Languages of appreciation in the remote workplace💙

If you’re only vaguely familiar with of the concept of the 5 love languages, its connection to workplace dynamics might not seem all that clear.

But in a remote-first company, understanding your teammates’ languages of love (or languages of appreciation, as mentioned in the title of this post), is critical to constantly improve your working relationships and better understand our colleagues as people.

We polled our entire team on what their language is (using the fantastic Simple Poll), and it’s interesting that we’re somewhat homogenous in the way we like to feel appreciated.

About 70% of us had Quality Time as a main appreciation language, and the remaining 30% had Words of Affirmation as their appreciation language.

These results are aligned with the results from a survey regarding the kind of appreciation remote employees value the most:

Employees in a long-distance work relationship chose quality time (“hanging out” with coworkers, working together on a project, someone taking time to listen to them) as their preferred means to be shown appreciation more frequently (35%) than workers on site (25%).

Words of affirmation (oral or written praise) remain high for both groups, but the long-distance group did not value it as much (long-distance: 38%, general: 48%).

  • Paul White, (2018) “Do remote employees prefer different types of appreciation than employees in face-to-face settings?”, Strategic HR Review, Vol. 17 Issue: 3, pp.137–142

What does this mean for us?

For those who speak Words of Affirmation, unsolicited compliments really make their day, an encouraging pep talk while facing an overwhelming project can help them reach the light at the end of the tunnel, and kind words are rarely forgotten.

It’s actually as simple as hearing ‘thank you’ from the head of the company (shoutout to Wences Garcia) who takes the time to recognise you. It’s not really always about awards, sometimes just taking time to appreciate someone can impact with the way they work, like how it is with me. — Edge, Customer Success

Those who speak Quality Time don’t appreciate when you are only half-paying attention to them when they speak, if you continuously miss or postpone meetings or can’t seem to make time for them.

They also really enjoy sharing quality conversation and quality activities together.

I appreciate the way our busy CTO (shoutout to Jose Miguel Pérez) takes the time for some Slack banter and to answer my questions on anything tech-related, although they aren’t always related to the projects he’s working on. That means a lot to me. — Larissa, Marketing

so many midnight querying questions! and that time I used find_in_set :/

It seems that the absence of any one of the appreciation languages can be quickly felt and even magnified in a remote team.

When you work in an office, you might be meeting with your boss regarding a specific project, and he’ll offhandedly mention — oh by the way, you did great job with this other thing. Spontaneous words of affirmation.

Or on a Friday afternoon, a busy team member might stop by your desk on their way to the break room, ask you what you’re up to (and is genuinely interested in the answer), or maybe another colleague ends up spending some extra time with you in order to help out with something you‘re having trouble with. Spontaneous quality time.

The spontaneous opportunities to appreciate someone in these ways are rare when most of your conversations are through Slack, which makes it all the more important to make an effort to speak the same language as your colleagues.

To echo the Paul White survey conclusions, appreciation is something we need to be deliberate about:

The results suggest that supervisors and staff members working in long-distance work relationships must be more proactive than in face-to-face relationships to incorporate meaningful interactions that speak to long-distance colleagues.

Acts of Service and Gifts are evidently not the main ways our team members prefer to feel appreciated, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t all speak more than 1 language. As a company, we sprinkle in Acts of Service (we brought on the Team Assistant as a way of helping out team members with different services) and Gifts (we give everyone a birthday gift selected for them by our Culture Team).

Accounting for any and all possible combinations of appreciation languages seems like the winning combo, and it really needs to be done in a deliberate manner in a remote team.

After seeing the results of our poll, I think that in our One-on-Ones (like a performance review, but not quite), it would be interesting to talk specifically about the ways that our Managers and colleagues motivate us through appreciation.

Finally, I also think it would be interesting for our team to learn more about the cultures of our colleagues. Some of us come from countries where there are varying concepts of appreciation, respect, compliments, politeness and chain of command. But, we’ll save that for another post!

Some marketgoo gift-giving ;)

To see our remote company, you can visit marketgoo on RemoteHub.

This post was written by Larissa, Marketing Manager at marketgoo.




At marketgoo we’re all about Cultivating Culture in Startups. Be brave, ban buzzwords and slap down 'good intentions'. We're here to tell you about lessons learned and why our Culture is one of our best marketing tools.

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