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The importance of rewards and incentives for decentralized workforces

Posted on 9 January 2023
Read time 3 mins
Author Sophia 🌱

Attitudes to remote working have changed significantly since the start of the pandemic. At its height, more than three-quarters (88%) of businesses encouraged or enforced that their staff works remotely. In many instances, these measures were designed to be temporary, but the figures two years on show a clear shift towards remote working on a more permanent basis. 

In our post-pandemic world, fully remote working and hybrid remote models are now the new norms for many businesses, producing new challenges for employers and altering the priorities of employees. 


Keeping motivation high in remote teams for enhanced productivity 

Incentives and rewards have an essential but non-exclusive role to play in managing and motivating remote teams, especially in the longer term.

Motivation in remote teams declines with time 


Although 62% of managers and 64% of employees surveyed by the IRF believed they are most productive when working hybrid or entirely remotely, a five-year global survey by Vega Factor clearly showed that motivation in their participating remote teams dropped significantly over time. This progressive decline in team motivation was especially apparent amongst those working remotely against their preferences but was evident even in those remote working by choice.

Many businesses that took up remote working or adopted a hybrid remote policy during the pandemic may have yet to experience the motivational challenges associated with long-term remote working, making it even more important that they implement an effective rewards and incentives program before they start to see a decline in productivity. 


The use of cash and non-cash incentives and their efficiency for remote employees

Respondents in the IRF’s survey ranked: compensation, work environment, and tangible incentives/rewards as the most likely to increase their engagement and improve employee retention. 

Employees listed cash and gift cards as their most desirable options among tangible rewards. In contrast, employees listed autonomy, exciting work, growth opportunities, and recognition as their most desirable intangible incentives. 

Learn more:
The psychology behind spending gift cards over cash


Despite not meeting in person, one-to-one appreciation from a direct line manager was still listed as the most potent form of recognition by remote employees making a personalized non-cash gift card given to an employee by their manager a compelling reward and incentive. 


Demand for remote working by employees remains high

While the pandemic may be behind us, there is still high demand for remote and hybrid remote opportunities. In fact, 37.5% of employees and 39% of managers surveyed by the IRF said they’d like to spend more time working remotely than they are currently allowed, and 3.7 came out as the ideal number of work-from-home days per week. 

35% of 25-44-year-olds would leave their current job if they couldn't work remotely



While businesses could choose to return to an office-based working policy, they do so at the risk of losing their existing talent because many have become accustomed to the flexibility and lifestyle associated with working from home. 

A massive 35% of 25-44-year-olds and 40% of women surveyed by the IRF said they’d leave their current job if they weren’t given adequate remote working hours. And this sentiment was also echoed in recent research by KPMG, which found that 55% of organizations were looking at implementing an international remote working policy for employee retention and talent acquisition-related reasons rather than external or business-related factors. 


Rewards, recognition, and incentives must be adapted for remote teams

The challenges faced by managers of remote employees and the primary concerns of these decentralized teams differ substantially from those in traditional office environments. The IRF found that 98% of managers had concerns about remote working, with isolation, communications challenges, and reduced exchange of ideas and information being the most common concerns of both managers and employees.

In a paper published in the Journal of Industrial Marketing Management in May 2020, researchers argued that “incentive programs designed before the COVID-19 pandemic are no longer as relevant or applicable as they once were and that businesses must rethink and revise their offerings to align with their new reality.” 


For an employee incentive and benefits program to remain effective following a transition from an office-based working model to a hybrid or fully remote policy, it must be adapted to ensure it accurately addresses the new concerns of its participants.

Businesses need to ensure they prioritize cultural elements such as camaraderie, collaboration, trust, and appreciation by using tangible and intangible rewards such as gift cards and appreciation to promote the behaviors and actions needed to keep their remote employees motivated. 

Get in touch with us to learn more about how Tillo can help you power a more effective and sustainable employee incentives scheme for remote, hybrid, and office-based employees. 

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