Remotely Recognized - January 2022

Remotely Recognized - January 2022

First things first: To those who do not have the option to work remotely because your work is hands on – you who are giving, caring, providing, healing, and feeding – thank you seems inadequate for how you continue to quite literally put your lives on the line for all of us. How we re-recruit and retain you in the future deserves its own space, but read on…

For those who can do their jobs from home, this genie isn’t going back in the bottle, and many leaders are not innately comfortable with this. How will you attract and keep the best and brightest in a changed workplace?

Key Point 1: The fundamental principles of recognition and engagement have not changed.
My RWHC colleague, Cella Janisch-Hartline, brainstormed with me to list best ideas for showing appreciation of remote employees. Most of what we came up with applies no matter where someone works:

  1. Be intentional about appreciation. Know that it is in your duties as assigned if you want to keep people. Give it thought and effort.
  2. Hand write appreciation notes and mail them to employees’ homes.
  3. Delegate the facilitation of a team ice breaker for staff meetings so that everyone takes a turn. Cella has great ideas for this!
  4. Invite your team to read about Appreciation Language in the workplace, take the assessment and share their results with each other in a team or supervisory discussion.
  5. Ask each person to share something they value about the team in a round robin.
  6. Collect pictures of everyone, especially in bigger departments, and post on your intranet.
  7. Invite people to share what they appreciate about themselves.

Key Point 2: Leaders may need to grapple with the issues of trust and control.
I invited another colleague, AHEC Program Manager, Katie Freeman, to share what has made working remotely work for her and her family since the beginning of the pandemic. While Katie said she was initially concerned about missing out on the social and team aspects of the workplace, remote work has been successful. She directly credits her manager who makes room for releasing control and trusting in her:

Flexibility in hours: Generally I am at my computer during normal business hours, but I have the freedom to be a bit flexible as needed without feeling like I am going to get in trouble if I don’t immediately respond to a message.”

Leaders: Can you let go of some control?

  • Look for opportunities to flex if the time something is done is not as critical as what is done.
  • Don’t run with stories in your head if you can’t immediately reach someone or get an instant response.
  • Assume the best about your employees.
  • Be clear if certain “time in seat” is necessary, but check in with yourself about why. Is it just because that’s when you are in your seat, and if so, is that reason enough? Push back on your old beliefs with, “Is this really true, necessary, or value added?”

Trust: I have heard one of the concerns businesses have about their employees working from home is that with no one watching them, they won’t actually be working. I think it is important for a supervisor to look at the quality of the work produced and not worry so much about how much of the day the employee was in their chair. I feel trusted to complete the tasks of my role, and I think that goes a long way in the satisfaction of my job.”

Leaders: Can you allow yourself to trust people?

  • Be clear about work results and deadlines.
  • Have discussions about what does “done well” look like so that both of you know the answer.
  • Let go of worrying that an employee will pause work to throw in a load of laundry. If the “done well” is met, SO WHAT? If it is not, go back to the first bullet point.
  • Be transparent about trust. Try starters such as, “Here are some signs that I might be concerned about productivity,” or “How would I know you were struggling to keep on track?”

More ideas from Katie and Cella:

  • Ask remote employees, “What is one thing you miss about being in person? What is one thing that you enjoy about remote?”
  • Hold regular team meetings. Include updates on what people are working on, but also carve out time to connect personally. A little more time for socialization makes up for what would in person be grabbing a coffee together and is not wasted time.
  • Don’t cancel regular one-on-one supervision. Where in person you might emphasize meeting only with specific agenda items, with remote meet either way and use low agenda meetings to connect.
  • Consider business collaboration software like Slack to keep in touch throughout the day and to communicate by project.
  • Be patient with real life interruptions. For employees working from home there will be something going on in the background with a kid, pet, spouse, roommate, etc. The upside of this is a window to the real person, a space for empathy and relating that we would miss without it.


Jo Anne Preston In Jo Anne's current role as Organizational and Workforce Development Senior Manager at the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative (RWHC) her aim is to offer to leaders straightforward tools and inspire the courage to use them.
Leading The Way In Five Mintues A Day

Lead the Way in Five Minutes A Day: Sparking High Performance in Yourself and Your Team, by Jo Anne Preston is currently available for purchase.

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