Amid the increased stress caused by COVID-19, focusing on gratitude is perhaps more important now than ever before. There is no doubt 2020 has been a whirlwind – a global pandemic, economic uncertainty and urgency around racial injustice have prompted changes in the workplace and impacted employee performance. But there are signs that gratitude can serve as a powerful antidote and anchor for our collective well-being.
A grateful mindset provides emotional, physical, and social benefits, such as being more alert, creating a stronger immune system, and even helping manage feelings of isolation and loneliness. Gratitude is a proven and powerful force in building resilience and buffers against the stress your employees are experiencing.
Workhuman® conducted a survey of 500 full-time US employees to better understand gratitude in the workplace. Incredibly, nearly half (49.4%) said they had never received a “Thank you,” from a colleague or manager for their work during the pandemic.
Has work during the pandemic become a thankless job?
This pandemic has rattled our lives for more than six months now. While working full time, many of us are also navigating full houses, caring for young children, adult children and elderly parents and relatives. Perhaps it’s time to double down on gratitude – a foundational element of human connection that enables people to push through challenging times.
In the workplace, recognition is about seeing the good in everyone and honoring the value each person brings. Especially now, we should approach each interaction with our colleagues with a grateful mindset. Working remotely has unexpectedly allowed us to show our more human sides to one another – by meeting and embracing each other’s children, pets, and even the inside of our homes.
Think about the people you work with every day. Are you communicating how much you appreciate their efforts, new ideas, and persistence in the face of so many challenges these past few months? If not, it’s never too late to start. In fact, two-thirds of employees say that giving and/or receiving a “Thank you,” during the pandemic has made them feel more connected to their colleagues. While many of us are still confined to home offices and working in unexpected ways, recognition is a way for us to still feel close to our colleagues without that in-person interaction.
Dr. Robert A. Emmons, Professor of Psychology at University of California, Davis, recently led a study that found gratitude to be the strongest predictor of positive changes in the self. “It means that gratitude is playing a unique role as a core emotional feeling versus happy, sad, angry, etc. Gratitude is not just helping people feel good – it has a unique potential allowing people to see positive changes in themselves.”
Of course, in order to reap those benefits in the workplace, you have to allow people the opportunity to both give and receive recognition. Workhuman CEO Eric Mosley writes, “Gratitude is the foundation of a human work culture.” When you take employee recognition out of the once-a-year performance review and allow for peer-to-peer recognition in the moment, you see amazing results.
Workhuman research shows retention and engagement rates are higher for employees who receive recognition, and even higher still for employees who both give and receive recognition. Data also shows high performers give and receive the most recognition across a company.
The science of gratitude
Workhuman’s survey results reinforce why a simple “Thank you,” is so powerful in keeping people motivated and mitigating stress:
- 64% of employees agree or strongly agree “Giving and/or receiving a ‘Thank you,’ during the pandemic motivated me to work harder.”
- 61% of employees agree or strongly agree “Giving and/or receiving a ‘Thank you,’ during the pandemic has helped ease the stress of working remotely.”
- 54% of employees agree or strongly agree “Giving and/or receiving a ‘Thank you,’ during the pandemic has helped ease anxiety associated with the COVID-19 lockdown.”
One of the biggest pain points for leaders right now is maintaining a healthy, thriving organizational culture – keeping productivity and morale high in the face of adversity. In times of change and uncertainly, it’s critical to show appreciation and gratitude for those weathering the storm alongside you.
Encouraging employees to freely and frequently recognize the great work their peers are doing through recognition and appreciation is the key to staying engaged and connected in the current climate, even in the face of unprecedented challenges. Recent history shows us that companies who understand and embrace this view will redouble their commitment to recognition in challenging times. And they’ll be the better off for it. Before you sign off today, think of a colleague you’re grateful for and send them a quick note to express your appreciation. Gratitude and recognition should not be put on the back burner because we are in a crisis. Be specific about what they did. Say, “Thank you.”
Sarah Payne is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at Workhuman.
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