Here’s Why Workplace Gratitude Enhances Performance and Reduces Stress

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Practicing gratitude has many health benefits, from improved mental health to better relationships and a stronger immune system

As it turns out, showing gratitude to your coworkers benefits your work performance and stress levels. According to a new study from the University of California San Diego’s Rady School of Management, the simple act of thanking a team member before completing a stressful work task can increase concentration and enhance workplace performance.

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Sound too good to be true? Here’s why workplace gratitude is key for better performance and lower stress among team members. 

What does it mean to practice gratitude at work?

If you’re wondering how a simple “thank you” to a team member could translate into improved workplace performance, you’ll first need to understand how the practice of gratitude works. Practicing gratitude in the workplace is less about saying thank you and more about recognizing the contributions, skills and experience that the people you work with bring to the table. 

Recognizing all the positive things your team members bring to the table – and being recognized for your contributions – helps improve relationships with coworkers by promoting workplace satisfaction. 

Why Teams That Show Gratitude Work More Efficiently

(Photo by TheStandingDesk on Unsplash)

In the study devised by the University of California San Diego, 200 students were tasked with participating in a rigorous competition that asked two teams to come up with a winning business idea. To motivate participants and add elements of stress that would stimulate a biological stress response, teams were given only six minutes to pitch the product and offered a prize of $200. 

During the experiment, students wore technology that measured their blood pressure to see how their bodies responded to their stress.

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When analyzing the results, the team that was instructed to express gratitude to their team members had a more effective stress response – meaning they could better regulate their body’s response to a perceived threat when receiving gratitude from other team members. 

This helped the team who showed gratitude manage stress better than the opposing team and resulted in a better ability to concentrate.

The Benefits of Practicing Gratitude at Work

coworkers work closely
(Photo by TheStandingDesk on Unsplash)

Two benefits of regularly practicing workplace gratitude are improved stress response and better concentration. Here are a few other ways workplace gratitude helps boost work performance. 

Gratitude mitigates workplace entitlement. Have you ever worked with someone who felt they were owed more than others? Typically, feelings of entitlement arise when a workplace environment does not recognize the contributions of its employees, leaving them feeling angry and even disengaged at work. The constant, daily practice of gratitude toward employees and team members helps keep this resentment at bay, resulting in less entitled employees across teams and the workplace. 

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Gratitude improves sleep. Nearly one-third of Americans don’t get enough sleep. Along with issues like a compromised immune system and a higher risk of depression, lack of adequate sleep directly impacts job performance and job satisfaction. Without enough sleep, our executive function worsens, and our ability to think outside the box decreases. The practice of gratitude has been linked to better sleep, possibly due to the influx of positive thoughts before bedtime that occur from regularly practiced appreciation. 

Gratitude increases participation. Being recognized at work and feeling gratitude for those you work with makes us more willing to participate. This goes beyond raising your hand and volunteering in a meeting but taking a “good Samaritan” approach elsewhere in the office – whether cleaning up the kitchen after someone forgot or offering to coordinate a birthday celebration for a teammate. 

How to Increase Workplace Gratitude

woman smiles into camera
(Photo by May Gauthier on Unsplash)

Depending on where you are in your company’s organizational structure, it may feel like taking small steps toward workplace gratitude won’t make much of a difference. While it’s true that cultivating a culture of gratitude at work starts at the top, there are still small acts everyone can employ to reap the benefits of gratitude in the workplace. Here are a few tips on how to start showing workplace gratitude. 

Focus on genuine gratitude. When you consciously start showing gratitude in the workplace, it’s easy to get carried away with constant “thank yous.” Instead of constantly thanking everyone you encounter, make it a point to be more mindful of the gratitude you show toward coworkers. For example, instead of a simple thank you when a coworker quickly pulls a report for you, tell them you admire their efficiency and ability to always come through in such a timely manner. Gratitude that recognizes the skills and abilities your coworkers individually bring to the table will go a long way. 

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Thank those who don’t get recognized. Focus on promoting gratitude beyond your immediate team. Make it a point to thank those whose efforts often go unnoticed. Maybe it’s the administrative assistant who files timesheets or the janitor who comes in earlier than everyone to keep your workplace clean. Expressing gratitude to those who don’t often receive it or don’t think their contributions are as integral as others can go a long way. 

Make gratitude a habit in times of high stress. Daily gratitude can go a long way to improve office morale and productivity. But it’s easy to lose sight of what to be grateful for when working under an incredibly tight deadline or suffering a workplace setback. In times of failure, it’s important to reflect gratitude on what has been gained and learned. Being grateful for the learning experience after a failure can be hard to do – but worthwhile to master.

Summary

man look into mirror and reflects on his life
(Photo by Adam Winger on Unsplash)

Practicing gratitude regularly has benefits for all areas of our lives. Regarding gratitude in the workplace, expressing gratitude to team members helps mitigate our stress response and makes us more resilient to future workplace stressors. To improve performance, team camaraderie and overall job satisfaction, make it a point to find things to be grateful for at work each day and express genuine gratitude to those who make a difference in your day-to-day work life. 

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