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Weaving recognition into your wellness culture

by Anita Rao ASEBP | December 2 2020

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
– John Fitzgerald Kennedy

The season of giving is almost upon us and perhaps the most meaningful gifts are the ones that can’t be bought. What gift is that you ask? A little recognition of course!

Recognition is an aspect of workplace wellness that can sometimes fall to the wayside—particularly when work is hectic. During the daily hustle and bustle, it’s easy to forget to stop and appreciate the things that our colleagues do to help make our lives a little easier. This might be a coworker lending a hand when they notice you are feeling frustrated or making a fresh pot of coffee so it’s ready when the rest of the team arrives at work.

Sometimes we don’t even realize the value of those actions until we stop to reflect on them. Making recognition a part of your everyday can help create a chain of positivity and reinforce these actions.

Every organization has its own culture, which is defined by its mission, values, practices and behaviours that are shared across the workplace. Creating a culture where recognition is the norm means integrating gratitude and appreciation into our day-to-day. We all know, there is no greater feeling than hearing we are valued and appreciated.

Think of a time a friend or colleague complimented you on a job well done or when you made someone smile by expressing a simple ‘thank you.’ Didn’t that make you feel great? As we spend most of our waking hours at work, it’s even more important to make it as supportive and encouraging as we can!

I recently had the pleasure of sitting in on a webinar with Dr. Jody Carrington and she reminded me of the relationship between passion and purpose: the importance of getting back to our “why.” Sometimes, all it takes is a kind word or gesture to remind ourselves why we do what we do.

As social creatures, we crave connection and recognition as it is an innate part of ourselves. Seeking recognition—and the connection that goes along with it—validates that what we contribute individually, matters. Hearing that from our peers and leaders helps remind us of our value.

Our sense of value drives our purpose or as Dr. Jody Carrington referred to it, ensures that “passion rides shotgun to purpose.” After months of doing our best in the face of constant change, recognition serves as a kind reminder that our efforts are not going unnoticed and that we are valued and appreciated. Recognition, after all, is the gift that just keeps giving!

How can you make recognition an intentional part of your workplace culture?

• Make it timely: so many people are working hard to ensure our working environments are clean and safe, students are feeling supported and staff are going that extra mile to help each other each day. Often, speaking up and acknowledging their efforts can make the world of difference to them. So, when you see something, say something!

• It’s the thought that counts: take your admiration to the next level by making it personal, specific and thoughtful. It’s been shown that a handwritten note of appreciation is better received than a typed-up email.

• Keep it casual or dress it up: depending on your preference, there are a few different ways to practice recognition. You could formalize it by acknowledging colleagues in a monthly newsletter, bulletin board or leading by example in making it a point to acknowledge hard work when you see it. Think of it like a random act of kindness that isn’t so random.

• Peer-to-peer: many people think recognition should only come from the top down, but it’s just as important to hear that your peers value your efforts too. Consider integrating a “Cheers for Peers” program to encourage appreciation.

• Keep it simple so it’s sustainable: while gift giving is usually reserved for birthdays and the holidays, recognition should be something that continues year-round. Don’t wait for a special event to appreciate someone’s efforts—look for everyday opportunities. Check out these appreciation activities and this poster (scroll down to page four) with more resources to get started.

• Treat yourself: don’t forget about yourself when taking inventory of hard-working individuals. You deserve to treat yourself to the gift of kindness and self-appreciation. Maybe take a moment to
reflect on your accomplishments (big or small!) or take some time to relax and do something you enjoy to acknowledge the work that you do.

• Languages of appreciation: it’s important to remember that recognition can take on many forms of PDA or Public Displays of Appreciation—a small token, kind word at a team meeting, or even an elbow bump or air-five. Whatever way you decide to go, just make sure it’s right for the person you intend to acknowledge. It’s important to think about individual preferences and how different people prefer to be recognized. Formal recognition may work for some, while others may prefer to stay out of the limelight.

If you have any other tips for making recognition part of your workplace culture, share them in the comments below—we’d love to hear them!


Anita Rao

Anita is an ASEBP workplace wellness consultant with a passion for overall health and wellness. With a degree in medicine and a master’s in public health, Anita has a growing passion for the preventative side of health. She is an enthusiast of all things perogies, poutine, and dogs—and we totally find this feeling mutual.