10 Ideas to Boost Employee Motivation in a Remote World

April 8, 2020

In Employee Engagement

motivation from home virtual meeting

What’s the one thing most businesses have in common right now? A virtual workforce. As people across the globe practice physical distancing – turning their bedrooms, kitchens or living rooms into home offices – we could all use inspiration to stay productive, engaged and connected.

Whether a remote environment is your company’s norm or whether this is new terrain for your team, the question remains: how do you maintain and, dare we suggest, even boost employee motivation?

At Altrum, it’s in our DNA to celebrate and inspire people. Our entire company mission is founded on this quest alone, and we’re stoked to share our top ideas to invigorate your virtual company culture. Here’s a list of 10 things we’ve done with our team members, with much success. We hope they inspire you!

1. Use a Social Recognition Platform

Social media is one of the most widely adopted and user-friendly ways to share ideas and stay connected. What if you were able to harness its power as an employee engagement booster for your team?

At Altrum, we use one of our own recognition solutions to do this: Celebration. Our team members look to “catch each other doing something great” 24/7 and use the platform to give shoutouts to each other that the entire company can see.

We use it daily, and we notice a difference. Here are some direct quotes on the benefits from our team:

“I find that the Celebration platform creates a team spirit within Altrum. It also allows us to hear from people we see less. Enkourage is an excellent initiative, and I believe that this platform must remain, especially in this time of remote work and challenges that the current situation causes.” – Cindy Turcotte, Executive Assistant, Altrum Canada

“It lets us stay connected to our values ​​and read positive comments every day. As a manager, this keeps you up to date on the successes. This helps us to have eyes everywhere in a positive way😊” – Sandy Bougie, Director – Sales Operations, Altrum Canada

We like to say that going on our social recognition platform is like drinking a mood-boosting elixir; we see all the amazing accomplishments, behaviors and efforts housed in one place, and it inspires us to do more.

Turbo tip: You can also use it to run incentives and campaigns! As you read through the rest of the list, each contest or idea can be run through an article feed on the same platform. 

2. Work from Home Setup Contest

While everyone is working from home, why not make it into a competition? When there was a title to be claimed, our team pulled out all the creativity stops to get their home workstations set up to win. We’re a competitive bunch 😊

home office setup with multiple screens

How we ran it:

  • Divide the contest into categories. We have team members who always work from home (Senior division) and others who had to fashion something quickly when we closed our physical office (Junior division). For extra entertainment value, we also had some fun with a “Worst Setup” category.
  • Send in pictures. Have one person run point.
  • Create a voting form. Microsoft 365 has built-in tools for this like Sway and Forms. Use your company’s tools to get creative!
  • Announce the winners. Whether you use email, slack or a social platform, champion pictures and bragging rights go a long way for employee motivation.


The byproduct → creatively inspired setups that help everyone to be productive and inspired. We also learned that quite a few of our team members have impressive multiple device setups…NASA, here we come.

3. Employee of the Week – Fur Edition

When we moved from office to home, many of us gained new full-time coworkers…furry ones. We had the team send in pictures of their pet colleagues as Employee of the Week submissions, and the enthusiasm (and pride!) was off the charts.

No pet? No problem. We opened it up to anything we may grow fond of: cats, dogs, the trash panda that lives under the deck, the cupboard mouse you can’t get rid of, the gnat you never seem to catch…The options are endless.

Our team ended up with 3 categories – Dogs, Cats and “Wilson” (inanimate friends a la Castaway). Who was Altrum’s Best in Show? A tie between Pico the puppy and Purell Man.

office dog contest winner

purell bottle with eyes4. Company Work from Home Playlist

Nothing beats a good power ballad, rock anthem or hip-hop beat to drive motivation. As they say “Music is life. It’s why our hearts have beats.”

One of our managers seized the power of music and started an ultimate work from home playlist on Spotify. He compiled a starter list with work-related classics like Nine to Five (Dolly Parton), Work (Rihanna) and She Works Hard for the Money (Donna Summer). When he opened it up to suggestions in a Team chat, the crowd went wild! Everyone ended up jamming out to Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer – from their homes in Quebec to New Jersey to London. Talk about singing from the same song sheet…

We shared the final playlist on our social recognition platform news feed, and it most certainly raised the work tempo 🎼

5. Virtual Happy Hour/Game Night

Happy hour is a workweek tradition that relieves stress, brings people together and…is just a good time. Ask each person to attend a virtual happy hour with their drink of choice – from hot tea to scotch. Host it via Zoom/MS Teams/GoToMeeting or any other meeting tool, and keep your team connected on an interpersonal level. When people feel a psychological connection to the company and the team, it increases employee engagement and motivation.

If your team is craving more structure (or competition), pair it with a game night. Our London team ran a #stayhome PUB QUIZ: 6 rounds, 8 questions in each. They were encouraged to grab a “pint” and make it as close to a real bar event as possible. Some even got their flatmates/partners involved.

What type of trivia would best suit your team/city/industry and motivate your employees?

 6. Virtual Birthday/Anniversary Celebration

Speaking of trivia…one of our longstanding traditions within Altrum has been to hold a monthly celebration for all birthdays and company anniversaries. Early on, we realized a group rendition of “Happy Birthday” was more painful than motivating, so we decided to make the celebration a trivia contest thru PowerPoint. Birthday honorees submit their favorite 3 songs and anniversary honorees share one thing people may not know about them. The team tries to guess as we all nosh on tasty sweets and share laughs.

virtual birthday celebration to motivate employees

In a remote world, we host this party thru a 15-minute video meeting and share the PPT screen. Have everyone take a quick break, grab a snack and login to celebrate and learn some unexpected tidbits about each other.

7. Work from Home Step Challenge

Staying active while working from home can be a challenge…one that we turned into an opportunity 🚶👟. Most people have step trackers, whether it’s a smart watch, Fitbit or the Health app on your smartphone. So, we grouped people into teams, assigned team captains and had everyone report their daily steps, Monday thru Friday, totaling them at the end of the week. Whether we were stepping in place in the living room or taking walks around the block on breaks and after work, our goal was to keep people moving – stimulating productivity, brain power and employee motivation.

We found the accountability people had with their teammates and desire to stay “a step” ahead, enhanced activity and camaraderie. Our team has requested multiple iterations of this challenge, both in the office and out.

“I took the initiative to walk more. I love how the teams encouraged people to interact together that do not normally and have a common goal between the different departments. Great challenge!”  – Michele Leah, Director – Art, Altrum USA

8. Positivity Channel

In unprecedented times, the way we support each other is more important than ever. Shedding light on positive messages, ideas and thoughts could be the difference between hope and hopelessness, success and failure. What we choose to focus on matters, and we dedicated a channel in our company to sharing hope and positivity to redirect our perspectives towards what’s possible. We housed this in a news feed on Celebration, asking people to share personal good news, inspiring quotes or uplifting videos in the comments section.

As a recognition company, we had team members clamoring for this outlet. Whether you choose to do this in your own chat channel – one that your team is familiar with and references often – or trying out another avenue, you’ll be delighted by the good vibes you catch in doing so.

9. Share Inspiration

Regardless of your industry, each of your team members has their own sources of motivation that enable them to drive results. Why not tap into these sources to further motivate employees?

Art & Design is a cornerstone of our company. We asked our design team to take a photo of something that inspires them in their current environment – whether it was a decorated mantle, a DVD collection or the way the window light streamed through the kitchen. We compiled and shared them internally and discussed how they impacted the design of our product. What sources of inspiration might your Sales team use to stay motivated?

10. Use Your Hidden Talents

As companies evaluate what’s necessary to drive business, you may discover your revenue-driving levers quickly shift. For example, perhaps you determine you need to pivot on cold-calling Sales effort and funnel all efforts into marketing copywriting. Think big and use your creative resources. Your Project Management team may have hidden storytelling gifts that can be harnessed. Or perhaps you have the next prosperous line of business sitting as an idea within your Accounting team. We had our most popular corporate culture idea – a holiday parody called The Altrum Office – come from the video-editing and directorial talents of an Account Coordinator.

Leverage your team’s talents in full and remain open-minded. Brainstorm with different cross-sections of your team. Try out small tasks that aren’t written into the basic job description. Expand skills and what’s possible. You never know when an idea can hatch from an unexpected source.

The increased sense of value these team members will experience contribute to a more engaged and motivated work force.


We hope these tips spark your own creativity and motivation! The more we promote employee engagement together, the more vibrant our global workforce will be. One company’s shared motivation can have ripple effects into our professional and personal worlds.


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