19 Unique Ways to Motivate Remote Employees in 2021

Home » Resources » Motivate Remote EmployeesUpdated: September 15, 2021

You found our list of creative ways to motivate remote employees.

Remote employee motivation tips are ways to stimulate and inspire virtual team members. For example, virtual parties, online pep rallies, and inspirational quotes. The purpose of these ideas is to boost productivity and employee engagement among work from home staff.

This topic is a companion to remote employee engagement ideas, and is also similar to ways to boost staff morale and solve workplace complacency.

This article contains:

  • motivation ideas to energize a team
  • fun ways to motivate employees remotely
  • ways to motivate remote employees

Here are our best tips and tricks.

List of unique ways to motivate employees

From travel incentive programs to trackerboards, here is a list of creative motivation hacks for remote employees.

1. Employee Engagement Software

Employee engagement software is one of the simplest ways to motivate remote employees. These programs automatically recognize and reward employees with awards like e-gift certificates, digital badges, and special privileges. These applications also offer tools like competitive scoreboards, employee engagement surveys, and analytics. This mix of performance data and positive reinforcement can spur virtual employees to put forth maximum effort. Not to mention, the platform helps telecommuters feel more connected to coworkers and the company culture.

Check out our list of employee engagement platforms.

2. Travel incentive programs

Travel incentive programs are trips and experiences employees can earn by meeting quotas. Companies often use these rewards to spur salespeople to make more sales, however the reward can work for almost any department.

Typically, a program organizer designs a trip for the group or provides a couple of destination options. The best travel incentive programs are unique experiences. Employees will work harder if the prize is unavailable anywhere else, for example a behind-the-scenes tour of a museum or lunch at the CEO’s house.

Examples of corporate travel programs include tours abroad, cruises, and resort weekends. Groups may also stay closer to home, for instance by sampling a local wine trail, white-water rafting a nearby river, or traveling to a neighboring city for a sports game or concert. These programs can also consist of non-travel options such as exclusive parties like movie premieres, or extraordinary experiences such as scuba-diving lessons.

Remote teams have fewer chances to meet with coworkers in-person, making the chance to travel and bond with colleagues extra attractive.

Here is a list of corporate incentive travel programs.

3. Virtual parties

Managers can use parties to reward employees for hard work and outstanding performance. Many holidays coincide with the end of quarters. Also, parties give coworkers the chance to meet, mingle, and relax together. Companies can celebrate wide scale holidays like Halloween and personal occasions like birthdays. These gatherings give employees an event to look forward to. Plus, if managers promise a party for good performance, staff may work harder. Not to mention, parties provide an opportunity for organizations to show appreciation for employees, fostering gratitude that encourages employees to do their best work.

Remote companies can host virtual parties to help employees make merry. To host a virtual party, first choose a video meeting software. Next, start planning fun games and activities to entertain guests during the event. Then, choose a date and time, make a meeting link, and send invitations to employees. When the chosen date arrives, gather together via video call and enjoy the festivities. You can use breakout rooms to facilitate more intimate conversations, and encourage attendees to interact with each other in the chat.

For more party tips, check out this guide to virtual celebrations.

4. Online team building events

A little face-to-face time can serve as a pick-me-up, especially for extroverts who thrive on social interaction. Remote team members get fewer opportunities to socialize with peers. Online team building events serve as a chance for dispersed teams to spend time together, learn more about each other, and enjoy each other’s company.

A lack of camaraderie can contribute to employee turnover, whereas professionals who have friends at work are less likely to experience burnout or switch jobs. Social ties are a powerful motivator. Employees who are close with coworkers often feel a responsibility to the team and go to great lengths to support peers. Not to mention, building a rapport  with colleagues can boost creativity, collaboration, and overall work enjoyment.

To help remote colleagues connect, leaders can coordinate fun online team building events like virtual murder mysteries, remote happy hours, and Zoom Olympics.

Browse more virtual team building activity ideas.

5. Workplace competitions

Workplace competitions are one of the most classic motivation ideas to energize a team. Friendly rivalry prompts hard work and creativity. Plus, having an audience spurs participants to succeed.

Examples of workplace competitions include onboarding the most new clients, closing the highest value sale, making the fewest errors, or doubling creative output. Remote workplace competitions can make work from home team members feel connected to the company and coworkers. Not to mention, contests can ward off work from home slump.

Examples of virtual work competitions include Slack raffles, virtual office Olympics, online hackathons, and remote referral races. To incentivize participation in your competitions, award prizes such as digital gift cards or complimentary meal delivery.

Check out our guide to workplace competitions.

6. Group Pomodoro Sessions

The Pomodoro Method is a time management technique that involves working for 25 minutes straight, followed by a five minute break. To help remote teams focus, hold group pomodoro sessions.

For example, TeamBuilding has a #pomodoro channel on Slack. When sessions are active, a channel leader announces the beginning of each 25 minute work session and five minute break. Teammates respond to these announcements with emojis. Even though participants may not be able to see coworkers hard at work, knowing that the group is doing the challenge together can help remote workers stay on task.

Here is a free pomodoro app you can use.

Many time tracking tools also include Pomodoro timers or similar stopwatches.

7. Online Employee of the Month

Employee of the Month is a classic way to motivate employees. Employee of the month programs show staff that the company regularly recognizes team members. Each month, the company shouts out a team member for extraordinary achievements, positive attitude, teamwork, and over-the-top efforts. These awards tend to be less common in virtual teams than in traditional office settings. However, you can and should celebrate star employees remotely, especially since the nature of virtual work tends to be less visible to coworkers.

There are many ways to announce a work from home employee of the month, for instance in an internal email, blog, social media post, or during an online awards ceremony. You can also pair the honor with fun privileges, such as letting the team member design a page on the company website or choose a fun perk for the team.

For more inspiration, check out this list of employee of the month ideas.

8. Staff Spotlight

Staff spotlights are public shout-outs for awesome employees. These features can appear on internal communications, company blogs, social media accounts, Slack channels, or any other visible medium.

Examples of content ideas for these types of posts include manager or peer quotes about the honoree, lists of achievements, and interviews with the featured employee.

Employee recognition plays an important role in motivation. Knowing that hard work will be noticed, acknowledged, and celebrated drives employees to put forth their best efforts.

Not to mention, praising team members on public forums advertises the organization’s supportive company culture.

9. Daily Check Ins

Regular check ins are an easy way to keep team members on track. Having to provide an update can push employees to finish work on time. These check-ins can take the form of a Slack thread, short Zoom meeting, or a Google Form. The report can be between a manager and employee, or can be visible to the whole team. The point of the exercise is to create a sense of accountability. Remote work is very self-guided and it is easy to get sidetracked.

Employees do not have to write a paragraph or a lengthy report. One or two line answers are enough. The tone can be informal. For instance, posting a short and simple statement like “I made ten sales calls to new customers.” Teammates can respond with emojis and words of encouragement and praise, and this positive feedback can boost productivity even more.

Another bonus to this approach is that it creates a sense of unity and cooperation amongst remote teams. Virtual offices can feel disconnected, and employees may be unaware of what other departments do, or even who works in other departments. Company-wide check-ins can help teammates understand how the company functions as a whole.

If a daily check-in is too frequent, then you could do weekly team check-ins instead. For all-hands check-ins, monthly or quarterly may be a better timeline, however employees can post more often if they need the extra encouragement.

10. Online Pep Rallies

Online pep rallies are one of the most fun ways to motivate employees remotely. Virtual offices often lack the energy of more traditional workspaces. Work from home employees tend to be alone for most of the workday, and Zoom fatigue can take a toll. Remote pep rallies are opportunities for team members to meet up, let off steam, and show company pride. These meetings serve no other purpose beyond giving employees a chance to gather and pump each other up.

You can set a recurring meeting once a week, maybe Monday morning to start the week on a high note, Wednesday afternoon to overcome the midweek slump, or end of day Friday to celebrate the week’s success. Send all teammates a Zoom link. Then, once participants join the meeting, unleash the enthusiasm.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Play upbeat music like “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor
  • Have a dance party
  • Chant a team cheer
  • Give each other a round of applause
  • Dress up in company swag or funny costumes
  • Use video filters and special effects
  • Swap compliments
  • Sing karaoke

For more inspiration, check out our list of virtual spirit week ideas.

11. Inspirational Quotes

Inspirational quotes can deliver short bursts of motivation to remote employees. You can recite these sayings to start or end Zoom meetings, end a group email with a thought-provoking phrase, or post a quote-of-the-day to Slack. Team members can take turns sharing favorite phrases, and you can even chant the sayings as a group mantra.

Browse this list of motivational quotes for work, and these collections of inspiring sayings.

12. Project Autonomy

One of the surest ways to make employees passionate about work is to allow team members to choose tasks that excite them. Letting team members pick their own projects ensures that employees choose work they want to work on. Genuine interest is one of the most effective employee motivators. Outside inspiration is unnecessary when team members work on projects and problems that matter to them. While it is not always possible for leaders to give employees free reign over assignments, managers can at least give teammates enough space to choose how to tackle tasks most effectively. This approach results in higher levels of confidence and greater feelings of fulfillment for the team member.

13. One-on-one time with the CEO

CEOs have hectic schedules, and rarely have time to meet one-on-one with employees. Run-ins with higher management are even rarer in remote offices. Team members may go weeks without seeing or hearing from teammates, nevermind the head of the company. Getting personal time with the head honcho is an honor and a treat.

You can incentivize employees to reach goals by offering time with the CEO, president, or a similarly high ranking officer as a reward. These meetings might take the form of a brainstorming session, a remote lunch, a video game match, or a casual video chat.

These one-on-ones are networking opportunities, and make staff feel heard and valued. For tips on how to structure these types of meetings, check out this guide to virtual one on ones.

14. Digital Buddies

Sometimes, the best motivator for employees is another teammate. Launching a digital buddy program promotes accountability and fosters camaraderie in remote offices. First, managers pair up teammates. Those partners then meet periodically via video call or chat to check in, chat, bounce ideas off of each other, provide updates, and cheer each other on. These meetings help staff develop rapport with colleagues and encourage team members to finish assignments on time.

Here is a guide to virtual coffee breaks to structure these meetups.

15. Employee Monitoring Software

Working from home involves strong self-discipline. With no coworkers or managers looking over your shoulder, getting distracted is easy, and slacking off can be tempting. Employee monitoring software can structure the workday and keep team members accountable.

This software uses features like random screenshots, keyboard watchers, and automatic alerts to monitor workflows and encourage good time management. These programs are not about catching employees loafing as much as they are valuable tools that help keep staff on task.

For example, RescueTime is a platform that aims to help employees develop more effective work habits. The program praises employees for working without interruptions, and steers staff back to work when team members become idle. Users can even blacklist time-wasting websites to motivate themselves to give full attention to the task at hand.

Check out this complete list of employee monitoring tools.

16. Remote Co-working

Some workers find it easier to stay on task when surrounded by peers. Remote coworking brings groups together for focused work sessions. These gatherings can take place in a few different ways:

  1. Participants meet via Zoom call and work on webcam for an hour or two.
  2. Attendees log into online work platforms at the same time and commit to working continuously for the duration of the session. Any communication takes place via instant messaging.
  3. Teammates rent space at the coworking space and work in the same building for the day, or meet up at a coffee shop.

Participants can either work silently during the session, or talk and listen to music– perhaps a playlist made for the occasion. Organizers can structure these meetings by asking participants to work on certain projects or discuss specific topics. Or the calls can take on a study-hall format and attendees can work or socialize naturally.

Remote coworking can lead to better brainstorming and renewed relationships. Not to mention, having a handful of spectators and a cheerleading squad can help employees who struggle to meet deadlines while working solo.

Here is a guide to coworking.

17. Online Awards Shows

Online Awards Shows are a form of employee recognition for remote workers. While many team members work regardless of rewards, a pat on the back is nice every now and then. Awards give employees standards to aspire to, and awards ceremonies are opportunities for virtual coworkers to meet up, spend time together, and praise each other, and have fun.

At these events, managers can give out conventional awards such as “rookie of the year,” “team player,” or “top performer,” as well as more eccentric honors such as “Zoom meeting zen master,” or “most likely to respond to your email immediately.”

To host an online awards show:

  1. Decide categories
  2. Collect nominations and cast votes
  3. Recruit judges to make final decisions if necessary
  4. Choose a video conference software and make a meeting link
  5. Invite team members to the ceremony
  6. Gather on the call and celebrate together
  7. Send prizes to the winners post-event

To make the show more engaging, organizers can encourage a black tie dress code, ask attendees to display thematic virtual backgrounds, and permit employees to expense a meal.

Post-show, hosts can send prizes to the winners, such as certificates, email gift cards, and trophies. Leaders can also encourage attendees to send congratulations and kind words to these peers.

18. Remote trackerboards

Tracker boards can be a powerful tool for employee motivation. Publicizing performance can encourage team members to meet and exceed goals, as nobody wants to fall short in front of an audience or lag behind peers. Plus, these trackers can inspire friendly rivalry between colleagues with competitive streaks. Not to mention, team scorecards make wins more visible, making it easier for peers to praise each other.

To make a remote tracker board, build out a scorecard in a spreadsheet platform like Google Sheets. Be sure to include team members’ names on one axis, and tasks or categories on the other. When the document is complete, share it with the team. Then, measure team performance for a set amount of time, such as the length of a contest, a month, or a quarter.

The point of these tracker boards should not be to shame under-performers, but rather to celebrate wins as a group and identify opportunities to support each other.

19. Care Packages

Care packages are a fun way to boost virtual worker motivation. Getting goodies in the mail brightens team members’ days, fosters gratitude, and inspires goodwill and loyalty. These presents signal that the organization and managers care about employees, and move employees to return the favor by putting in extra effort.

Care packages can contain items like snacks, mugs, stationery, plants, or games. For more ideas, check out this guide to awesome employee gifts.

Conclusion

Working from home takes high levels of self-discipline and motivation. Regardless, virtual managers have a responsibility to keep employees on track and engaged. Telecommuters can easily get sidetracked or disconnected, and diligent leaders can prevent distant team members from experiencing burnout or distraction. Clever remote motivation techniques help employees get excited about going to work every day, even if the commute is as short as the work from the bedroom to the living room.

Next, check out this list of workplace trends and this one on how to cure work from home fatigue.

FAQ: Ways to motivate employees

Here are answers to common questions about ways to motivate employees.

What are some unique ways to motivate employees on remote teams?

Some unique ways to motivate employees on remote teams include group Pomodoro sessions, online pep rallies, virtual coworking, and care packages.

How do you motivate work from home employees?

One of the best ways to motivate work from home employees is to connect these team members meaningfully with the rest of the team. Loneliness and a sense of isolation can be a demotivator in remote offices. However, cultivating an active community can help employees feel more accountable and productive.

Other methods for motivating remote employees include project autonomy, remote trackerboards, and workplace competitions.

Why is it important for managers to motivate remote employees?

It is important for managers to motivate remote employees because many work from home team members struggle to maintain self-discipline and consistent workflows. Motivation techniques ensure employees that their efforts are seen and appreciated by the company at large, and help team members to build healthier and more productive work habits.

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Author: Angela Robinson

Team building content expert. Angela has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and worked as a community manager with Yelp to plan events for businesses.

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