Recognition at work: the many benefits on the overall health and happiness at work
Pandemic and Mental Health: Some Statistics
Much more than a trend, recognition at work is proving to be an essential lever for organizations in the context of an unprecedented battle for talent, which sometimes threatens their survival. The global pandemic has probably multiplied its importance. Among the many impacts of the pandemic on workers, their mental health and commitment have been significantly affected:
- 45% of individuals feel lonely since the beginning of the pandemic;
- 56% say they have lost their sense of control;
- 56% report an increase in anxiety;
- 35% report an increase in depression (Powell, 2020).
Considering that the National Standard of Canada on Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace includes recognition as one of the 13 organizational factors that have an impact on the health of the organization and its employees, it is even more important (not to say urgent) to give it some serious attention.
The various research studies that have taken a close look at recognition at work have highlighted its many and varied benefits. These benefits can be grouped into three main categories: 1) the mental health of employees, 2) the physical health of employees and 3) the health of the organization.
Employee Recognition and Mental Health
Mouvement Santé mentale Québec considers recognition to be a protective and developmental factor. In fact, if personal identity (e.g., civil, gender) is important for many, professional identity is just as important. One of the keys to professional identity is recognition. When it is done in a justified, sincere and timely manner, recognition protects mental health for the following reasons (Benjamin, 2007):
- Builds, maintains and enhances employee esteem;
- Makes them feel appreciated and promotes the development of professional well-being;
- Helps them cope with stress and overcome difficult work situations
- Facilitates professional relations;
- Gives meaning to work and contributes to increasing motivation, satisfaction and enjoyment at work;
- Gives them the strength to undertake and persevere in projects;
- Motivates and creates a desire for excellence;
- Encourages them to surpass themselves and the organization’s expectations.
On the other hand, poor recognition can lead to employees feeling unappreciated for their contribution, a possible loss of confidence in their ability to do the job and a lower level of performance.
Recognition and employee physical health
In addition to the obvious links between recognition and the mental health of employees, some scientific researches have shown the benefits of recognition on the physical health of employees. For example, well before the pandemic, a British study published in 2007 in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, showed that a very significant lack of recognition at work could increase the risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 1.7 times and the risk of psychological distress by up to 1.9 times (Vogli, Ferri et al., 2007)
According to the Journal of Positive Psychology, research shows that in addition to the beneficial impact on morale and productivity, receiving regular positive feedback about the quality of one’s work would promote better sleep, reduce headaches as well as other stress-related physical symptoms, and encourage healthier eating habits (Starkey, Mohr, Cadiz & Sinclair, 2019). An imbalance between work performance and the recognition received would also contribute to burnout, with all its direct and indirect costs.
Recognition and Organizational Health
The organizational impacts of recognition are obvious and are the direct result of the benefits on employee health. At the company level, recognition (Benjamin, 2007; Brassard, 2007):
- Promotes employee engagement, commitment and retention;
- Improves the quality of life, the atmosphere and the well-being at work;
- Facilitates collaboration between people;
- Reinforces team spirit and the sense of belonging (when recognition is done as a group);
- Promotes efficiency and productivity;
- Facilitates the achievement of results;
- Contributes to a positive employer brand, culture and values;
- Promotes the attraction of the best talent.
Considering the opposite effects of no or low recognition, one must wonder if any company, especially with the battle for talent in 2021, can afford to be negligent in this regard!
Recognition and Happiness at Work
There is more and more research on happiness at work, which is considered profitable for companies and the society. According to the Léger happiness index at work (LHI-W), which measures the level of happiness related to work, Quebecers are not yet among the happiest people at work (Poiré, 2019). There is still a long way to go!
Considering that the average employee will spend 40 years or around 75,000 hours in the workplace, it appears that, if these are not predominantly positive, they necessarily influence the level of personal happiness and the performance of an organization, potentially over a long period of time, says the president and founder of the index, Pierre Côté. Happiness in the workplace seems to be the new must-have for a successful company.
The LHI-W is based on six factors: self-realization, work relationships, recognition, accountability, compensation, and a sense of belonging. Therefore, recognition is one of the main factors of happiness at work, which is linked to other factors, including a sense of belonging. The LHI-W also evaluates eight major dimensions: openness, civility, work organization, collaboration, equity, advancement, dynamism, and work-life balance. Recognition itself is known to promote some of these dimensions, including collaboration.
Recognition in the workplace is nothing trivial. Considering its multiple benefits on the health of employees, organizations and even professional happiness, it is an essential practice. No organization can afford to take it lightly! While it can give the impression that it requires extravagant efforts on the part of the employer, the opposite is true. There are many different types of recognition, all of which are simple to implement, and widespread teleworking does not preclude any of them. To learn more about the different approaches to recognition, I invite you to read my colleague Eric Donahue’s blog article.
Benjamin, J. (2007). La reconnaissance en milieu de travail, Bulletin La vitrine – On connaît vos besoins en détail. Hiver 2007, vol. 3, no4.
Brassard, N. (2007). La gestion de la reconnaissance – Une obligation ou une nécessité.
Poiré, A-S. (2019). Le bonheur au travail, le nouvel incontournable. Cahier spécial Monde du travail, Le Devoir.
Powell, A. (2020). Disruption of work relationships adds to mental-health concerns during
pandemic. Récupéré le 31 mars de: https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2020/09/disruption-of-work-relationships-adds-to-mental-health-concern/
Starkey, A.R., Mohr, C.D., Cadiz, D. M., Sinclair, R.R., Pages 779-788 | Received 14 Apr 2018, Accepted 08 Dec 2018, Published online: 14 Feb 2019
Vogli, R. D., Ferrie, J.E. et al. (2007). Unfairness and Health: Evidence from the Whitehall II Study, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. 61: 513-518.