May 9, 2020

5 tips for giving appreciation remotely

This post is based on content from remotify.work’s self-paced course for remote teams and team-leaders. The course is delivered in bite-sized chunks by Intao’s digital mentor.

Click here to find out more.

When working apart from your team-mates, opportunities to show appreciation to them can be hard to come by.  You may notice that, although you feel grateful, you often don't get to say so.  You may also feel uncertain, in return, that your team-mates value your contribution.

Cold, hard facts!

Researchers have measured the effect of recognising effort and appreciation within teams.  In one experiment, participants performed a repetitive task, processing paper documents.  For each paper processed, they would receive payment.  When participants finished processing one, they submitted it to a supervisor.

Secretly, the researchers had placed each participant into one of three groups.  Depending on their group, one of three things would happen to processed papers.  For some participants, the supervisor would look at the participant, look at the document and file it.  For a second group, the supervisor would file the document without acknowledging the participant.  For a third group, the supervisor would, without looking at all, feed the paper into a shredder!

Unsurprisingly, participants who were acknowledged with a look from the supervisor stuck with the task longer and submitted more papers than participants in the other two groups.  The surprising result was that there was no difference between the other two groups.  Not acknowledging the participant when filing their work was the same as shredding their work without looking at it!

Opportunities to show appreciation have to be made

If your team is to achieve its full potential, then keeping up motivation levels in the group is everyone's job.  Finding ways to make it easy to recognise team-mates' effort and show appreciation of their positive qualities is essential.  No one is asking you to be insincere.  It's not the praise that has to be manufactured, but the opportunity to give it.  What can you do to make it more natural in your team?

5 tips for giving appreciation remotely

A thank-you coffee is not an option in a distributed team,  so how can you show appreciation virtually?

1. Not later!  Now!

Opportunities to give appreciation crop up on the spur of the moment.  No matter how much you promise yourself, you'll 'do it soon' or 'make sure to mention it next time we talk', most people find it hard to keep that promise.

Recognition is more powerful when it's received soon after the event that inspired your gratitude.  In that moment, you can be more specific about what you appreciate, and your team-mate will more easily understand what you're grateful for.

Informal, personal touches in your message of thanks make a big difference too.

So how can you make showing spontaneous, informal and personalised appreciation easier?

2. Add a personal touch

Re-using some of your existing communication tools is possible, but might need you to rethink your normal behaviour.  For example, if you usually write pretty formal emails, it might seem unnatural so send a one-line message saying, "I got the files.  Thanks for being so quick!".  Try it anyway!

If you're using a chat service like Slack already, then consider adding a tool like Giphy to spice up messages with animated images that add warmth and humour to your words.

You may not be a natural with emoji. Still, many teams gradually experience the emergence of a personalised sub-culture of meaning for the graphic symbols, making messages more expressive and meaningful.

3. Hijack reviewing tools

Computerised tools often encourage us only to note where we want to see changes and improvements.  If you use collaboration tools like Google Docs or Office 365, you can use reviewers' tools to add positive comments into documents as you're reading drafts.  Show appreciation as you might if the author was talking you through the material themselves.

4. Go the extra mile

On occasions where a quick note is not enough, making a video, sending an online greeting card or arranging a gift or treat to be sent can make someone's month.  Knowing that thought and effort has gone into a thank-you multiplies its effect massively.

5. Go public!

Some tools have features that allow giving recognition publicly.  Not everyone likes to be in the limelight though.  Revising your Team Agreement together gives the team a chance to discuss people's preferences.

Slack has plugins like HeyTaco, but if the tools you're using every day don't provide an easy way to make spontaneous, positive comments, consider using a service that is specialised to the task.

LinkedIn has a particular type of post you can create to show appreciation on a public stage outside the bounds of your company.  Twitter and other social media are options, too, if you want everyone in your colleague's network to see their contact is valued.

Find your team's way

What's natural for your team is something that you will need to discover.  Get the conversation started at the next opportunity!

This post is based on content from remotify.work’s self-paced course for remote teams and team-leaders. The course is delivered in bite-sized chunks by Intao’s digital mentor.

Click here to find out more.

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