In times of chaos, saying thank you can be easily forgotten — but right now is when employees need to hear it most.

Like you, your employees are struggling. They may be working long hours. They may worry that their health is at risk. Maybe they’re coping with a home life that’s been disrupted in some way. You may not be able to change their day-to-day reality, but you can change the way they experience their work life.

Saying thank you positively impacts everything from employee well-being to job satisfaction to motivation to productivity. It’s a powerhouse tool for building engagement. Infusing gratitude into the workplace may even be a pathway to building a more empathetic and emotionally intelligent workplace.

Here are some simple and creative tips for thanking your employees.

1) Recognize and celebrate your team members’ accomplishments.

For employees working on site, you might hold a socially distanced pizza party, for instance. And don’t forget remote employees. For example, on a Friday, request that everyone finish up half an hour early and host a Zoom happy hour. While everyone is enjoying their snacks, sodas, or beverages of choice, take a few minutes to say thank you to each employee.

Get specific about how their hard work has helped the company and share a few things you have noticed that they do especially well. Then open it up for employees to thank and compliment one another. It’s a great way to create a sense of unity and camaraderie while people are physically separated.

2) Put your “thank-you” on paper.

The uniqueness of a handwritten note — especially in this age of emails, Facebook posts and tweets — will not go unnoticed. Pick up some beautiful cards and write a heartfelt letter of thanks to your employees. There doesn’t have to be an occasion. Simple words of gratitude and encouragement are always uplifting. Of course, if you want to call out someone’s exceptional performance on a recent project, it will be greatly appreciated.

As Paul Spiegelman, cofounder of the Small Giants Community, shared, “That note you can get from someone…that says, ‘thank you, you’ve changed my life’…is much more powerful, much more valuable, than any amount of money I could have in the bank.”

3) Extend the gratitude to family members as well.

The simple act of sending a special thank-you note to an employee’s spouse, parent, or child can have an exponential impact. (After months of Zoom meetings, you may already be on a first name basis with them as well.) This thank-you can help strengthen the high performer’s personal life, especially when their partner or another family member may have felt they, too, had sacrificed — from family time lost — as a result of the dedicated effort extended by this hardworking relation.

4) Name an “employee of the week.”

Each week find someone who is giving their all and name that person employee of the week. You might even drop off a fun certificate to their home along with a crisp $20 bill or a gift card. In difficult times, even a modest gesture means a lot.

5) Get original with your “thank-yous.”

For example, if you know a team member will be stopping into the office to pick up some more supplies, leave a box of their favorite cookies on their desk for them to see. Mail everyone a $15 gift certificate to a local restaurant to treat all to lunch (and help out a small business in the process). Send everyone some company merchandise like pens, T-shirts or hats.

6) Be generous with flex time.

When everyone is stressed and overworked, giving people some freedom with their work schedule helps them stay sane. If someone’s life can be made easier by working a half-day in the morning and finishing their work in the evening, be as accommodating as possible. Also try to make yourself available to them on their schedule if you can. This is a big way to let them know you care.

7) Encourage time off.

Say thank you by encouraging people to take mental health days from time to time, as well as their regular vacation days. Also, periodically, dismiss your team early or tell them to come in late the following day. During periods of remote work, employees need reminders that they can make time to recharge and take breaks.

During a time when everyone needs a boost of positivity, don’t underestimate the power of thank-you. It can do amazing things for morale and make your team unstoppable, even in a pandemic. And saying thank you feels good. It rewards the giver as much as it rewards the recipient.


Deb Boelkes is the author of “The WOW Factor Workplace: How to Create a Best Place to Work Culture” and “Heartfelt Leadership: How to Capture the Top Spot and Keep on Soaring.” www.businessworldrising.com