by Roy Saunderson | June 06, 2011
Many companies have been growing their telecommuters and virtual staffs. With social networking, instant messaging, webinars, Skype now accepted as business tools, remote teams have grown. Shama Kabani, president of the Marketing Zen Group, believes companies will get more from their workers when they permit telecommuting part time or full time. Kabani, who launched a digital media marketing agency two years ago, now has 27 full-time virtual employees across the globe. She stresses that for remote workers, out of “site” should never mean out of mind. Below are her top 10 tips on how to recognize your remote workers and keep them motivated daily, weekly, and monthly.

1. Weekly recognition. Whether you have a weekly conference call or make a companywide e-mail announcement every week, make sure you recognize an employee (or department) of the week. This gives your employees continuous recognition and goals for which to strive. Your managers should have programs for praising exemplary work and allowing them to share specific performance examples.

2. Monthly face-to-face sessions. Webconferencing your virtual employees together will give them a tremendous boost! Even better, invite the team to the office once per month for a face-to-face meeting. The ROI is worth the effort.

3. Teambuild face-to-face and virtually. Have focused brainstorming and exchanges of ideas when team members are together physically. You can teambuild virtually, too, so have brainstorming sessions in your monthly calls. In-person challenge courses, bonding activities, and group time will bring individuals together, giving them a feel for each other and building their mutual trust.

4. Daily updates via Skype. Try to incorporate a “check-in” meeting via Skype every day or every two days, as a communication tool. Establish a friendly, trusting space where group members can chat and share both exciting work- and non-work-related updates.

5. Birthday celebrations. Obviously, companies that have many virtual workers can't always celebrate employee birthdays with cake and song, so Kabani says recognize employees by giving them a paid day off on their birthdays (or another day of their choosing).

6. “Attaboy” all the way. Being virtual isn't a gift; it is a work style for productive professionals. Don't let employees confuse working from home as being paid to stay home. Whether by phone, Skype, e-mail, or tweet, thank your employees and teams as things happen, ideas are proposed, and deliverables are executed, in order to keep their work top of mind. A simple "Great job with that proposal" can be the difference between productivity and languishment!

7. Handwritten thank-you notes. In a world filled with links, status updates, posts, and tweets, receiving an old-fashioned, handwritten note is refreshing and has the potential to boost morale.

8. Know the cultures of your workers. Often, remote workers are located across many time zones and even countries. Having a diverse, multinational workforce means a multitude of customs, traditions, and holidays. If there is a death, sending flowers in one culture may be inappropriate in another. Learn what to do before you do it.

9. Know what holidays your employees celebrate. Holidays are derived from "holy days" for a reason, so keep a calendar with every holiday and employee name next to it to keep yourself on track! Never schedule meetings on those days.

10. Plan regular telephone calls. Kabani knows that remote workers have the advantage of work time that’s free of office distractions. However, the lack of connection with others can take its toll. Make time to connect to your virtual employees by phone on a regular basis to see how they are doing.

Incentive columnist Roy Saunderson is author of Giving the Recognition Way and president of the Recognition Management Institute,, which consults companies on improving employee motivation that leads to increased productivity and profit. He can be reached at [email protected] Also, tune in every Tuesday to his radio show, Real Recognition Radio