A version of this article originally appeared in Forbes.
While the end of the year is always festive and exciting, this season also carries stress for many workers. In fact, more than one-third of all employees are more stressed at work during the holidays than any other time of the year, according to a recent study by Accountemps. It turns out that the long hours, conflicting schedules, closing quarterly/annual deadlines and competing priorities all make for a headache-inducing environment. Go figure, right?
All businesses want their team members to sustain high-performance levels, no matter the season or outside conditions. To do that, team members need to feel motivated to overcome obstacles and fight off stress.
The good news is, there’s one area of business that always provides some relief, motivation and positivity to stressed individuals — and no, it’s not on the paycheck. I’m talking about gratitude.
In my coaching conversations with leaders during the many quarterly planning sessions I conduct, I always cover the topic of gratitude — what it is and why it’s important, not just for team members but for leaders, as well.
Let’s be clear: When I talk gratitude, I’m not talking about Christmas bonuses or lively holiday parties, though both of those are fun and positive cultural components for your company. Instead, I’m talking about showing appreciation, sharing positive notes and reinforcing strong personal relationships.
During this seasonal focus on giving, I encourage business leaders to kickstart their thinking on how they can express gratitude toward their colleagues, for the rest of the current year and into the next.
Not sure where to start? Here are five things for your wish list:
An appreciation board gives everyone a public place to post kudos or thank-you notes to other team members about the work they’ve done and how it affects the business. It’s good to tie the notes to your company’s core purpose and core values to show how people are living them out and why it matters. Find a blank wall in your office or even a window, and ask team members to share notes of gratitude. Bonus: Set a quarterly target number and a prize if your team hits the goal. And recognize the people who receive the most notes or the person who had the biggest positive impact.
Most leaders already know the benefits of keeping a daily journal, which can be used to gain clarity over goals, highlight important conversations and track tasks, achievements, bucket-list items, dreams and more. Express these benefits of journaling to your team members. To encourage them further, you can even set up a journaling challenge in 2018 — and ask them to complete a daily entry, including a private note on something they’re thankful for.
Surprise victory celebrations can easily display your gratitude and appreciation to team members. Think about it: People are working hard, fighting off holiday stress and end up landing a great deal or completing a significant goal. What do they want once it’s complete? Recognition. So, do that. Host an impromptu get-together in the break room to announce the achievement or have a quick dance party in the halls or whatever else comes to mind — just celebrate it. (Side note: Victory celebrations also motivate the entire team. It’s a win-win.)
In the hustle and bustle of work life, it can be difficult to keep culture initiatives going, especially during the holidays, even when it comes to something as important as gratitude. One way to keep a rhythm of appreciation in your organization is to devote 2-3 minutes of every internal meeting to “gratitude sessions.” These encourage team members to give off-the-cuff remarks of appreciation, which can provide a valuable boost to someone’s stressful day. Do it for just the next month, and I guarantee that they’ll become a valuable part of meetings moving forward.
Encourage creativity in how your team members show appreciation to colleagues. Maybe instead of a traditional thank-you note, people plan a surprise lunch outing, give a small gift or help someone with a task. If colleagues are encouraged and motivated to think up creative thank yous on their own, they will be motivated to seek out more potential moments of gratitude.
The holidays don’t have to create stressful work environments. Use the positivity of the season to express why gratitude is needed at your office, and explain to your team members how spreading a word of good cheer can boost business results and individual attitudes. And don’t stop after the new year — gratitude is something you can encourage and enjoy all year long.