Many of us are working from home now or participating in some kind of flex schedule. As a result, we’re not getting as much face time with our colleagues as we used to. Workplace research has shown that people’s reported well-being has declined since the start pandemic and a decline in well-being can lead to burnout . Gratitude increases well-being and, in the workplace, it boosts morale. So how do we show gratitude and appreciation in a virtual world?
Add shout-outs to your team meetings
Prior to the pandemic, meetings often started with casual, friendly banter as people gathered around the conference table and sipped on coffee. In our virtual settings, this pre-meeting banter is frequently awkward, interrupted by the chimes of new people entering the digital conference room. Thus, the casual, and often mood-lifting, chit-chat, and sharing of ideas by your team may be at an all-time low. By dedicating ten minutes of every hour spent in a virtual meeting to team building, you can combat burnout and improve morale .
One way to do this: Add a “shout-outs” period to your agenda. Added bonus: it lays the foundation for a culture of gratitude. During shout-outs, team members have the opportunity to say “thank you” to other team members for help on a project, for reaching out when they noticed another member was having a hard time, etc.
In a physical office, these kinds of thanks would likely be communicated in the hallway between meetings or with an appreciative smile during the act of support. But now, verbal communication during meetings is our best (and sometimes only) way to connect. Make this a regular part of your team’s time together and people will start taking notes on whom they can give a shout-out to at the next meeting.
Give kudos in your project management system
Like making space in real-time during virtual meetings, you can set aside time to write short notes of appreciation for people on your team. Create a #gratitude or #kudos channel in your management system and every Friday post a short note describing why you are thankful for one of your team members. Similar to how journalist Shankar Vedantam shares the story of an “unsung hero” at the end of every episode of his podcast Hidden Brain, this will ensure team members get the recognition they deserve for doing an outstanding job and help your team feel connected. Like Vedantam, share the details of why this person is deserving of kudos. For example, he doesn’t just say Erin is great at her job, he says, “Erin is the person who brings together different teams from across NPR to make sure the launch of new shows and other big projects go smoothly. Her job is one part herding cats, one part people management – both difficult tasks that she handles beautifully” .
Celebrate birthdays and work anniversaries with a card
You don’t have to have a pizza party every time someone has a birthday or a work anniversary to show you care about your team. With something as simple as a card saying, “Today marks the start of your fifth year with our company, and I’m grateful for you,” you will show the individuals on your team that you care about them and their journey on your team.
“Employee retention is necessary for any business to thrive. Retention is tied to employee happiness, motivation, and value,” according to Behavior Analysis News. Because the CEO of Points North Jessica Watson knows that small gestures go a long way, she co-founded Gratify to help businesses lead with gratitude. Gratify makes it easy for companies of any size to show their gratitude for their employees with personalized cards.
Donate or volunteer as a team
Adopting a cause will not only build up your team, but it will also increase your team’s generosity and thankfulness. When you give time or money to a good cause, the feeling of generosity is contagious. That good feeling has a physical impact: participating in charitable activities releases oxytocin and endorphins in the brain and decreases blood pressure . Who doesn’t want that?
If you are looking for a way to volunteer as a team virtually, you can look at Taproot Plus, a platform that connects skilled volunteers to nonprofits that need help with specific projects that require a knowledge set the nonprofit might be missing.
Keep a gratitude journal
All the ideas on this list so far have been team-oriented. But keeping a personal gratitude journal can make a big difference in your work and personal life. Research shows that “gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness”  and cultivating this spirit of gratitude doesn’t need to be flashy or even shared with another person. Taking a moment at the beginning of your workday to think about something or someone you are grateful for will help you turn gratitude into daily practice. Gratitude is an antidote to toxic feelings of jealousy, resentment, and frustration . Even though a gratitude journal is done in private, your team may notice your positive outlook and ask you what your secret is.
 Beyond Burned Out by Jennifer Moss, 2021. Harvard Business Review
 6 Super Fun Activities for Your Next Virtual Meeting by Christopher Littlefield, 2021. Harvard Business Review
 Hidden Brain by Shankar Vedantam, NPR.
 4 Benefits of Giving by Cone Health
 Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier, Harvard Health Publishing
 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude, by Ekua Hagan, Psychology today.