New Data Reinforces Value of Employee Recognition on World Gratitude Day

September 21, 2020 Sarah Mulcahy

4-minute read

thank you

How grateful are you feeling these days? Are you making a conscious effort to recognize all the good in your life? Today – World Gratitude Day – might be the perfect time to take a step back and answer these questions honestly.

While 2020 has thrown us curveballs from what seems like every direction – a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, and urgency around racial injustice, to name a few – there are signs that gratitude can serve as a powerful antidote and anchor for our collective well-being. In July, Pinterest published results from the website’s search trends over the course of the pandemic. The company saw the highest searches ever on mental wellness. Searches for gratitude alone were up 60% from February to May. 

Inspirational content around gratitude might be a growing trend on social media, but what about gratitude in the workplace? Many of us have been working in new and unique conditions for the past six months. Are we approaching our interactions with our colleagues with a grateful mindset? Dr. Robert A. Emmons, professor of psychology at University of California, Davis, defines gratitude as “a celebration of the good – and a recognition that this good is sourced outside the self.” 

Workhuman® recently conducted a survey of 500 full-time U.S. employees to better understand how employee recognition has played out during the pandemic – a period of time when priorities and workflows are shifting constantly, and many leaders are making difficult decisions to keep their businesses afloat.

Workers were asked how often they received a “thank you” from their colleagues or manager during the pandemic. Nearly half (49.4%) answered “never.” Has work during the pandemic become a thankless job? Perhaps the prevalence of remote work means companies need to prioritize training managers on how to properly show appreciation and say “thank you.”

Survey results reinforce why a simple “thank you” is so powerful in keeping people motivated and mitigating stress:

  • 66% of employees agree or strongly agree “Giving and/or receiving a ‘thank you’ during the pandemic has made me feel more connected to my colleagues.”
  • 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.”

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.

Dr. Emmons also 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.

For example, 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.

Before you sign off today, think of a colleague you’re grateful for and send them a quick note to express your appreciation. Be specific about what they did. Tell a story. Say “thank you.” 


Gratitude: The Ultimate Change Agent

New Findings on Stress, Trust, and Gratitude at Work

Gratitude – the Ultimate Performance-Enhancing Substance

About the Author

Sarah Mulcahy

Sarah is senior content marketing manager at Workhuman. When not writing and reading about all things culture, leadership, recognition, and appreciation, she enjoys iced coffee, running, and spending time with her daughters, Mabel and Eva.

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