Gratitude activities for the workplace through employee rewards and recognition.

Gratitude activities for the workplace help build a kinder, happier and more purposeful culture. (Image via Yoel Ben-Avraham, Flickr)

Gratitude activities for the workplace are employee rewards and recognition in action, helping build a kinder, more purposeful culture.
Culture is a main sticking point for companies struggling with disengagement, turnover and low morale.
“People want to work for a company that has a culture of recognizing great work effort, great workers and actions that help grow the company,” Brian Sommer, a technology services analyst, writes for Diginomica.
“This is the real recognition and reward challenge: getting a company to alter its culture and management practices to reward people who exhibit the behaviors that drive corporate success,” Sommer writes.
Fixing bad workplace culture takes a renewed focus on rewards and recognition — but not as “an afterthought or bolt-on capability.”
True cultural transformation happens when a) employee rewards and recognition is part of a greater shift toward a culture of gratitude, and b) company executives are 100 percent on-board.
“Why executives? Because cultural change is not the responsibility of HR alone and it can’t be fixed by a mandate, technology or HR. It needs the support of all executives and management,” Sommer writes.
One easy, practical way to help build a culture of gratitude is to involve employees and executives alike in a series of gratitude activities for the workplace.

Everyday Gratitude Activities for the Workplace to Try Today

Gratitude is not a one-and-done activity. It’s a practice.
Think of it in terms of physical fitness.
Recognition is like physical strength, and gratitude is the practice that makes it stronger.
Just like weightlifters build their strength over time with a daily regimen of lifting, your company leaders strengthen their ability to show effective employee reward and recognition through daily gratitude practice.
And it’s a practice that keeps going. Think about it — weightlifters don’t just stop lifting once they’ve reached their goal; they have to maintain their strength.
The workplace is the least likely place for Americans to express gratitude, according to a John Templeton Foundation study. Everywhere else — at school, in church, at the grocery store, in restaurants — we’re more willing to say “Thanks.”
But, interestingly, the study showed everyone loves receiving gratitude at work. So what gives? Leadership is responsible. To bridge this gap, leaders in your company need to “break the ice” and demonstrate the value of expressing gratitude to help employees feel more comfortable expressing gratitude, too. And remember, ways to show gratitude don’t have to be costly either!
Here are eight gratitude activities for the workplace. Gratitude grows through practice, and everyday activities and exercises like these help nudge the process!
1. Take a Gratitude Break
During meetings, save a few minutes for team members to share a quick appreciation. Don’t overthink it. It can be as simple as, “I’m grateful to Sarah for making the coffee extra strong this morning,” or “Thanks to Tom for helping me organize my presentation files so I could be more efficient in front of the client.”
Avoid gratitude for things — the freshly stocked supply closet is fantastic, but really our gratitude should go to our intern Rachel, who went out of her way to make sure we got everything we needed in time.
2. Give Gifts to Share
Receiving gifts is a treat, but sharing gifts feels good, too! The act of giving has intrinsic benefits for the giver. Share the joy of gift-giving (and receiving) by providing small gifts like gift certificates to employees to give to others — as customer Thank You’s or as peer-to-peer spot recognition for a coworker. Shift supervisors, regional managers and other team leaders will appreciate having quick and easy gifts to share on the spot with employees, too. Have a stash on hand!
3. Put Up a Thankful Tree
Here’s a gratitude activity for the workplace to try at Thanksgiving and over the holiday season, as suggested by Daring to Live Fully. Set up a holiday tree in a common area of your workplace and provide colorful paper cut-out tree ornaments in a bowl next to it, along with writing utensils. Encourage your team to write their gratitude on a paper cut-out and hang it on the tree. Together, the ornaments will be a daily visual reminder of gratitude for the whole season.
4. Play Appreciation “Hot Seat”
This is a good activity for annual retreats, employee orientation and other events that provide time for games. Have members of the team sit one at a time in a “hot seat.” Everyone else tells the person in the hot seat why they appreciate them and expresses gratitude for their work and any help or kindnesses recently given, etc.
5. Participate in a Gratitude Challenge
Organize your own program, or participate in a community-wide effort. For example, the open innovation platform OpenIDEO is hosting a challenge starting soon around the question, “How might we inspire experiences and expressions of gratitude in the workplace?” Visit the OpenIDEO website to find out how your workplace can participate in the challenge by conducting various “research missions.” Have fun with it!
6. Write Little Thank You Notes
Sometimes the best gratitude comes in small doses: a little Thank You note of two or three sentences. Writing Thank You notes is a great team activity any time of year and a thoughtful way for managers to show appreciation.
7. Volunteer in the Community
Giving back as a team is a positive, bonding experience that naturally boosts our gratitude. Choose volunteer activities that are best done together and take teamwork. A park cleanup is a great option — it gets people outdoors, and the results of everyone’s hard work are immediately evident.
8. Celebrate World Gratitude Day on Sept. 21
World Gratitude Day is Sept. 21. Celebrate it with your team with a low-key party and treats. Put the focus on appreciating employees. Have the CEO or other executive write a “World Gratitude Day” Thank You message that the whole staff will see.
This is just a short list of gratitude activities for the workplace. Don’t be afraid to modify as needed or spin off great ideas of your own with a goal in mind of creating employee rewards and recognition that cultivates a happier culture. Have fun!

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