Undeniable: The Positive Power of Workplace Gratitude
Who doesn’t want to be thanked for their loyalty or a job well done? Who doesn’t want a metaphorical pat on the back for going above-and-beyond? Everyone values a genuine thank you! But engagement and appreciation efforts – workplace gratitude – should be sincere and consistent across an organization.
Building a workplace culture of gratitude is especially relevant now because of what we are seeing as a result of the pandemic. We are witnessing increased worker stress, loneliness, anxiety and depression; concern about the future and the pressure of juggling family and work commitments.
The impact is undeniable. In fact, new SHRM research found between 1/4 and 1/3 of U.S. employees often experience symptoms of depression as they live through the COVID-19 pandemic. Employers are in a unique position to help employees battle the negative effects of this “new world” through sincere gestures of kindness and also through demonstration of appreciation.
How to Embrace Workplace Gratitude During the Pandemic
Personal engagement is always critical, but especially now. If you can, pick up the phone and check in on employees. Don’t overlook the basics at this time, because people need to know they are valued and not alone.
Celebrate your remote workers! Because workplaces aren’t the same anymore, it takes some creativity and organization to translate your culture into virtual events. We’ve seen teams have a great time engaging online with coffee, pizza and ice cream parties. With Halloween around the corner, we have many suggestions for how to deliver fun for all! Help managers with ideas and helpful hints for how to handle invites, contests, virtual games and conversation starters for enjoyable virtual social events.
Another idea is to empower employees to support their local communities. Community giving instills gratitude in anyone who partakes. If service work is important to your workplace culture, then find ways to enable employees to participate virtually. They’ll love the opportunity as we all see the increasing needs of those around us.
Whatever you choose, be sure to be kind and authentic. And if you can – be unexpected!
We highly recommend a thoughtful letter of appreciation to employees about their role and their importance during these challenging times. Sometimes that’s all you can afford to do and that’s okay. On our website, gThankYou.com, we have some excellent examples of Thanksgiving letters for inspiration.
This year, stick to holiday traditions if they are held near and dear. We love fresh ideas, but employees will have gift-related expectations from previous years. Whatever you choose to do, be authentic to your culture and considerate of your budget.
Practical gifts are key.
Family gifts (games, puzzles), wellbeing resources (yoga on-demand, health resources) and food on the table are all truly valued and appreciated…especially when things are financially tight or unstable in any way. And let’s face it, sometimes cash is the very best answer. Most importantly, plan now – be early. Between COVID and the election there are too many distractions, and this is not the year to forget to thank employees.
The Science Behind Gratitude
Over the last 20 years, research has shown gratitude to provide important physical, psychological and social benefits, including:
- A stronger immune system
- Lower blood pressure
- Better sleep
- Willingness to exercise more
- Higher levels of positive emotions such as joy and happiness
- And, more helpful, generous and compassionate behavior
And research has shown countless ways gratitude directly pays off in the workplace with:
- Improved employee wellbeing, productivity and job satisfaction
- Resulting in demonstrated improved ROI due to:
- higher employee retention,
- improved employee performance and happiness, and
- better employee, team and customer relationships
Professor Robert A. Emmons, a foremost gratitude researcher, calls gratitude the “ultimate performance-enhancing substance.” Gratitude makes both the giver and receiver feel good. In addition, gratitude sets off a good kind of contagion.
Want to learn more about the science of gratitude and how to create a culture of gratitude? I highly recommend our free ebook, “Transforming Your Workplace with Gratitude.”
A Culture of Gratitude
At gThankYou, we believe in making gratitude a pillar of the business. We’ve learned: To build and foster a culture of gratitude where leaders thank employees, team members show appreciation for each other, and thoughtful gestures are common, authenticity is key. Regular messages and example-setting need to be from the top down. Leadership needs to encourage, model gratitude. They also must hold managers accountable for showing gratitude to their teams.
Here are some tips to consider as you frame what a “Gratitude Culture” looks like in your business:
- Gratitude must be part of the fabric of the workplace culture.
- Senior leadership needs to model gratitude and mid-managers need to be trained and held accountable for appreciating their teams.
- Simple gestures are great – but fairness and consistency are key.
- Remember, gratitude needs to be specific to feel authentic.
- Employees need easy ways to show appreciation to each other and their input in the “how” should be requested (and also respected) to make it work.
- You can’t simply say, “thank you” at year-end and be done.
Future of Work
Remote work will continue to be the norm until there is widespread availability of a vaccine and cheap, quick COVID testing. Some companies, like Pinterest, have already indicated that remote work will become permanent and thus will have a wide variety of implications – in areas such as hiring.
With some effort and planning, we will all get better at remote and virtual employee engagement and recognition. While it’s not easy these days to extend an in-person smile or handshake or share a heartfelt say thank you in the office, pick up the phone and write handwritten notes.
Bring the old school into the new world. Your sincere interest, concern, appreciation, and gratitude work – I promise!
Listen to our interview with Meghan M. Biro on TalentCulture’s #Worktrends podcast!