Life Events: Celebrating the Life Affirming

April 14, 2020 Aaron Kinne

8-minute read

woman holding baby

In his pre-COVID-19 Harvard Business Review (HBR) article, “What the ‘Best Companies to Work For’ Do Differently,” Michael O’Malley, Ph.D. writes: “The best places to work provide people with life satisfaction as opposed to job satisfaction alone.”

As we navigate our way through this crisis, Dr. O’Malley’s notion that work should be an integral, enriching component of our total being – rather than something that’s apart from our “real” life – takes on a profound new meaning. In these times, the need for community, connection, and belonging with our work family is more important than ever. If ever there was a time we should celebrate the life events of our colleagues, that time is now.

Comfort in knowing “life goes on”

Each Friday morning, we at Workhuman® gather for a Zoom meeting with our co-founder and CEO, Eric Mosley. It’s a time for Eric to share with us recent challenges and successes – and look ahead to the coming week’s plans, programs, and strategies.

In one of the most heartwarming and uplifting moments of the meeting, Eric will note recent births, marriages, new pets – even one employee’s move to a new city. As he points out, even in the middle of a pandemic crisis, “life goes on.” He points to these events as something to be celebrated, cherished, and embraced.

How does a CEO, leading a fairly large organization through the challenges of COVID-19, know about the personal moments of his employees? Simple. These life-affirming events are presented in a feed to Eric – and everyone at Workhuman – through Live Events®, part of Workhuman® Cloud. Through this platform, we can participate in and celebrate the personal milestones of our entire work family.

Try Life Events from Workhuman® FREE for One Year.

In fact, because we believe celebrating life milestones is so important during these challenging times, we are offering Live Events free for one year. (You can also try our Social Recognition® platform – GratitudesTM – and our performance management solution – Conversations® – free for a year, as well.)

It all comes down to this: The COVID-19 crisis has intensified and accelerated the need to transform from work-life balance to work-life blending. And we do that by celebrating life milestones in the workplace in a truly meaningful way. That’s why we wanted to make this vital solution available to companies of all sizes.

It’s about, as Dr. O’Malley puts it, “recognizing the human as the heart of the workplace, the thing that keeps everything else running.”

Making life events a cornerstone of your workplace culture

Even before COVID-19 entered our lives and many of us were working in an office setting, celebrating life milestones was – at best – a transitory ritual. Employees would pass around a greeting card to commemorate a special occasion. There may have been cake and a brief gathering. But soon the moment passed.

Workhuman has long believed such celebrations could and should be more memorable and enduring. We believe they can be truly personalized and easy for the employees’ peers to share in the joy and excitement. They can offer a reward that employees will cherish and remember – perhaps even a charitable contribution made in their name.

That’s why – well before COVID-19 – many world-class organizations turned to a flexible software solution like Life Events. It enables organizations to make the shift from work-life balance to work-life blending with key features such as:

  • Personalized experience – Colleagues can share moments that matter in a truly personal way as they contribute stories, pictures, and videos that make each celebration unique.
  • Crowdsourced approach –Life Events taps into the people that know your employees the best – their colleagues and friends – so congratulatory messages resonate in a way that would otherwise not be possible.
  • Tailored rewards – Why not commemorate your employees’ life events with rewards they actually care about, such as gift cards, merchandise, or charity contributions?
  • Congratulations timeline – Because it lives online, the Life Events timeline extends the lifespan and impact of the traditional signed greeting card.
  • Administrative ease – Rather than leaving the task solely to managers, Life Events automatically invites your employees’ peers – the people who really know them – to create an award and join in the celebration.
  • Open invitations – Now that employees are all working from home, everyone can still be part of Life Events celebrations.

Why a comprehensive life events approach is so important today

Celebrating life events is a critical component in creating a culture of celebration. Such celebratory cultures are built on a foundation of belonging, social support, and social exchange. A culture of celebration – one that is shaped in large part by fully recognizing employees’ life events – is so important in today’s world, and includes the following benefits:

  • Higher engagement: Social support from co-workers is a job resource that has been shown to significantly impact engagement.
  • Higher productivity: Employees who feel they are part of a group working toward shared goals report increased motivation, positivity, and overall productivity.
  • Reduced conflict and improved relationships: Social exchange has benefits that include “reduced conflict, improved performance, enhanced knowledge sharing among peer employees, increased affinity for employees, greater understanding of employee interests and values which leads to more pleasant and efficient pattern of exchanges, and increased trust and tolerance of imbalance in exchange relationships.”
  • Higher levels of learning and performance: A culture of psychological safety and inclusion leads to better learning and performance outcomes.
  • Reduced stress: When co-workers provide social support, it can ameliorate the impact of a large workload and thereby buffer the impact of burnout.
  • Increased resilience and trust: A consistent flow of relational exchanges raises levels of commitment, concern for the reputation of oneself and others, and levels of trust and resilience.
  • Better health: When belonging has been established, it contributes to improvements of the physical body system. Likewise, those who are deprived of it may experience both psychological and biological illness effects and even a weakened immune system.
  • Happier, more productive employees: According to one study, “participants stated that organizational celebrations made them happier in their job, improved diversity and workplace knowledge, reduced isolation, and cultivated relationships, which all contributed to their desire to be more productive in their job.”
  • Greater affective commitment: Reward and perceived social support are direct contributors to affective commitment (and boost an employee’s intent to stay).

Forging connections and belonging: A comprehensive approach to life events

In his HBR article, Dr. O’Malley notes that the best places to work have an unwavering focus on life satisfaction, rather than job satisfaction alone: “Almost all of the corporate founders and CEOs we spoke with told us that they built their companies with people in mind. To them, a healthy culture is as important as a healthy balance sheet.” This perspective becomes even more important during these times, as evidenced by the actions of visionary companies such as Workhuman client, Cisco. CEO Chuck Robbins has told Cisco employees that their jobs are safe – while challenging other companies to follow his example.  

Celebrating your employees’ life milestones can deliver the best of both worlds – a healthy culture and a healthy bottom line. That’s because a truly human culture is the cornerstone of an engaged workforce. And employee engagement has a direct and measurable impact on your organization’s financial success. Engaged employees are more productive. And they increase customer loyalty, sales, and profits.

Check out our engagement checklist: 7 Ways to Boost Your Engagement Scores.

The bottom line? According to a recent SHRM/Workhuman employee recognition report, it’s all about humanizing the employee experience. The report found when employees are very/somewhat satisfied with the celebration of life events, they are nearly 2x as likely to agree their company is a good place to work, and the organization is 95% more likely to have won awards for its culture. That’s the kind of culture that will carry organizations when a crisis like our current one arrives.

Celebrating life events during times like these is an effective and inspiring way to not only create a community atmosphere; it also helps HR professionals differentiate the organization.

The move from work-life balance to work-life blending

In his article, Dr. O’Malley notes that in our personal lives, we inherently celebrate, sympathize, uplift, comfort, and help. Shouldn’t it be the same in the workplace? Especially now? “Like good families, good organizations have the same responsibility. If they want to create a real sense of community among their teams, they also need to create shared experiences.”

He admits that he and his team were unprepared for the impact celebrating life milestones can have on an organization: “Before beginning this project, we considered life events, rituals, and rites of passage – such as marriages, birthdays, and anniversaries – as trivial to the work environment. But the companies that we visited gave us a new perspective. In fact, they made a big deal out of significant dates. Why? Because it is the human, or considerate thing to do.”

A baby, a marriage, and a new home

As I was writing this post, I thought back to a moving story Workhuman managing editor Sarah Payne shared about her experiences buying a house, getting engaged, and having a baby – all in the course of just a few months. Her reflections on her own life events resonate even more profoundly through the lens of our current situation. As she observes, “These life events are all part of our shared human experience. So if we want to create more human work cultures for our people, it only makes sense that we would share in these happy moments with our teams, the people we often spend more time with than even our own families.”

Discover how you can bring the power of Life Events to your organization, free for one year.



Party On: A Case for Celebrating Life's Biggest Moments at Work

Humanity Loves Company

Thank, Talk, Celebrate: 3 Pillars for a New Decade of Performance Management

About the Author

Aaron Kinne

Aaron Kinne is a senior writer at Workhuman.

More Content by Aaron Kinne
Previous Article
Stories of Humanity and Gratitude: Revisiting the Front Lines of Healthcare
Stories of Humanity and Gratitude: Revisiting the Front Lines of Healthcare

We compile recent stories that remind us of the humanity of healthcare workers – their struggles, hopes, an...

Next Article
The Stress Is Real: 6 Ways for Leaders to Care for Their Employees
The Stress Is Real: 6 Ways for Leaders to Care for Their Employees

We can have all the virtual happy hours and birthday celebrations in the world. For many, this is not enoug...