During the Thanksgiving season, many of us are reflecting on what we are grateful for, especially during another tumultuous year. But, gratitude shouldn’t be a once-a-year, momentary event that we do before diving into the turkey and mashed potatoes. In fact, gratitude is essential to promoting certain types of behavior in the workplace, and it can be cultivated through readily accessible mindfulness practices.

Those are the findings of a recent study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, which is supported by other current research, showing that employee gratitude is a crucial trait among organizations that strive to cultivate thankfulness. 

Teamwork relies on gratitude
Adam Smith, the renowned economist, said that gratitude was one of the most basic social emotions and central motivator for social acts — “the sentiment which most immediately prompts us to reward.” In today’s organizations, which rely heavily on collaboration and teamwork, gratitude is perhaps more essential than ever. It is a positive force that drives behavior, especially helping behavior that is necessary for top team performance. 

Obstacles to finding gratitude at work

Despite efforts to encourage it, gratitude can be extremely difficult for employers to cultivate companywide and be harder still for employees to experience. One of the primary barriers to employees experiencing gratitude is the mountain of distractions that is part of the contemporary work environment — an inbox full of emails or a calendar packed with Zoom calls. These distractions can prevent employees from recognizing — and being grateful for — benefits that they might be receiving from their employers.  

That’s because, gratitude will only emerge if employees are first:

  • Aware of the benefits they receive for the work they’re doing and
  • Recognize the costs of those benefits to their employers

One way to achieve that awareness and recognition is through mindfulness practices. Mindfulness allows us to step back and observe the present moment — both external events and our internal state. 

What HR can do to promote mindfulness

Here are five ways HR can help create more mindfulness, to see greater performance and collaboration 

  1. Create the space for mindfulness
    • Give employees time before their workday to make the decision to be as present as possible that day. 
    • Encourage team members to take brief moments throughout the day to be present. 
  2. Suggest keeping time journals. This practice of noting what is accomplished within a block of time can help employees move away from attempts at multitasking and move towards “single-tasking,” which can help with mindfulness.
  3. Speed up slowing down. Mindfulness is about slowing down and reflecting. Encouraging employees to do so can help workers find gratitude while increasing productivity and happiness
  4. Give shout-outs. Create space and time for humility. When employees recognize how others have helped them, they experience humility, which is essential to having true gratitude. Give teams or the whole organization time to express their thanks to their colleagues. 

By devoting time and energy to mindfulness, employees can ultimately experience gratitude, which will increase supportive behaviors. This will translate into better collaboration, greater productivity, stronger work culture, and improved interpersonal dynamics. Instead of pumpkin pie and a Black Friday sale, we should be grateful for mindfulness and the bounty it brings.