18 October 2022

Dilemma of motivating remote workers: what can leaders do?

Despite 60% of remote workers preferring hybrid work arrangements to fully returning to the offices, the isolation that comes with the work-at-home model might eventually result in decreased motivation. As 40% of employees state they would consider switching jobs within the next three to six months, companies are changing their approach toward motivating them to stay. 

However, when it comes to remote workers, the motivational means have gradually changed over time. For instance, financial benefits are no longer the driving force to stay in their jobs as people seek incentives that would fulfill their psychological needs, like mental health support. 

Personal care and alternative benefit packages listed as great motivators 

Business experts share several means to motivate remote workers, such as digital collaboration tools, eliminating micromanaging to build trust, appreciating accomplishments, daily team calls, and others. 

“What remote leaders have to understand is that the employees’ motivation relies heavily on their actions and attitude towards them. People who had decreased motivation before going fully remote are likely to be even less motivated right now, so this means that leaders have to nurture personal connections with each employee,” Ms. Diana Blažaitienė, remote work expert and founder of Soprana Personnel International, a recruitment and personnel rent solutions agency, said. “The problem does not start when it is evident for everybody to see, it starts way before that.”

She points out that the best strategy to propel motivation within a team is to ask employees what it is that makes them work in the company. “Financial gain is a poor motivator because it incentivizes for a short period before becoming the norm. For example, IT companies that used to hand out brand new phones to motivate employees are now finding that this strategy is not long-term and people value one-on-one time with leaders, the management style that aligns with their morals and principles, and honest care about their well-being so much more than expensive things. The trick is to make the remote team feel special and, most importantly, fully supported from the get-go,” the expert added.

Ms. Blažaitienė names company-wide initiatives like inspiration days—paid days to do what inspires and recharges the employee the most, paid time for mental health strengthening, personalized gifts for Christmas or other celebrations together with empathetic management style and constant emotional support as other highly motivating tools. 

Repercussions of employee non-motivation

While it is up to remote leaders to find out what motivates each team member and put this knowledge to practical use, the consequences of discouraged employees might be dire.

“When a person loses their motivation to put in the effort and does not feel like they have formed valuable personal connections with colleagues or managers, they have no qualms about pursuing other jobs, quiet quitting, or even worse, ghosting the current employer,” Ms. Blažaitienė commented. “The fight for qualified workers is still in full force throughout many industries, so companies cannot really afford losing talent.”

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