What does Maslow have to do with remote work?

By: Laurel Farrer

Even if you’ve never studied psychology or had an appointment with a therapist, chances are good you’ve still heard of Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It’s been a popular framework for sociological research, management trainings, and educational modalities since 1954.

As a refresher, the theory claims that self-actualization, or complete satisfaction, cannot be achieved without first fulfilling a series of human needs:

  1. Physiological - Physical requirements for human survival (air, water, food)

  2. Safety - Physical and emotional safety of the personal (protection from violence, natural disaster)

  3. Love - A sense of belonging (friendships, family, and intimacy)

  4. Esteem - Feeling respected and appreciated (evidence of recognition, strength, independence)

After these four levels are consecutively satisfied, then the person can achieve the fifth level of self-actualization, which is fulfilling a person’s full potential.

So why are we talking about this pyramid on a blog for distributed companies? Because you hire people that can provide creativity, problem-solving, and efficiency to help your company succeed: the self-actualization of your business and your workers.

In order to reach that level, the first four levels of needs must be addressed in a professional capacity:

  1. Physiological - Does the salary of the employee provide for their basic standards of living?

  2. Safety - Does the employee feel needed and secure in their role?

  3. Love - Does the employee feel integrated into a culture, team, and company?

  4. Esteem - Does the employee feel appreciated, progressive, and fulfilled in their work?

Our employees can only reach their peak output of creativity and problem-solving if we are helping support their first four levels of needs. What can remote managers do to achieve self-actualization with their free-range staff? Here are some ideas.



  • Confirm the salaries of your team match or exceed national averages.

  • Provide a generous health insurance plan that employees do not hesitate to utilize.

  • Encourage work-life balance with flexible work schedules and creative incentives.



  • Create an environment that promotes open, transparent communication (including acceptance of mistakes and questions.)

  • Articulate the importance of each employee’s contributions to the company’s mission and processes.

  • Invest in web security tools and software to protect employee and company information.



  • Host company and department retreats at least once per year to strengthen unity.

  • Incorporate culture-building topics into daily communication.

  • Be generous and creative with spontaneous rewards, such as gifts or parties.



  • Celebrate individual and collective achievements as a team.

  • Give specific praise and constructive feedback to each employee privately.

  • Collaborate with team members to write their job descriptions and goals.


Is it time for a one-on-one meeting with your remote team members? How are you going to use that opportunity to help your employees reach self-actualization? Tweet us @yonder_io to share your virtual management tips!