Ask HR: 5 Ways to Reward Remote Teams

By Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP June 26, 2020
woman eating sushi

SHRM President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, is answering HR questions as part of a series for USA Today. The questions are submitted by readers, and Taylor's answers below have been edited for length and clarity.

Do you have an HR or work-related question you'd like him to answer? Submit it here.


Question: I'm a manager who has been working very long hours to meet the demands of COVID. My team has been doing a fantastic job. If we were in the office, I'd treat them to a team lunch or happy hour, but we're all working remotely. What are some ways I can share my appreciation?

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: First, let me commend you and your team for your agility and resilience at this time when business has been anything but usual. 

The pandemic has brought about immediate and long-term changes for businesses, but it's also provided opportunities for employees to step up, stand out and shine. So, it's great that you, as a manager, want to recognize and reward the good work getting done.

With many workers now remote, the traditional ways of recognizing a team, like you mentioned in your question, may not be feasible. But don't let that deter you—you can get creative.  

Although you're apart, here are five ways to reward your remote team and let them know they're knocking it out of the park:

  • Give your team a couple extra hours off on a Friday (i.e., if an employee normally works until 5 p.m., let them leave at 3 p.m.).
  • Send an electronic gift card for a local restaurant for carry-out or for a grocery delivery service.
  • Send a mini-COVID-19 survival kit with puzzles and snacks.
  • Send an electronic thank you card to team members.
  • Send an e-mail to the entire company outlining the work being done by the department and why you are recognizing them.

Keep in mind that recognition doesn't need to be elaborate and that you should tailor praise to the person. After all, some people may not appreciate public displays of recognition, even if it's positive!

These types of thoughtful, sincere gestures can go a long way. I hope your team appreciates your efforts!  

Question: If my employer cut my hours in half due to coronavirus fears, does it have to pay me my full salary? I am in New York. 

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: I'm sorry to hear your hours were cut. Due to COVID-19, U.S. workers have lost nearly $1.3 trillion in income as many employers have been forced to reduce hours and staffing to stay afloat.

The answer to your question hinges on whether you're an hourly or a salaried employee, which you didn't mention. To break it down, employers are generally only required to pay hourly employees for time they work. So, if you are an hourly employee and your employer reduced your hours, then yes, you could effectively be paid less. 

However, if you're a salaried employee, your employer is generally required to pay you a set amount each pay period regardless of the hours you work, so things become a bit more complex. 

According to the Department of Labor, while an employer can't reduce your salary based on hours you put in, it can make a "prospective reduction" in your weekly salary during an economic slowdown, such as we are experiencing now.

To be clear, your employer can't simply look for a way to avoid paying your regular salary—it must be due to an economic downturn. Your salary also can't fluctuate based on the quantity or quality of your work, it can't be docked if your employer sends you home or unexpectedly cancels your shift, and there is a limit to how much it can be lowered. 

Again, I'm sorry to hear COVID-19 has affected you in this way. If you haven't yet, I hope you get your hours back soon.  


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