“Business as usual” feels like a distant memory. In addition to the upheaval of what used to constitute normal workflows before the COVID pandemic, people have also experienced changes in where they do their work. New research found that 63% of Americans surveyed are working virtually right now—many for the first time. And working from home is likely more than just a temporary situation; it’s here to stay for some time or even a permanent reality as companies pivot toward recovery.
As we all grapple with creating new norms personally and professionally, employers are challenged with engaging employees and encouraging productivity while remaining sensitive to personal challenges people may still be facing. Recognizing a job well done, a company milestone or the closing of a big sale can go a long way in keeping employees engaged with your business—especially during periods of change.
Here are some research-based ideas employers can implement immediately to solve for these hurdles as they move toward creating a new normal:
- Lean on rewards and incentives. When employees surveyed were asked how they wanted their employers to engage them when they worked remotely, the number one choice was to receive rewards and incentives—not online chats, virtual luncheons or video conference meetings. Nearly two thirds of employees surveyed also said it’s important to receive rewards from their employer. Creating or leveraging rewards and incentives programs can lay a solid foundation for engaging employees the way they want and that resonates.
- Dole out prepaid and gift cards. Of the remote workers surveyed, a whopping 84% want rewards in the form of prepaid and gift cards. These cards are extremely versatile and give employees a chance to treat themselves to something they wouldn’t normally buy, or provide them with unexpected funds to buy something they need. Research has also found that most people surveyed would be encouraged to work harder after receiving gift card rewards and feel that gift card rewards show that their employer values them. Work with a reward provider that can seamlessly turn around bulk orders for cards redeemable at hundreds of brands quickly; typically only a few days for physical cards and mere minutes for digital.
- Go digital. People want prepaid and gift cards and both come in digital form—enabling employers to deliver them typically within minutes, quickly reinforcing desired behaviors. Nearly half of employees surveyed even prefer digital rewards to physical ones. With so many people shopping online or via mobile devices, digital prepaid and gift cards offer an easy method of payment from the comfort of home.
- Keep an eye on the horizon. Work-from-home arrangements may be here to stay. Engaging an active online workforce spread out geographically will be important to maintain company culture and productivity. The right rewards and incentives help drive loyalty and positively influence behaviors that directly contribute to the bottom line, which also helps reduce turnover. Recent research found that receiving a reward from an employer would increase 84% of employees’ loyalty to a company.
The stakes are high for businesses to successfully perform now and in the foreseeable future. Employees will shoulder this burden. Businesses that are able to effectively motivate, engage and thank their workforce will stand a better chance of keeping productivity—and morale—high as we all create a new “business-as-usual.”
 The “Receiving Incentives and Rewards from Your Employer” study was an internet-based study conducted by SurveyMonkey on behalf of Blackhawk Network between March 24–25, 2020. The sample size included 1,718 working U.S. employees ages 18–60.
 “Gift Card State of the Union” is an online survey conducted by Murphy Research on behalf of Blackhawk Network between February 4–12, 2019. The sample size of 10,126 U.S. consumers was comprised of respondents between the ages of 18–75.