Reward & Recognition, Wellbeing

Can workplace recognition help mitigate the mental health crisis?


The mental health of the nation has been tested over the last few years and we are only just beginning to feel the impact that Covid-19 had on us – not just in the UK but across the entire world. Add to this the effects of Brexit, the ongoing war in Ukraine and the increasingly turbulent financial markets, coupled with spiralling living costs and it’s not surprising that poor mental health is a very real problem for workers.  

In the UK, NHS mental health queries are higher than they have ever been and the latest figures from Gallup and Workman’s State of the Global Workforce: 2022 report showed that 44% of employees experienced a lot of stress in the previous day.  

So how can organisations curb the growing mental health crisis?  

As part of your overall wellbeing and employee experience strategy, employee recognition is a critical element of to consider and can help support your employees through turbulent periods, improving their sense of community, making them feel valued and increasing their sense of satisfaction at work.  


Putting the ‘well’ in wellbeing 

Since the pandemic, many organisations have honed in on wellbeing as part of their benefits offerings, which makes sense given the current climate. However, employee recognition is not always brought into the mix, despite playing a significant role in the employee experience.  

Our Great Expectations report found that employees now expect their bosses to protect and enhance every aspect of their personal wellbeing – mental, emotional, physical and financial – both inside and outside the workplace:  

  • 92% of respondents said a commitment to wellbeing was paramount for them.  
  • 88% said that it’s important for them to be able to recognise colleagues for their efforts and successes.  
  • 83% said that the quality of an organisation’s recognition programme is a deal-breaker.  

“Social rewards” can be just as beneficial as the monetary kind – with feeling liked and appreciated helping to foster a positive, open working environment.  

Well-structured recognition schemes can be a powerful tool to deal with internal silos (which indirectly contribute to employee dissatisfaction and even affect their wellbeing) by making them feel they’re contributing to the wider organisation and provides a much-needed boost to people’s confidence and mental health. The right recognition strategy can also help improve engagement, attract talent and retain your best people. 

For recognition to have an impact on mental health, there are some important elements to consider – it must be given in a way that benefits your employees: 


Make it timely 
Respond to jobs well done, small acts of kindness or simply recognise someone’s birthday, anniversary, first 100 days or end of probation as close to the event as possible. 

Encourage employees to thank each other for their support, contributions and going above and beyond – recognition shoutouts can be made by anyone.  


Make it user-friendly  
Not everyone is a tech whizz so enable people to take action and recognise colleagues in as few clicks as possible – giving an instant lift that can really help put a smile on someone’s face. 


Shout about it 
Communicate the benefits of recognition and how it can help protect people’s mental health so your employees know how they can positively impact their colleagues’ lives in a simple way. 


Include remote workers 
Being a remote worker can be tough on mental health as a lack of sociability, fewer connections with leaders and managers, and feeling out of sync with the culture of the organisation are all things that can chip away at a person’s sense of wellbeing. With more employees choosing to work flexibly, it’s more important than ever to remind them of how important they are to the organisation.  


Make a real difference with your recognition strategy 

82% of employees find recognition more fulfilling than rewards.  

This is due to the emotional impact. Research into the impact gratitude can have an influencing behaviour showed that a simple ‘thank you’ in response to being helped actually doubled the likelihood of someone wanting to help again.  

Using psychological drivers such as reciprocity and showing gratitude can directly contribute to an improvement in mental health – which as we know can bolster engagement and motivation, and remind your people of why the organisation is such a great place to work. 

Psychologist and Benefex Chief Innovation Officer, Gethin Nadin, highlights that “Expressing gratitude and receiving thanks are consistently associated with greater subjective wellbeing – or ‘happiness’. By exposing employees regularly to recognition and gratitude, we can strengthen the neural pathways that help them to create a permanent state of positivity within themselves. The evidence tells us that the long-lasting impact of this on your employees is fewer psychological conditions like stress, anxiety and depression.”

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Joe Geary

Joe Geary

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