Business Leadership Today

Four Effective Motivational Techniques for Remote Employees: A Manager’s Guide


Matt Tenney, Author of Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process

Four Effective Motivational Techniques for Remote Employees: A Manager’s Guide

Between 2019 and 2021, the number of people primarily working from home increased from 5.7% (roughly 9 million people) to 17.9% (27.6 million people). 

While flexible work options took off in a big way during the pandemic, the trend started long before the pandemic. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of occasional remote workers increased from 9.2 million to 13.4 million between 2000 and 2010. 

Now, many companies are demanding their employees return to the office. But workers aren’t so enthusiastic about returning to an on-site work environment. 

As it turns out, workers really like the flexibility. According to a 2021 Jabra report on hybrid work, 59% of survey respondents said flexibility is more important to them than salary or other benefits, and 75% said they’d rather work for a company that gives them the flexibility to work from anywhere.

Some leaders are concerned that, without a manager looking over their shoulder all day, workers won’t be productive. Or that Zoom meetings can’t replicate the positive effects of face-to-face interactions and in-person collaboration. 

Remote work isn’t for every worker, but many workers can thrive in a remote environment. To thrive in a remote work environment, employees have to adapt to a less hands-on management approach and still stay productive. Similarly, their direct supervisors also have to adapt their management style to a remote work environment where employees have more autonomy.

Leaders have to remember that employee motivation is still a key factor in performance for remote workers. While working remotely can make keeping employee motivation high a bit more challenging in some cases, some tried-and-true techniques can keep workers motivated consistently (yes, even remote workers).

Some motivational techniques for remote employees include fostering trust and meaningful connections, equipping them with the tools they need to work autonomously, maintaining strong communication, and recognizing their achievements and contributions.

In this article, I’ll provide some insight into the best techniques that managers can use to keep employees motivated and consistently producing great work while working remotely.

Why Is It Important for Managers To Keep Their Employees Motivated?

Employee motivation plays a crucial role in performance and goal achievement. Motivated employees are more aligned with the organization’s vision, which makes them more committed to helping achieve it. As a result, they are more productive, happier at work, better collaborators, and more likely to stay with the organization. 

Motivated employees are also less risk-averse, so they are more likely to take on new challenges, learn new skills, and go the extra mile for customers, making the team better at everything from innovation to customer service.

Their commitment and positive attitude toward their roles can also make them better, more supportive co-workers, which can make the work environment more positive for all team members and even reduce absenteeism.

Why Is It Important for Managers To Keep Their Employees Motivated?

What Are Some Techniques to Keep Remote Employees Motivated?

Leaders who want to keep remote employees motivated should be mindful of how they are building team cohesion and supporting employees when the team is operating outside of the traditional on-site office environment. To keep remote employees motivated, techniques that support a positive employee experience and a strong sense of belonging are essential. 

1. Foster Trust and Meaningful Connections

Trust improves communication, which, in turn, improves transparency, clarity of expectations, and performance, all of which help to reduce the anxiety that workers develop (and that can cause them to leave) when communication breaks down or during difficult times when they need to be reassured about where the company is headed and reminded of the vision.

Compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies experience the following:

  • 74% less stress
  • 106% more energy at work
  • 50% higher productivity
  • 13% fewer sick days
  • 76% more engagement
  • 29% more satisfaction with their lives
  • 40% less burnout

One of the main ways to build trust is to ensure the work environment, whether it is virtual or an on-site office, is psychologically safe for all employees. Psychological safety is necessary for building a sense of belonging at work, and it helps team members trust each other and forge meaningful relationships that supercharge collaborative efforts. 

2. Give Employees the Tools They Need To Work with Autonomy

Equipping your employees with the tools they need to work with autonomy is just as important as giving them autonomy. This means not only trusting employees to work autonomously but also providing them with the technology and support they need to work with autonomy and empowering them in ways that build confidence. 

To produce high-quality work, avoid delays that can cause setbacks, and avoid unnecessary stress, all workers need access to the right technological tools to do their jobs. This one may seem like a no-brainer, but when it is overlooked, it can cause serious productivity issues for remote workers and create confusion around expectations. 

One of the most important tools employees need to work with autonomy is empowerment. I recently sat down with Dr. Wanda T. Wallace, author of You Can’t Know It All: Leading in the Age of Deep Expertise, and talked about how empowerment helps employees build confidence in their abilities and allows them to learn for themselves and better understand the purpose of tasks:

YouTube video

3. Maintain a Strong System of Communication                                                     

Clear communication is one of the most important tools to equip remote workers with. Frequent, transparent, and respectful communication can promote trust and provide clarity for remote employees, creating a culture of improvement through frequent feedback between employees and leadership. 

When employees are unsure about what is expected of them in their roles, it creates a situation where they experience daily conflict about their duties and responsibilities, which can raise stress levels and erode confidence. It will almost certainly hurt performance. 

To feel confident in their roles and motivated to perform well, employees need to know what is expected of them. Clearly communicating expectations through regular feedback can be a great way to clarify job duties and keep employees on track. It can also let them know what they are doing right and what they could be doing better.

4. Recognize Employee Contributions and Achievements

Acknowledging and celebrating the hard work, achievements, and successes of employees lets them know they are valued and the work they do has an impact. Recognition builds trust, boosts team morale, increases employee retention and loyalty, and improves performance.

In a remote work environment, recognition can be a particularly useful tool for improving motivation because it shows employees that, even though they are not getting face time with leadership in an office every day, the work they do is seen and appreciated. 

According to research, 69% of employees say they’d work harder if their efforts were recognized at their workplace. When employees’ contributions are recognized, they are up to 10 times more likely to strongly agree that they belong with the organization, and 80% of employees report being more productive when recognition and rewards are utilized to motivate them.

Matt Tenney has been working to help organizations develop leaders who improve employee engagement and performance since 2012. He is the author of three leadership books, including the groundbreaking, highly acclaimed book Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process.

Matt’s ideas have been featured in major media outlets and his clients include numerous national associations and Fortune 500 companies.

He is often invited to deliver keynote speeches at conferences and leadership meetings, and is known for delivering valuable, actionable insights in a way that is memorable and deeply inspiring.

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