Workplace gratitude isn’t something you achieve or check off a to-do list. There’s never a moment when you can say, “Aha! We’ve got all the gratitude we need!” Given the right support, a workplace culture of gratitude is ever evolving and always growing stronger.
The question isn’t whether your company has or doesn’t have a culture of shared gratitude and appreciation. The question is: does your company consistently nurture the growth of such a culture?
That’s why it’s important to support employees to share gratitude every day. We’ve covered a lot of the day-to-day, longterm skill-building for workplace gratitude on this blog (see 7 Steps to a Culture of Gratitude, for example).
But sometimes a fun, one-off activity can have a lasting impact and freshen everyone’s commitment to sharing appreciation and staying engaged with one another. Employee engagement guru David Zinger compares building engagement to tending house plants: “Perhaps employee growth is a natural state of affairs. If this is indeed the case, and I believe it is, are we offering the right care for this growth?”
If daily gratitude is like watering a garden, these fun and easy activities are a dash of fertilizer to boost workplace gratitude and keep your employee recognition program vibrant.
1. Thank-you Note Thursdays
Recently we spotted this sign in a bookshop window, advertising a regular “Thank-you Note Thursdays” event.
Stamps and notecards are provided at this free monthly event, held at the bookshop. All participants need is an address and a person to thank. What a great idea!
Sprint thought so, too. The wireless communications company made a goal back in 2010 of sending 500,000 handwritten thank-you notes to customers. Participating employees typically sit down to write the letters on Thursdays, and the program got dubbed “Thank You Thursdays.”
“I know it’s kind of old fashioned,” Sprint CEO Dan Hesse told Forbes, “but I think in today’s digital world customers notice and appreciate that we take time to write letters to them.”
Try Thank-you Note Thursdays at your company as a way to build gratitude within departments, between teams or from employees to clients. For variety, the thank-you notes could be anonymous or be accompanied with small gifts. Give employees the space to use their creativity and work together.
2. Gratitude Stroll
Organize occasional walks for employees to take together through a nearby park or nature preserve. No agenda, no talking points, no speed requirements — just a chance for coworkers to enjoy each other’s company outside the normal work environment.
If you’re looking to structure the activity more, Daring to Live Fully suggests solo walks with a challenge to “see how many positive things you can find: the smell of freshly baked bread coming from the bakery, flowers growing on a window sill, a cloudless sky.” Whether participants are on the look out for positive things or not, gratitude grows naturally whenever people have the chance to slow down and enjoy a moment together.
3. Gratitude Board
Greater Good Science Center recommends a gratitude collage or bulletin board as a children’s classroom activity, but it can be modified for adults, too. It could go up on a wall in a shared area like a break room or kitchen. Invite an artist or hand-lettering/calligraphy expert in for an hour to share their talent and give artistic guidance to the project. Skillshare also offers online courses in hand-lettering.
4. Dancing or social sports
Social connections and physical activity alone are both proven to be good for physical and mental health. Together, they’re even better. Researchers in Australia found that people who participate in club sports enjoy better mental health and life satisfaction than those who exercise at a gym or walk alone.
Set aside time for employees to get moving together, whether in a free dance class offered on-site, a pickup game of basketball over lunch or a company league sport such as bowling one night a week off-site. Whichever physical activities are best suited to your workplace and employees, be sure to welcome and include people of all athletic skill levels. A little competition is fun, but feeling overwhelmed or intimidated by an activity will scare away some and defeat the purpose of building connections and gratitude.
5. Morning Gratitude Circle
This works best in small groups, for example a team working on a project. Gather everyone first thing in the morning or at the beginning of a shift for a five-minute group reflection. Going around in a circle, each individual shares what he or she is grateful for that day.
Encourage group members to be specific and to always pin their gratitude to a person, not a thing or circumstance. Remind everyone that gratitude is not the same as indebtedness, as discussed in the 2011 New York Times article “A Serving of Gratitude May Save the Day.”
Author John Tierney writes, “You may feel obliged to return a favor, but that’s not gratitude, at least not the way psychologists define it. Indebtedness is more of a negative feeling and doesn’t yield the same benefits as gratitude, which inclines you to be nice to anyone, not just a benefactor.” Real gratitude spreads like good karma.
Employee engagement thrives in a culture of gratitude. For a step-by-step guide with practical tips to get you started on building a vibrant culture of gratitude, download our FREE e-book, “Workplace Gratitude.”
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