward your collective success, they’re there to help you brainstorm new ideas, and get you through those dreaded creative slumps.

Unfortunately, the global pandemic has put a major strain on nearly every company’s staff force, and yours is likely included in the list. Your team members might still be feeling demotivated and burnt out after many months of working in isolation and being anxious about the future.

Your job as a business owner, team manager, or personal relations specialist is to provide the motivation your remote team needs to get through these dire times. You need to inspire them to stay productive while looking after themselves and prioritizing their own health and well-being. 

Need a place to start? Here are our 3 essential tips for encouraging, motivating, and engaging your team to boost employee motivation and employee engagement.


1. Develop a Cross-Company Rewards System

Everyone loves rewards. They’re a fantastic source of motivation, along with an effective incentive to keep your team’s spirits high.

There are two main types of rewards you can use to motivate your team: intrinsic and extrinsic.

An intrinsic reward is an offering or gift with no tangible, physical presence, like a compliment or recognition for excellent contributions. Extrinsic rewards, on the other hand, are tangible items such as bonuses, trophies, plaques, or ‘Employee of the Month’ badges.

Both types of rewards can help to boost office morale and keep your staff motivated—but the true magic happens when you combine them. If you’re trying to figure out which type of reward would best suit your team, you need to take a closer look at the kinds of goals they’re aiming to achieve.

The Right Time for Intrinsic Rewards

Intrinsic rewards are best suited for acknowledging ‘immeasurable’ or subjective goals. They have a more powerful and longer-lived effect on your team’s attitude than extrinsic rewards do. If you plan on making a long-term positive impact on your team and encouraging certain actions or beliefs, intrinsic perks are your bet best.

There are so many ways to use this reward type to motivate your staff force. Recognizing their strengths, efforts, and achievements is quick, simple, cost-effective, and one of the best possible ways you can go about ensuring your staff remains loyal to your organization.

Intrinsic rewards can include employee of the month accolades, regular shout-outs, or even one-on-one meetings between employees and supervisors. In these meetings, contributions are praised and encouraged.

Regardless of how you reward your employees, remember to make sure your approach is inclusive and sensitive to their needs, expectations, and personal beliefs. Take time to figure out what inspires each of your workers so you can reward them in a way that engages and makes them feel appreciated and respected.

The Right Time for Extrinsic Rewards

You should ideally offer extrinsic rewards when there’s an obvious and measurable goal your team is trying to reach. You can use close monitoring and reporting to determine whether or not the team has hit its goal, and then reward them as you see fit.

It’s also recommended that you add a time frame to your extrinsic reward goals. This gives your team the incentives they need to work harder and quicker towards the objective at hand. 

Moreover, it’s useful to create a hierarchy of company rewards. This allows you to offer predetermined rewards that match the amount of work your team puts in within a given time frame. If you give your staff force a major goal to achieve, make sure the prize is tempting enough to incentivize them to work towards it in good time.

You can offer smaller rewards, such as advanced paychecks, for workers achieving more minor goals. Even the simplest of offerings can motivate workers to accomplish easy feats like accurately reporting their hours, or submitting documents by specific deadlines.

Reserve larger, juicier rewards like gift cards and annual bonuses for notable achievements like boosting sales by a certain figure, or significantly improving production rates to a preset level. We recommend breaking down major goals into smaller objectives, each with its own small reward, for motivating employees and adding employee engagement throughout the process to keep team members on track.

2. Introduce Workplace Gamification

‘Gamification’ has become a huge buzzword in recent years. This movement has the power to motivate employees, students, online learners, and virtually everyone in between.

But what exactly IS gamification, and how does it fit into working from home?

Simply put, gamification is a method of motivation companies use to boost employee satisfaction, productivity, and employee efficiency. The method involves implementing game-based features into daily tasks to make work more fun and more immersive for all involved.

When you incorporate this element of competition into your company’s day-to-day operations, you can encourage your team to learn new skills rapidly, and apply them creatively in a fun work environment.

You can start adopting this approach by developing a training program packed with badges, rewards, leaderboards, and measured achievements for completing individual learning modules. You can even allow your staff members to compete with one another, or with different departments within your business. You can also use gamification and competition to motivate your departments individually, even when they’re working from home.

3. Offer Regular and Honest Feedback

It’s essential to give your employees regular and transparent feedback if you want to keep them motivated. Clear communication helps to build an awesome work-from-home culture that strengthens the team. Regardless of whether your feedback is positive, negative, or constructive, being honest will allow each of your workers to grow, both personally and professionally.

If you don’t provide enough feedback, your team members will never be sure of which aspects of their work ethic need attention, and which areas they’re performing exceptionally in.

Positive feedback is obviously the easiest type to offer. However, you need to make your compliments specific for them to really hit home. If you don’t, they may seem generic or insincere. Chat to your workers about specific actions and behaviors you appreciate, and explain exactly why they were the right choices to make.

It’s helpful to focus on how their actions benefit your company and align with its ethos. Once you explain your positive feedback at length to your team members, they’ll understand why it’s important for them to continue those actions in the future.

It can, of course, be harder to deliver negative feedback. As difficult as it is to accept, poor feedback can often be a more powerful motivator than upbeat praise. Using the ‘sandwich approach’ is the trick to turning negative feedback into a motivating force.

This approach involves offering a compliment, then criticism, then another compliment in that order. When you do broach your criticism, offer it in a neutral way, and use facts and a few specific incidents to back up your claims. 

At the end of the day, you should keep your focus on your team member’s performance and the steps they can take to improve it. Give them time to offer their own feedback on your criticisms too. Doing so will allow your staff members a chance to voice their own thoughts and opinions and have them heard and validated.

The Bottom Line

It takes empathy and creativity in equal measures to motivate your team when they’re working from home. While remote work comes with some pros, it has its cons too. Your team could be battling with personal issues, anxious about the future, or suffering from workload-related stress. Remember to be kind and willing to listen to their concerns.

Thankfully, there are so many ways to increase employee motivation, even during trying times. Try using gamification, rewards systems, and honest feedback to engage your employees and boost their job satisfaction, every day of the week.

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Picture of Dr. Scott Dust

Dr. Scott Dust

Scott Dust, Ph.D. is the Chief Research Officer at Cloverleaf, an HR-tech platform that facilitates coaching for everyone. Dr. Dust is also a Raymond E. Glos Associate Professor at the Farmer School of Business, Miami University. His research focuses on leadership and teams and has been published in over 30 peer-reviewed academic journals. Dr. Dust is also on the editorial review board of three journals, including the Journal of Organizational Behavior, Group and Organization Management, and the Journal of Social Psychology. He is a regular contributor to Fast Company and has a blog column at Psychology Today.