Gratitude In The Workplace: How It Can Reduce Employee Stress

Entrepreneur and author Richie Norton once said, “Express gratitude for the greatness of small things.” Being grateful in all aspects of life is important, but gratitude in the workplace is something that often goes overlooked.

A workplace naturally leads to many different interpersonal relationships with varying degrees of closeness. We can try to compartmentalize them by keeping the personal out of the professional, but the human element and emotions will always be there.

And, like many other things in life, a small gesture can go a long way, and the simplest gestures of acknowledgment or gratitude can make a work environment blossom.

Per a study conducted by the Journal of Experimental Psychology, gratitude could also help people cope better at work.

Here’s how gratitude in the workplace can help reduce employee stress and make everyone more effective and efficient.

The Role of Gratitude In The Workplace

Gratitude entails acknowledging and appreciating an individual’s or team’s effort and attitude. Practicing gratitude in the workplace nurtures interpersonal relationships, which can lead to a harmonious and healthier work climate.

In a high-pressure environment such as a workplace, stress is almost unavoidable. Enter gratitude, a virtue of saving the day by reducing worker stress, as concluded by many studies across time. The correlation between gratitude and stress reduction has found its basis in both biological and psychological explanations.

Common Causes of Workplace Stress

Research conducted by the American Institute of Stress shows that 80% of workers feel stress on the job, with 40% reporting their jobs were “extremely stressful.” This is a concerning rate as stress can cause a far-reaching negative impact on not only an employee’s performance but also their health.

Common sources of stress at work can include high job demands and workload, inflexible and long working hours, poor working conditions, lack of job control, office politics, unreasonable deadlines, bullying, harassment, job insecurity, etc.

Impact of Workplace Stress

Workplace stressors can negatively impact employee productivity and performance. They can also lead to:

  • Lack of focus, concentration, and motivation
  • High absenteeism
  • Poor punctuality
  • Missed deadlines
  • Poor quality of work
  • Increased employee complaints.

Under stress, employees may also indulge in substance abuse, have temper issues, make poor decisions, and face memory loss and difficulty with thought processing. Individual employee actions can affect the organization and its image.

Stressors can also cause health problems for the employee, for example, migraines, cardiovascular diseases, sleep issues, gastrointestinal disorders, weight gain, chronic back or cervical pain, anxiety, burnout, and depression.

In addition, the costs of retaining such an employee can also increase. For example, the cost of healthcare, rehabilitation of an employee indulging in substance abuse, anger management sessions, brand recovery costs after a reckless decision made by the employee, etc., can be some of the potential costs incurred by an organization on account of a stressed worker.

How Gratitude Helps Reduce Worker Stress

When stressed, the human body produces the stress hormone cortisol, which equips it for the fight-or-flight response. Cortisol does so by amping up the release of glucose in the bloodstream so that the brain can use it to regulate stress. However, the release of cortisol is a stress response. Therefore, its excessive use, especially in times of chronic stress, can be physically and mentally damaging.

In workplaces with a high propensity toward stress, gratitude can be a savior. Research suggests that gratitude helps mitigate cortisol levels. It grounds you and helps you adapt to work more efficiently. This is also supported by the psychological model, which says that practicing gratitude exercises a day keeps the work stress away.

Encourage Employees to Practice the Power of Gratitude

A gratitude exercise involves reflecting on a day and writing down a few things an individual is grateful for. This practice fills an individual with positive emotions, acts as a coping strategy for workplace stress, and helps maintain healthy ties with their coworkers.

Studies show that when workers have healthy interpersonal relations with their colleagues, there is higher job satisfaction and less work-related stress. Showing gratitude is one of the most effective ways to set the right tone among teams. This is proved by a study that shows that people like receiving gratitude from others.

Organizations should encourage employees to express gratitude toward their peers by thanking them when they receive help, covering their shifts when they are sick, helping them with their projects, and so on. By tapping into the power of gratitude, employees can tone down their stress levels.