Offices are beginning to reopen along with the portions of the global economy. With gentle reopening comes careful planning to accommodate a new health and safety-focused environment. And one that promotes productivity, wellness, and trust among employees.
While official guidelines and plans for safely reopening remain murky, suggestions include regular temperature checks, staggered shifts, stocked sanitation and cleaning supplies and closing common areas.
The months spent operating remotely, regularly checking in with employees, and offering kudos for jobs well done have served organizations well as teams came together to navigate an ever-shifting way of working. Regardless of an office’s ‘new normal,’ appreciation and recognition are key to easing employees into a new phase of uncertainty. Anxieties associated with the COVID-19 pandemic are a long way off from subsiding, despite returning to the office. Keep in mind that individuals are affected differently by stress, an inevitable byproduct of such sweeping changes.
Emerging from such circumstances will create unique side effects. Though some states have begun to reopen parts of their economies, with the virus still active, for many people, FOMO may have been replaced by FOGO — a.k.a. the fear of going out. While some people are ready to rub shoulders with strangers, others will be apprehensive about returning to the social sphere, in part because without a vaccine, leaving our homes will come with a real risk of infection. But anxieties about resuming public life have also been magnified by our months indoors, with the lack of exposure to people and places only intensifying our fears about the outside world.
Employee recognition parallels the emotion of gratitude in terms of its effect on the brain: even saying the words ‘thank you’ activates feel-good areas of the brain. And that sentiment can affect others. Managers doling out thank you’s regularly and genuinely in a new normal can powerfully influence the way organizations face a new chapter:
A sense of community: Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), neuroscientists can see that the same regions of the brain associated with socialization and pleasure light up when someone experiences gratitude.
Makes employees feel more connected: Neuroscientists found that grateful people show greater neural sensitivity in the medial prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain associated with learning and decision-making). These findings suggest the more grateful a person feels, the more they will express gratitude.
Can relieve anxiety: With anxiety at an all-time high in the wake of the pandemic, regular employee recognition can alleviate anxiety brought to the office. At a neurobiological level, gratitude regulates the sympathetic nervous system that activates our anxiety responses, and at the psychological level, it conditions the brain to filter negative rumination and focus on positive thoughts.
Helps build resilience: Regular gratitude builds emotional resilience by fighting negative rumination and rebuilding pessimistic thoughts with optimistic ones, accepting reality, and focusing on solutions. Emotional resilience on an individual level is vital to building the organizational resilience needed to withstand economic shocks like the one we’re facing today.
Download: How Employee Recognition Influences Attitude & Behavior in the Workplace