Mental health has never been more important. Workplace stress is reaching epidemic levels in the United States with 83 percent of professionals experiencing it. A quarter of workers also say that their job is the number one stressor in their lives. As a manager or business leader, you have an obligation to help your staff members overcome this hurdle.
While stress can hit all sectors, it will always be a key feature within the realms of healthcare. Chad Price, CEO of MAKO Medical Laboratories, oversees a staff of more than 1,000 workers and knows the value of looking after their mental wellness in the workplace. Depression-induced absenteeism costs American businesses $51 billion a year, but it’s not all about the bottom line. Having a healthy team of workers empowers every aspect of a company — leading to more productivity and better outcomes.
How Gratitude Leads to Lower Stress Responses
Needless to say, there are many ways that managers can ensure their team gets the mental health support that they need. One intervention — that runs directly through the MAKO Medical Laboratories value system — is that of gratitude. According to new research from the University of California, San Diego, gratitude between co-workers can significantly lower the levels of stress that each professional experiences.
“Our results have meaningful implications for organizations and particularly for employees who work together under acutely stressful conditions to accomplish joint goals,” said Christopher Oveis, senior author of the study which will be published in Journal of Experimental Psychology.
As part of the study, 200 participants had to complete a ‘Shark Tank’ esque study that was high-pressure. The author then measured how co-workers’ gratitude helped to lower stress levels in the people who were taking part. “It’s essentially an impossible task,” explains Oveis. “The experiment is designed to create a maximally stressful environment so we can gauge how gratitude shapes stress response during teamwork because most people spend a third or more of their daily lives at work.”
“In a high-stakes, motivated performance task, people can react in one of two ways at a biological level,” she continued. “Some people really rise to the challenge and have an efficient cardiovascular response known as a challenge-response: The heart pumps out more blood, the vasculature dilates, blood gets to the periphery, oxygenated blood gets to the brain and cognition fires on all cylinders.”
However, as Oveis explains, others can panic and have an extreme threat response when they are faced with a difficult challenge. “But other people don’t fare as well and instead have a threat response: The heart pumps out less blood, the vasculature constricts, blood flow to periphery is reduced and performance goes down.”
The study results found that a single one or two-minute display of gratitude from another team member lowered people’s physiological responses. As though that weren’t enough, the move also meant that the team members were more engaged with the task and had stronger relationships. These enlightening results suggest that gratitude may play a major role in the mental and physical wellness of professionals in a working environment.
How to Encourage Gratitude in the Workplace
During busy periods, gratitude may be the last thing on workers’ minds. However, as Chad Price CEO of MAKO Medical Laboratories has experienced firsthand, there are still ways to ensure that the team stays on track. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the team of experts worked hard to deliver more than 10 million virus test results. The surge in demand meant that the professionals were busier than ever. Despite this fact, the team remained conscious of each other’s needs when collaborating. Let’s take a look at some of the ways that managers can encourage their team members to show more gratitude.
Lead by example
The first lesson that every good manager needs to learn is to lead by example. One of the easiest ways to encourage your team to become more grateful is to show that you are. Taking the time to thank hard-working staff members is one part of the puzzle. However, you may also choose to start an initiative in which you publicly thank employees for their work. You can hold an awards evening, for example, and honor your best team members. By showing gratitude to your team, you create a culture where this approach is the norm.
Thank every type of worker
Chances are, there are the stars of your workplace. It may be your sales or creative teams, for instance. These professionals work hard and receive endless gratitude from you and the management team. However, you should consider whether there are staff members who never get thanked. Look at all aspects of your business — from the cleaning staff to the admin workers. By showing that you are grateful to every type of professional, you encourage others to share a level of respect for each department.
Create an appreciation platform
Saying ‘thank you’ to a coworker is natural. However, some professionals find it hard to offer or receive bigger gestures of gratitude. To take the hassle out of this issue, you may want to create an anonymous appreciation platform. You can have an online form where workers can nominate each other and share their positive feedback. The truth of the matter is that everyone enjoys being appreciated by those around them. Delivering these messages to each of the workers is a simple and effective way to make their day.
Alternatively, you may want to create a ‘gratitude wall’ in your workplace. This is an old fashioned bulletin board where workers can share kind messages with one another. The board allows people to show each other the appreciation they deserve. Each week, you may choose to add a question or prompt to the board, such as ‘Which staff member has made your job easier this week?’ Think of ways to make this work in your company.
Fostering a sense of gratitude in the workplace can lower your staff members’ response to stress. While there are plenty of different ways you can support your employees, you may want to start this initiative sooner rather than later. Now that we have looked at the ways that you can encourage gratitude, there’s no reason to wait. Get started today.