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How to use Gratitude Practice in the Workplace

We explore the practice of gratitude and how to discover more happiness at work

The working world has changed dramatically this year – normal working practices have been turned on their head, leaving some people questioning how they can still feel happy at work in an ever-changing environment.

Gratitude has been labelled as ‘the ultimate performance-enhancing substance at work’ by professionals, so we partnered with workplace wellbeing experts Mind It to explore the concept of gratitude and share advice on how to practise gratitude whilst at work. Here, they share top tips on how to best use the practice to uncover more happiness and improve your work performance.

gratitude practice

What is gratitude?

The Harvard Medical School defines ‘gratitude’ as “a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives”.

Put simply, gratitude helps us to realise and appreciate the value of something, meaning that we get more benefits from it. This could be as simple as ‘remembering to bring an umbrella on a rainy day’ or bigger work accomplishments – there really is no limit.

Check out David Steindl-Rest’s TED Talk, discussing how gratitude breeds happiness – not the other way around! He observes:

“We all know quite a number of people who have everything, and they are not happy because they want something else or they want more of the same. And we all know people who have lots of misfortune – misfortune that we would not want to have, and they are deeply happy…Why? Because they are grateful.”

A great listen to fully understand the term ‘gratitude’ and how you can incorporate small, positive habits into your everyday life.

What are the positive outcomes of practising gratitude in the workplace?

Gratitude plays a fundamental role in business success, even though many people may not recognise its full impact. Practising gratitude in the workplace can enhance mood, improve productivity, and forge strong and healthy relationships between colleagues.

Professor Robert Emmons, Gratitude Researcher and Professor at UC Davis, says “Gratitude is the ultimate performance-enhancing substance at work.” Emmons studied the impact of gratitude on psychological wellbeing, relationships and physical health, finding that those who practise gratitude have stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, higher levels of positive emotions, are more alert, more helpful, and feel less lonely.

Watch Robert Emmons discuss the ‘Power of Gratitude’ here:

Practising gratitude can also result in better leadership, which is vital in the workplace. By appreciating colleagues, you will realise that without their assistance you wouldn’t have achieved the target, and your project may not have been as successful. A thankful leader is an approachable one, and this is extremely important when encouraging employees to come to you with any problems and when trying to attract new talent.

How can employers ensure that their teams are happy at work, especially when working remotely?

Gratitude is a powerful way to increase happiness and a positive culture, but there are plenty of other steps that employers can take to maintain and improve wellbeing – this is all the more important now that many people are working remotely.

Gemma Perkins on behalf of Mind It has shared her top tips to help employers navigate this stressful time.

  1. Setting healthy boundaries

    To combat the blurred home and work-life balance, companies should ensure that the workplace has a policy around not sending emails out of hours, giving adequate time before deadlines and establishing clear reporting processes to help people maintain a healthy balance.

  2. Give some flexibility

    As winter sets in, people are waking up in the dark, working at their desks and logging off after sunset. Encouraging the team to actually take their lunch break and maybe to go out for an afternoon walk and a hit of vitamin D can really help to boost their mood. An extra half an hour in the middle of the day can make the world of difference to employee motivation.

  3. Plan social time

    When we were working in the office, we didn’t have to book in casual chit chat, this just happened on the tea run or as people broke for lunch. Now that meetings are back-to-back and people have to deliberately connect for a conversation, it’s even more important to give your team time to catch up with each other, thus maintaining social bonds. Consider a daily team coffee break, a weekly quiz, Friday afternoon chill session, or other forms of bonding time so that the team still feels that human connection. You can find more virtual event ideas here.

  4. Consult and collaborate

    One of the biggest factors in employee retention is how much an employee feels that their boss cares about them and values their opinion. As you navigate these unusual times, ask for opinions and work with your team to try out suggestions to co-create wellbeing ideas. Even if it takes a while to find something that works for your team, the fact that you’ve done it together can really demonstrate trust.

gratitude practice

What tips and ideas would help those looking to practise gratitude?

You don’t have to make a big scene of gratitude, practising gratitude could be as simple as showing colleague recognition by sending a ‘thank you’ email – anything to make someone feel appreciated.

For your own personal development, try creating a digital gratitude folder. It’s all too easy to delete emails or let them sit in your inbox, however, why not try moving any compliments or accomplishments to a separate folder? This way, you can scroll through the folder whenever you need a boost and it will instantly brighten your mood and day!

A gratitude journal/board is also a great way of reflecting on a day’s work – try writing three positive points from the day and avoid focusing on any negatives that may have happened. Remember that positive points can be extremely simple, so if you feel as if nothing has gone right in your working day, there is always something to be grateful for – whether it’s ‘going for a walk on your lunch break’ or even ‘having a quick catch-up with a team member.’ Looking at your working day with a more positive outlook will help you to become a more optimistic and well-rounded person.

Gratitude practice journal

Employers should also host remote team building activities to help colleagues practise gratitude. Here at MEPC, we host regular virtual events to help everyone stay active, improve wellbeing, and learn a new skill while spending more time at home. From chair yoga to live workouts, we are always on hand if you need help getting your team involved in a team-building exercise.