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Post Pandemic Growth – The Healing Benefits of Gratitude That Need to Start Now

Pre-pandemic data on the high degree of employee stress, burnout, toxic work environments and a chronically disengaged workforce has now increased exponentially. COVID-19 has ushered in extreme stress, anxiety, depression and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and epidemic levels of burnout. No one is immune to trauma, grief, pain and human suffering brought on by the virus.

That’s where the science of gratitude brings timely and important research and evidence-based practices to achieve the much-needed support for health and well-being. Gratitude plays a significant role in addressing the fear, isolation and uncertainty that has dramatically altered day-to-day activities and interactions for over a year. The true impact of this prolonged state of stress, overwhelm and trauma has yet to be fully realized. A heightened sense of urgency for the health and well-being of leaders and employees must be viewed as important as the organization’s financial health.


Why The Urgency?

Employees have responded differently to the impact of the pandemic. Healthcare employees may feel a letdown once the pandemic has passed. While others may be wrestling with survivor guilt or non-contributor guilt. Still, others are seriously questioning their career path. Many organizations will see employees looking to connect with a greater purpose through their work and in the products and services their company provides. Some are “unpacking” their year-long experiences and need time and support to bring their best and whole self to the organization. Many have left their positions or are planning to leave, making retention and engagement a critical factor in successfully navigating the road to the post-pandemic work environment.

What is Gratitude?

The Latin root of the word gratitude is gratus or gratia—thankful, by favor. The most recognized definition is the affirmation of goodness and the recognition of goodness outside of ourselves. Charles Darwin considered gratitude as a universally experienced emotion. And, as the great Roman philosopher, Cicero once said, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others.” More than a simple thank you, the science now informs how the practice of gratitude leads to achieving transformative changes in all areas of health and well-being.

Practicing gratitude is cultivated over time using various techniques and applications, including reflecting, expressing and receiving. A gratitude practice recalls what you’re grateful for, increases awareness of other positive emotions and has known lasting effects on your sense of meaningfulness in life. Yet, for some, practicing gratitude can feel out of place or unachievable. Thinking about what you’re grateful for may bring on feelings of guilt or that gratitude as an emotion is impossible even to consider. Practicing gratitude during the pandemic may be hard. It’s not to deny the negative but promote the healing of troubled memories from negative experiences.


A Culture of Gratitude

Gratitude is considered an important human emotion yet often thought to be too personal or “soft” to bring into the work environment. There is now evidence that gratitude in the workplace improves productivity, employee retention and engagement. Additionally, employees who receive frequent and genuine gratitude for their contributions are more likely to be innovative, find work meaningful and make a stronger commitment to the organization.

A deepening awareness of gratitude in the workplace, along with planned gratitude activities and interventions, influences greater organizational trust and commitment. Studies also show gratitude promotes more prosocial behaviors and higher levels of some corporate citizenship behaviors. Corporate citizenship behaviors are described as helping behaviors, conscientiousness, organizational loyalty, civic action and self-development, all connected to company goals and values.

Giving greater attention to the emotion of gratitude within a cultural context also helps acknowledge the role of other positive emotions such as joy, empathy and compassion. As a result, leaders and employees play a vital role in creating a more humanistic and inclusive work environment.

Here are a few questions to help you consider how to cultivate greater gratitude in your profession and organization.

  1. What one action can you take, personally, to practice gratitude with your team or in your organization?
  2. What can your department or organization initiate today to create opportunities to promote gratitude?

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