How to Show Gratitude for Your Team When Returning to the Office

As we reopen businesses and return to the office, leaders must lead with compassion and empathy.

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For many of us, the past year was one of the most challenging periods of our lives. It was defined by loss, uncertainty, anxiety, and change.

One of the biggest changes came in the way we work. Businesses across industries had to pivot to virtual work almost overnight, and employees had to readjust to this entirely new environment. There was a lot of upheaval in a short amount of time, but it brought about a spirit of teamwork and unity as employers and employees navigated the changes together.

As we all begin the reentry process and work to find a “new normal,” business leaders must continue to show compassion, kindness, and commitment to their employees. Returning to commutes, physical office spaces, and a world that’s still struggling with COVID-19 will likely be difficult for everyone. Workers need strong leaders to help guide them through this uncertainty.

To ensure you’re leading with compassion, light, and gratitude, do these three things:

1. Focus on small gestures that make a big impact.

With all of the changes ahead, be sure to put energy into seemingly small gestures. More often than not, these acts of kindness mean the most. Sheldon Yellen, CEO of BELFOR Property Restoration, says the smallest gestures often have the biggest impact.

“Simply asking someone how he or she is doing can brighten that person’s day … and create a chain of kindness,” Yellen says. “Saying ‘good morning’ to the person next to you, offering to pick up groceries for a neighbor, or paying for a stranger’s coffee can all have the same impact and create a sense of connectedness with the people around you.”

2. Recognize team members for hard work in a tailored way.

Along with small gestures of kindness, show your team members that you see their hard work with recognition. Acts of recognition can take on many forms; the most important thing is tailoring this recognition to each employee. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to showing people you see their contributions, and it’s important to know what kind of recognition would be most impactful and meaningful for each employee.

Laura Dominguez, head of people and communities at Cisco Meraki, says effectively recognizing employees for their work starts with “connecting with our team to understand how they want to be recognized. I meet with my team individually and ask them for their preference: Do they like to be awarded publicly or are they a private person?”

3. Offer PTO and encourage people to take advantage.

Because of social distancing guidelines and travel restrictions, many employees didn’t use their vacation time last year. As a way to show your appreciation for them, work with your HR department to roll over those unused PTO days and give team members the ability to take more paid time off this year.

If you take this approach, you’ll need to keep one important thing in mind: Employees will only use PTO if you permit them to do so. Actively encourage your team members to step away and recharge, which will make them more likely to take advantage of the opportunity.

There’s no question that we’ve all faced numerous changes and disruptions over the past year. Now, you have an opportunity to show how thankful you are for the team members who navigated those changes alongside you. Commit to showing them your gratitude, and you’ll see a team engaged, appreciated, and ready for whatever the future holds.

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