Building a workplace culture of gratitude

Gratitude helps people feel more positive, improve their health, and deal with adversity.

posted December 16, 2020

The holiday season is a time for many of us to take inventory of all we have to be thankful for in our lives. Given the many challenges that 2020 has brought, it may be difficult to continue that tradition this year.

But cultivating a culture and spirit of gratitude in the workplace may be more necessary than ever.

Why gratitude?

Did you know that gratitude is associated with greater well-being? According to an article in Harvard Health Publishing, “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

The study and implementation of Total Worker Health practices show promoting worker well-being is correlated with lower rates of injuries, and higher engagement and productivity.

“There is something almost magical about the benefits of organizations focusing on worker well-being improvements,” says Liz Hill, Total Worker Health adviser at SAIF. “Learning not only what workers are worried or stressed about, but what they are grateful for, can help organizations support health, safety, and purpose in the workplace.”

How to build a culture of gratitude in your workplace

There are many ways to foster gratitude, but here are just a few ideas:

1. Encourage recognition

Gratitude is a two-way street. While there are countless examples of how recipients of recognition can feel more appreciated and engaged, it is often overlooked as a benefit for the person offering the recognition.

Recognition can take many forms in the workplace, whether it's a direct note congratulating a colleague on a job well-done, a companywide email from a leader, or in a team meeting.

“Recognition for a job well done or meaningful effort in the form that a person desires is an important element of supportive supervision,” Hill says. “Supportive workplace supervision has been shown to reduce stress, increase safety, and even lower blood pressure.”

2. Promote optimism

When it comes to work, conversation can lean negative (i.e. “Mondays are the worst,” “This project is so tedious and boring,” or “I'm counting down the days until my vacation.”). While employees should be encouraged to express concerns and sharing negative feelings is not necessarily bad, the workplace could often benefit from a more positive approach.

Another Harvard Health article on research in the field of positive psychology said, “being optimistic was associated with a 35% lower risk for cardiovascular events and a 14% lower risk for an early death, compared with being pessimistic.”

3. Ask others why they are thankful

Thankfulness and positivity are contagious. Talking about it, whether it's in passing or in more formal settings, is a great way to build a culture of gratitude.

Here are some gratitude conversation starters to consider this holiday season:

  • What has been an unexpected silver lining to 2020?
  • In terms of your job and work, what are you grateful for?
  • What brings you hope?

Learning your colleagues' and employees' answers to these questions may spread gratitude in your workplace.

You can learn more about Total Worker Health practices at For more information on promoting well-being in the workplace, visit


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