Outdoor Bannner saying "ThankYou #OurHeroes" Photo by Kutan Ural on Unsplash

With stress and uncertainty at high levels due to the COVID-19 pandemic, sharing your sincere workplace gratitude is more important than ever.

Even if your employees seem to be keeping it together and are being productive, it could be that they are anxious, depressed and fearful as they face increased pressure at home while possibly dealing with unfamiliar ways of getting their work done.

Harvard Business Review in an article highlighting how a little thanks goes a long way in this time of crisis, writer Sabina Nawaz puts together several strategies that you can implement to underscore just how grateful you are for your team and their efforts. 

HBR reminds us that:

“Research clearly indicates expressing gratitude is beneficial to our health and well-being. We’re happier when we’re grateful. During a crisis, taking the time to thank others is vital to dampen loneliness, amp up social connections, and generate generosity.”

In the article, a busy academic executive said “I’m so busy fighting fires from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. that I don’t have time to acknowledge the work my team is doing.”  If you also feel too swamped to focus on gratitude, the suggestions provided are relatively easy to achieve, even during these tumultuous times.

Workplace Gratitude is More Important than Ever

Healthcare workers showing hearts. Photo by Rusty Watson on Unsplash

How You Can Help: Share Gratitude!

Host a daily gratitude shower

Like the neighborhood gatherings to salute and applaud essential workers that are being held around the world, create a similar event for your organization – host a daily live chat for just a few minutes and have staff type compliments about their co-workers.

Customize the way you give thanks

Research indicates that gratitude is stronger when it is for what the person did instead of how it benefited you!  Learn to understand how people like to be acknowledged.  This is where the 5 Love Languages can be a useful tool.  Even though it was designed for couples, it can apply to the workplace. 

Put employees center stage

It’s likely that everyone is working at their full capacity during this pandemic even if sometimes it doesn’t look like it. Don’t lose sight of the “invisible work” – those every day, ordinary tasks that may get overlooked.  And, don’t underestimate the effort behind work. Now’s the time to celebrate those who may not typically be the “stars” by featuring them in company-wide communications. 

Positivity – play it up and pay it forward

Research indicates that recipients of thanks are more likely to be helpful and generous. To create this snowball effect encourage those you thank to show appreciation to someone else. Provide an easy means and the tools to do so such as an electronic gratitude board or a workplace ‘Thank You’ app like Just Thank You.

Build a thankful team

The message travels farther (and louder) when you work as a team to give credit and thanks. Packaging praise can be coordinated using online tools like Kudoboard – create a theme and build a special card together for a colleague. This also generates good vibes for the team, not just the recipient.

Still not sure that you can carve out the time to show gratitude when you are struggling to keep yourself afloat at work, here’s a good summary of why it makes sense:

“…being thankful to your team is the right thing to do.” People are battling fears about the pandemic and juggling home and work in close proximity. Almost every employee needs to hear that their dedication is noticed and it matters. What’s more, gratitude is proven to show improvements in self-esteem, achieving career goals, decision making, productivity, and resilience.

And don’t forget, when you show gratitude, you benefit as well:

“Gratitude is a dish best served to suit the recipient’s tastes, but it comes with benefits for both the chef and the consumer. When people around you feel seen and acknowledged, they return the favor, invest more in their efforts, and form stronger connections — all essential ingredients to offset the stress of a crises. Giving thanks can be infectious.”

You’ve probably seen examples of gratitude being shown for essential workers on the news, whether it is New Yorkers banging pots and pans, applauding and singing at 7:00 pm or restaurants delivering free meals and snacks to hospitals and clinics, heartfelt homemade yard signs and innovative fundraisers. When doing more reading about workplace gratitude during the pandemic, we came across several examples that might inspire you as much they inspired us.

Pandemic Workplace Gratitude in Action

Three stories of gratitude to inspire your day and your creativity for sharing deep appreciation for your colleagues during these challenging times.

1. Leader Showing Thanks (and Vulnerability)

Chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service Vicki Christiansen shared a moving message and video on the organization’s website that conveyed her sincere thanks for Forest Service employees during this stressful time.  She began by using adjectives that employees may not often hear that were particularly apt given the circumstances:

“First, as I always do, but I really do mean it, I want to thank you for your endurance, your flexibilities, your innovation in working in this different posture as we all are across the nation in response to this pandemic.”

She also acknowledged the creativity required to keep delivering services while maintaining safety and showed genuine concern for employees who may be infected with the virus.  And, addressed the stress that employees were under, and the uncertainty of the future and managed to strike the right tone of concern and comfort (and also stressed keeping communication lines open).

“We will stay connected, we will keep thinking together and we’ll re-imagine what working safely is as we get on the backside of the spread of this pandemic, but of course it’s not going to just disappear in the weeks and months ahead, as I think we all have come to realize. So more to come there. We really want to hear your questions and your feedback.”

But we were most struck by her openness about her own challenges that made us realize by revealing her vulnerability she is connecting with her team and showing they are not alone in their struggles. 

“I wanted to touch on…resilience and coping; many of you in the calls that we have and in other notes you send, you know, are very nice—to ask me how I’m doing, how I’m holding up, how I’m maintaining my mental wellness, and I really appreciate that. It’s the care that we really demonstrate with each other in the Forest Service. So I’m human like everyone else, I’ll admit there are moments where I’ll say, “Aaahh!”

Additionally she shared a practical resource for approaching the pandemic 3 Zones:  Fear, Learning and Growth that uses German pedagogue Tom Senniger’s learning zone model (which you may have also seen recently as many people have shared it as lens to view racism).  After reading Chrstiansens’ post, we thought that this a leader who really understands the importance of gratitude in both work and personal lives.

2. Helping Hospice Workers Stay Positive 

A Hospice News article by Holly Vossel highlighted several ideas of how hospice providers boosted staff morale during the pandemic.  Retention and staffing issues were already a concern prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, so this industry has been under considerable stress.  Some hospices around the nation tried innovative approaches to show gratitude:

  • North Carolina-based Hospice of Davidson County implemented a Hospice Heroes campaign to show appreciation for workers putting themselves at consistent risk of COVID-19 infection while providing end-of-life care to patients. The campaign featured an online form to leave messages of gratitude as an encouragement for their staff members. Additionally a banner was hung at one of the organization’s hospices and luminaries were light for each hard-working staff member.
  • Florida-headquartered Interim Healthcare launched a staff newsletter, ‘Inspirations,” featuring the ways each of their locations encouraged staff and patients facing COVID-19 challenges.  One story was about a drive-thru breakfast at an Oklahoma City franchise location for staff to pickup of bagged meals before going to work in patient homes.
  • Interim Healthcare also gave staff an 800 number to call and talk with a counselor or counseling group that is 100% confidential.

3. The Magical Gift of “Gratitude Bots”

Learn how to make your own “Gratitude Bot” with artist and inventor Gary Hirsh.

In an American Red Cross Cascades region blog post the creative and caring efforts of Portland Oregon based artist Gary Hirsch were profiled.  Hirsh designs his “Bots” to provide energy, happiness and other positive emotions to those who receive them. 

Hirsch has created over 57,000 of these “small (and sometimes, big) totemic, art objects programmed to help” which are painted small on the back of dominos. Hirsch painted and donated 130 Gratitude Bots for for Red Cross phlebotomists working in Oregon and SW Washington with the intent of reminding those who receive them that someone out there cares about them.  

Hirsch explained how his Bots transitioned during the pandemic:

“I started making Bots about 10 years ago. The Gratitude Bots came when Covid-19 hit. I wanted to do something to thank the people on the frontlines who are sacrificing so much to help us out in the world as we stay at home.”

Hirsch hopes these small bots will make a big difference:

“I am interested in small shifts and reminders. If someone gives you a Gratitude Bot, my hope is that you will take a moment, a pause to take in that gratitude so it can be fuel for your amazing work when things get hard.”

Hirsch also hopes that others will mount a similar campaign and gives you the info to get started:

“My real hope is that people will start making their own Bots to thank those in their community that way as well. I have step-by-step instructions on my website for how to ‘Steal the idea” and make your own.” For more details, watch Hirsch’s video above and check out his website.

Even if you don’t start creating Gratitude Bots for your company, we have the perfect tool to walk you through writing meaningful and impactful thank you notes for your staff.

Or now might be an ideal time to share summer treat gift certificates for  ice cream, or fruit with your staff to thank them for their hard work during these unprecedented times.  We have lots of fun seasonal Thank You Cards for you to pick from for free!

Ready to spread a contagion of gratitude? We hope so and hope you share your creative ideas with us here at info@gThankYou.com.

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