How to Spread Holiday Cheer Across a Distributed Team (Without Breaking the Bank) 

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The popularity of remote work has skyrocketing in the United States. From 2005 to 2017, the number of remote workers increased by 159 percent according to FlexJobs. Modern professionals are looking for remote work for a multitude of reasons, but they all generally boil down to a desire for flexibility and work/life balance.

While remote work may make employees happier, employers should be aware that it is not without its challenges. In particular, remote workers are prone to feelings of isolation. According to Buffer, 21 percent of remote employees say the biggest hurdle they face is a sense of loneliness.

As the holiday season approaches, that loneliness may intensify as remote workers watch their in-office friends, family members, and colleagues partake in year-end festivities. It’s important that employers take steps to support their distributed teams and spread the holiday joy to all their employees, regardless of their distance from the office.

Of course, celebrations can come with a price tag, but the good news is you can keep your remote team members feeling connected without breaking your budget. Just follow these tips:

1. Use Your Business Credit Card Cash Back

If you use a business credit card that earns cash back, you could accrue hundreds and maybe even thousands of dollars over a year’s worth of spending. Leave this cash back alone until the holiday season, and you can use it toward your employee’s gifts and seasonal celebrations.

Of course, this strategy requires some planning ahead, and the holidays are already upon us, so you may have to implement it for next year instead.

2. Save Money With Apps and Shopping Portals

If you’re shopping for your distributed team, you will likely utilize online shopping to fulfill and deliver your gifts. While you’re already saving time by shopping online, there are ways you can save money, too.

Consider using cash-back apps and/or shopping portals. These allow you to earn cash back on the purchases you make for your employees through the app or portal. That cash back can defray the costs of your gifts, lessening the impact of your shopping spree on the company’s budget.

For more expert HR insights, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:

3. Use Your Credit Card Rewards to Buy Gift Cards

While some may view gift cards as not very creative or thoughtful, most employees appreciate being able to purchase what they actually want or need. In a recent Blackhawk Network survey, 80 percent of employees said they considered gift cards from their employers a nice way to “treat themselves.”

Many business credit cards will allow you to redeem your rewards points for gift cards. You can purchase gift cards at large retailers, grocery stores, or online. If you do decide to purchase online, don’t forget the previous tip: Be sure to check for additional discounts through shopping portals or apps.

4. Use Your Credit Card Perks for Employee Gifts

Some of your remote employees may have chosen remote work for the flexibility of being able to travel whenever they want. If you have such avid adventurers on your team, take a look at your business credit cards for unused travel perks, like a statement credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, that can be gifted to them.

At first glance, this gift may not sound too heartfelt, but you can save an employee hours of time by expediting their security process at the airport. For someone who loves to travel, that’s a really valuable proposition.

5. Give Back for Your Employees

Some of your employees may enjoy the giving part of the holidays more than the receiving. If that is the case, you can give to a nonprofit in the name of your employee. The donation will be tax-deductible, and you can save even more money if you make the donation using a credit card that offers cash back or other rewards.

To get started, ask the employee to name the nonprofit of their choice, or give your team a list of vetted nonprofits to choose from. You can use a resource like Charity Navigator to find verified, reputable nonprofits.

Depending on the credit card you have, you may also be able to use your accumulated points or cash back as a donation. Search the rewards dashboard of your credit card for a section with a title like “donate rewards.” If you go this route, you can also save a little more money by avoiding transaction fees. If you were to make a traditional donation through a credit card, the credit card company would take anywhere from 2-3 percent of the donation in fees.

As remote work continues to grow in popularity, it is imperative to make sure those who are out of sight are not out of mind. By recognizing a job well done this year, you get your employees — both remote and in the office — excited for the year to come.

Brett Holzhauer is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Arizona State University.

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