Positive Psychology, the study of positive emotions, well-being, and factors contributing to a meaningful life, has become popular in recent years. The concept has been applied to almost every aspect of life in hopes of helping individuals reduce stress, improve interpersonal relationships, and even reshape workplace dynamics.
One of the methods of realizing the ideas behind Positive Psychology in everyday life is to engage in gratitude exercises, which are activities and practices designed to help individuals cultivate and express thankfulness and appreciation.
Examples of some of the most commonly used gratitude activities are:
- Gratitude journal. A daily journal entry helps you focus on the positives in life, like events, people, and moments you are grateful for.
- Daily gratitude list. Like a gratitude journal, keeping a daily list, which can also be done in the journal, is a great way to remind yourself daily about the good things in life.
- Mindful meditation. Taking some quiet time to focus on what you are grateful for is great for your mental and physical health.
- Gratitude letter. Reach out to a friend or colleague and express what you are thankful for about them.
- Showing regular appreciation. Express gratitude by writing thank you notes or expressions of thankfulness to others.
- Gratitude jar. A physical place where you can place reminders of what you are grateful for that you can revisit anytime.
- Gratitude walk. Like a mindful meditation session, taking a gratitude walk can be a moment of quiet reflection to think about everything you are grateful for.
- Gratitude board. Hang one up in your house or office and place daily reminders in the form of notes, pictures, art, and anything you can think of that shows what you are happy about in your life.
Gratitude exercises are associated with various mental and emotional benefits, including increased happiness and overall well-being. They help an individual or communal environment shift your focus toward the positive aspects of your life, which fosters a more positive outlook and improves your relationships with others.
Gratitude exercises in the workplace
Gratitude exercises help companies create a positive environment and enhance worker participation. These activities improve well-being, morale, and workplace productivity. More companies are adopting gratitude practices to refine their culture and values, leading to increased employee engagement and stronger customer relations.
Salesforce, for example, focuses on philanthropy and giving back to the community by encouraging employees to participate in volunteer activities and offering paid time off for volunteering. Gratitude enriches the work atmosphere and strengthens relationships with customers, employees, and business partners.
13 Gratitude exercises and activities
1. Gratitude hot seat
A gratitude hot seat is an exercise where employees express gratitude or appreciation for something or someone in the workplace.
In this exercise, one person sits in the "hot seat" and shares what they are grateful for or appreciative of at work, which can be anything from a relationship with a coworker to a successful project outcome. Other participants in the group are encouraged to listen as well as offer acknowledgment.
2. Gratitude Board
A gratitude board is a physical and visual representation of gratitude, which can be anything from notes about specific moments to vacation photos. The board can be set up in an office as an ongoing reminder of the positive aspects of the workplace and can be an excellent tool for promoting a positive mindset during the workday.
Here are some of the ways to create and maintain a gratitude board:
- Provide your employees with materials, such as a backboard made of cork or cardboard, paper, writing utensils, pins, and plenty of room for positivity. If you're a remote team, consider a digital board or chat space dedicated to gratitude.
- Create a list of the things you're grateful for. These can be big or small, from personal achievements in the workplace or something unique. Give employees a chance to write these reflections, or ask them to bring photos or keepsakes that can be placed on the board.
- Keep up with the board and ask employees to add new items once a week or make updates on professional achievements when they happen.
Gratitude boards can be a simple but effective way to bring employees together and boost morale in the workplace. Regularly engaging with a gratitude board in the workplace can promote work-life balance.
3. Thank you notes
Thank you notes in the workplace are an easy and accessible way to express gratitude and appreciation. Showing gratitude is one of the best ways to voice recognition and build positive relationships with colleagues and leadership.
Here are some areas in which thank-you notes can boost morale and positive relationships in the workplace:
- Post-job interview. After an interview is a great time to send a thank you note to express your appreciation for the opportunity to join a company, especially if it's a role you're excited about. Expressing thanks shows that you are open and communicative, which is an excellent sign that a potential employee is collaborative.
- Teamwork. Make sure to say thanks when a team member or coworker provides support or collaborates effectively, send them a thank you note to acknowledge their efforts or take them out to lunch.
- Recognition and thanks from leadership. When leaders in the workplace express gratitude, this can have lasting effects on productivity and the continuation of a positive work environment.
- Random acts of kindness. Consider giving a coworker who you are close to a small gift to show your appreciation for them, especially if they have helped you professionally. Giving thanks or a small present to show appreciation will strengthen professional and personal bonds.
- Express thanks to customers and clients. While gratitude in the workspace is vital to a healthy work-life balance, appreciation for your clients or customers helps build trust and a good reputation overall for your organization.
Expressing gratitude in the workplace shows appreciation, helps build positive relationships, and can contribute to a more harmonious and productive work environment.
4. Community lunch
Organizing a community lunch at workplaces to show gratitude is an effective way to express appreciation for your employees.
Leadership can take these steps to place a successful community lunch that shows their gratitude for their employees:
- Give workers the afternoon off and choose a time during the workweek that offers a break from completing tasks and an opportunity to destress.
- Ask employees to decide where to eat, considering surroundings, dietary restrictions, and accessibility. If teams are working remotely, view sending out gift cards for online ordering services where workers can buy lunch no matter where they are and set up lunch over Zoom.
- While having a community lunch should be relaxed and stress-free, letting team members spend time together, consider providing thank you notes and expressing gratitude to employees for their hard work.
- Make space for feedback after the community lunch. Ask employees if they enjoyed the event and whether or not they would like to do it again. Make communal time a priority and a time to show genuine appreciation, boost morale, and strengthen team relationships.
Hosting regular communal gatherings will create a positive workplace culture where employees or colleagues feel valued and motivated to be part of the team.
5. Milestone celebrations
Companies can use milestone celebrations as a way to show gratitude to employees and recognize their contributions.
By hosting an event to honor a team member or a group project, here are some ideas companies can use to host a milestone celebration in their community to express gratitude:
- Anniversaries. Acknowledge employees' years of service with the company, typically done at the 5, 10, 15, or 20-year mark. Personalized gifts, extra time off, and even raises are great ways to honor someone's years of service.
- Employee of the Month. Recognize outstanding employees by designating them as the Employee of the Month or Quarter. Organize a small ceremony to present them with an award.
- Employee appreciation. Dedicate a day to celebrating your employees' hard work and dedication. Arrange activities, games, and treats.
- Company-wide recognition. Recognize milestone achievements by sending a thank you message through a newsletter or social media. Highlight the accomplishments and contributions of the employees and celebrate these successes by offering an incentive like professional development opportunities, flexible work options,
- Peer-to-Peer appreciation. Encourage employees to appreciate and recognize each other's contributions by letting them offer gifts, public acknowledgments, etc.
Recognition programs that celebrate milestones effectively ensure leadership expresses gratitude, letting employees know their hard work does not go unnoticed. Showing appreciation for your team's hard work will boost morale, increase job satisfaction, and foster a positive workplace environment.
6. Social media shoutout
A social media shoutout on internal workplace channels and public ones (as long as the person getting appreciation is okay with that!) in the workplace is a great way to show gratitude and appreciation for your employees.
A shoutout is a simple yet effective way to boost morale and strengthen the sense of community within your workplace. Make sure when doing a shoutout you are prioritizing using a gratitude-focused message that shows appreciation. This message highlights specific achievements, projects, or team efforts that the company is grateful for. Encourage Engagement with team members and customers if applicable, but always ensure dialogue remains professional.
By publicly acknowledging hard work and dedication in the form of gratitude, organizations can foster a positive and collaborative work environment.
7. Prioritizing work-life balance
Prioritizing work-life balance is one of the best ways to show gratitude to employees. Implementing ways for employees to rest and understand that they have their own lives will lead to more quality output and happier employees.
There are many ways to create a balanced workplace. Here are a few of the major ones currently being implemented by many companies as the workplace shifts:
- Encourage employees to take their vacation days and use them to relax and rejuvenate. Additionally, work continuously to ensure employees are given ample time off, revisiting vacation policies to meet today's standards.
- Don't push for overworking. Even with a tight deadline, don't send a message that employees are expected to work late or take work home consistently. Show gratitude for the work-life balance by completing your work during your designated hours. Articulate to workers that you respect the time needed to spend with family and friends.
- Ensure employees are given time to turn off work-related notifications and emails outside work hours, respecting personal time to promote a healthy work-life balance for your colleagues.
- Delegate work fairly and encourage workers and teams to share the workload and responsibilities with colleagues.
- Set aside a budget for employees to benefit from, such as an amount each month toward wellness activities, like exercise, meditation, or hobbies. Improved well-being is one of the best ways to demonstrate gratitude for your employees' hard work.
- Regularly evaluate your company's work-life balance and adjust when necessary.
Remember that work-life balance is not just a personal benefit; it can lead to increased productivity, creativity, and overall well-being, which can benefit your work and relationships. By prioritizing work-life balance, you show gratitude for your life and the people and opportunities that make it all possible.
8. Office equipment upgrades
Upgrading office equipment regularly to show gratitude to employees is a thoughtful gesture that can improve morale, productivity, and overall job satisfaction.
Here are some ways to provide the appropriate equipment based on employees' unique needs:
- Ask what your employees need. Conduct a survey or host a feedback session to understand which office equipment or tools employees want or need upgrades so that you can prioritize your investments.
- Don’t skimp on equipment. Provide employees with the latest tech, such as tablets, laptops, and dual monitors, to help improve comfort and efficiency. Speaking of comfort, whether your employees are in the office or remotely, offering a budget or upgrading chairs and desks to ergonomic options can enhance employee comfort and reduce the risk of work-related injuries. Remember, additional office equipment, such as printers, upgrade software, and collaboration tools, are needed to do a good job and should be provided by the company.
Make sure to conduct regular feedback sessions to find out what your employees like and what they need more of to show that you care about their well-being and are grateful for their commitment and work.
9. Online training courses
Expressing gratitude to employees by offering them continuing education through online training courses can be a great way to foster a positive work culture and boost employee morale. By offering to fund workshops and classes, employees can refine their skills and be better equipped to do their work.
- Communication and de-escalation course
- Emotional Intelligence Training
- Team building methods
- Diversity and Inclusion Training
- Leadership Development
- Mindfulness and stress reduction
Many of these courses are found on popular online learning platforms like Coursera, edX, and Udemy. If your team prefers an in-person learning session, contact professional development and HR organizations for tailored training programs. Tailoring your training to your organization's specific needs and culture is essential for practical gratitude expression.
10. Employee Appreciation Day
Hosting a company-wide employee appreciation day is an idea to show employees gratitude and recognition for their hard work, dedication, and contributions to the organization. It's an opportunity for employers to express their appreciation and for employees to feel valued and motivated.
Here are some ideas and suggestions for celebrating Employee Appreciation Day:
- Write personalized thank-you notes to each employee, highlighting their contributions and efforts.
- Offer gift cards to employees to take themselves to lunch or coffee.
- Hand out employee Awards that highlight outstanding employees with awards or certificates, such as "Employee of the Month."
- Host a company-wide employee breakfast where employees can relax and bond with one another.
- Take the day off for team-building activities that encourage employee bonding and camaraderie.
- Take the day off to volunteer day and use all that appreciative energy to do some good. Volunteer for a charitable cause or support a community project as a team-building activity.
- Acknowledge each employee's unique interests and preferences, which can make the recognition more meaningful.
- Share employee accomplishments on social media, the company website, or a company newsletter to highlight their contributions.
Employee appreciation day is all about celebration and showing gratitude and should be made an ongoing practice within the workplace to maintain a positive and motivated workforce.
11. Remote workdays
Offering employees in the office regularly remote workdays can be part of showing gratitude. Allowing employees to work remotely acknowledges their need for flexibility and demonstrates trust in their ability to manage their time effectively.
There have been numerous statistics on how remote working can reduce stress and increase happiness, thanks to a reduced commute, which saves employees time and money. Additionally, remote work is part of the greater promotion of work-life balance, which can increase productivity, trust, autonomy, and overall well-being in and out of the workplace.
By allowing remote work, employers acknowledge that what truly matters is the quality of work and the contributions employees make, not their physical presence in the office. This recognition is a significant way of expressing gratitude for their efforts.
12. Wellness programs
Wellness, whether in the form of providing spa days, gym memberships, or small incentives to relax throughout the work day, has been touted as a part of expressing gratitude to employees.
To promote wellness in the workplace, plan to organize gratitude-themed wellness challenges, like "x Days of Gratitude," where participants engage in daily gratitude exercises and activities, ranging from workshops, teambuilding activities, games, and community meals. Part of these challenges could include an outside expert hosting gratitude workshops that teach employees about the benefits of gratitude, provide tips for practicing gratitude, and share success stories.
Consider also offering expressions of gratitude tied to wellness activities where employees can take a day off or give them a budget to engage in activities that make them feel grateful and rejuvenated, such as volunteer programs, personal mindfulness workshops, or personal development resources.
13. Teambuilding retreats
Team-building retreats are a fantastic way to show gratitude and appreciation for your team's work in the office. These retreats can help boost morale, strengthen relationships, and foster a sense of unity among team members.
Here are some of the most important things to consider for a successful team retreat that is designed to show your appreciation for all of your employees' hard work:
- Make sure you know what you want to get out of your retreat, whether it be to show appreciation for hard work or engage in specific team-building activities skill skill-building
- Choose a location your team is interested in and comfortable with that is also conducive to team bonding and relaxation.
- Ensure you have an adequate budget for employee accommodation, meals, activities, and travel expenses.
- Plan Engaging Activities that prioritize fun
- Incorporate various team-building activities and workshops that promote collaboration, problem-solving, and communication
- Encourage bonding and communication
- Tailor the retreat to your team's interests and preferences. Consider their hobbies, passions, and needs when planning activities and downtime.
- Recognize Achievements while on retreat, providing awards, speeches, or team-building exercises highlighting the value of each team member's contribution.
- Make sure planned activities are mixed with free time so your employees can unwind, connect personally, and recharge.
- Cater to well-being and show your employees you are grateful for the hard work and want them to take this time to decompress
Remember that team-building retreats are an opportunity and space to express gratitude, which can have a lasting positive effect on your office culture and productivity.
No need to wait! It’s easy to start showing your gratitude right away
Creating a culture of gratitude takes time and consistent effort, and at its core, it is meant to create a better work-life balance. While leadership can do a lot of the heavy lifting (as they should) to cultivate a culture of gratitude, it’s also important to encourage employees at all levels to participate in these programs. Hence, the workplace feels more bonded and communal.
Starting your gratitude journey with a team-building retreat can create the perfect opportunity to introduce positive psychology concepts to the workplace. To ensure that you cater to your team's individual needs when planning the details, Surf Office can help with logistics, and offer our expert advice to those planning a retreat for the first time.
No matter where you start, implementing gratitude exercises into the workplace will make gratitude a fundamental part of your company culture, improving well-being and job satisfaction.