Employee Engagement Employee Recognition

Supporting Workplace Wellness Through Employee Recognition

To put it mildly, the challenges of the last two years have taken a toll on the workforce. 

The stresses of the pandemic have led to increased burnout, anxiety, and other mental health issues. The move to remote work has left people feeling disconnected and socially isolated. Limited opportunities for physical activity have made it harder for people to get enough exercise.

This has led to increased demand from employees for better support for workplace wellness. A McKinsey survey published last year found that 47% of employees hoped that their employer would adopt an increased focus on employee wellbeing in the future, while 51% were hoping for better work-life balance. 

Many HR leaders have responded by making wellness a top priority as we come into 2022 and introducing improved programs, benefits, and policies.

But where does employee recognition fit in?

While it is not always considered as a component of employee wellness initiatives, a recognition program can be a powerful tool to support your efforts, helping to boost participation in other initiatives, encourage better habits, and even directly contribute to your people’s overall wellbeing.


Taking a Comprehensive Approach to Wellness at Work

When considering how to improve wellness in the workplace, it’s important not to be too narrow in your thinking.

While some people consider wellness purely in terms of physical health, mental wellness, social components, and other factors all come into play.  

It can be helpful to look at a framework like the Whole Person Wellness model, which identifies seven different dimensions of wellness that take into account several different factors in a person’s life. 

Incorporating some of these elements into your wellness programs will make them more inclusive and likely to engage more of your team members. And when you consider wellness in these terms, it also becomes clear that employee recognition can actually play a far more important role in supporting it than you might have thought.


How Employee Recognition Can Help You Promote Physical Wellness 

As important as it is to take a more comprehensive approach to workforce wellness, physical health is still an essential piece of the puzzle.

It’s an unfortunate fact that most jobs aren’t especially conducive to physical health. Sitting at a desk all day can mean not getting enough exercise. Working a more physical job can mean overexertion. Working in a high pressure environment with little free time can lead to people adopting unhealthy eating habits (takeout, anyone?).

Wherever you work, there are factors involved that can be detrimental to your physical health. Encouraging your employees to get active, and rewarding those who do, can make an invaluable difference to their overall wellbeing. 

Here’s a few tips for using recognition to promote physical wellness at work.


Wellness Challenges

The most common way to promote physical wellness at work is by introducing wellness challenges. A wellness challenge can be run for a short period of time or as an ongoing initiative, and can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. 

For instance, some challenges will revolve around reaching a simple target, such as covering a certain amount of distance over the course of a month. Others will assign points to different physical activities depending on their difficulty and intensity. This can be a good approach if you have employees who like to exercise in different ways. 


rock climbing wellness challenge


Some companies will also organize employees into teams for challenges to encourage more participation and emphasize the social aspect of the program, while others will just set challenges for individual employees. 

However you choose to structure your program, offering recognition and rewards can boost participation. To encourage some healthy competition, you could offer prizes to the winning teams and highest performing individuals at the end of the challenge, as well as some spot prizes to the best performers on a week-by-week basis.

If you want to go even further, you could recognize every employee who reaches the goal you set for your challenge. This could help encourage participation from less active people who would be less likely to win your top prizes.


How We Do it at Guusto…

We completed Guusto Go! – our first ever wellness challenge – in October this year. The target was for every employee to try and cover 10km over the course of the month. Guustonians were organized into teams, with prizes for individual performance as well.

All in all, we covered a grand total of 3,873 km, with over 60% of employees reaching their goal!


Promote Healthy Workplace Habits

There are many ways people can approach their day-to-day work in a healthier way. Using standing desks, healthy eating, staying hydrated, and even just taking the time to step away from the computer and take a walk now and then can all make a difference.

You can promote these habits to your employees as part of a larger wellness program, and recognize people who adopt them. You can even include goals for healthy eating, hydration, and other habits in your wellness challenges. 

It’s also important to recognize employees who go out of their way to promote physical wellness within your team, whether by helping organize your wellness challenges or just encouraging others in your team to be healthier. 


Mental Wellness at Work

Recognition can have an even bigger impact when it comes to mental wellness at work.

For starters, it’s important to emphasize the positive effect that recognition in itself can have on employee wellness. 

In today’s fast-moving workplaces, it can be easy to feel like the work you do is not being seen, which can lead to issues with anxiety, motivation, and self-esteem.

Consistently recognizing employees for their efforts makes them feel more valued, motivated, and acknowledged, and ultimately happier. 

A recent Harvard Business Review article also noted the positive effect recognition can have on energy levels. It even notes that showing appreciation to colleagues “seems to be as beneficial to the giver as to the receiver,” highlighting the potential wellness benefits for managers and peers who give recognition.

Here are some other ways recognition can support mental wellness in the workplace.


Incorporate Mental Wellness Into Your Wellness Challenges

As we covered in the previous section, employee recognition can be a valuable tool to promote and incentivize your wellness challenges. But these programs don't have to be limited to physical activities.

You can introduce mental wellness goals and activities, such as meditating, spending time outdoors, or even just taking time for relaxation and self-care. This will encourage employees to place just as much importance on their mental wellness as they do on their physical health.


yoga for wellness

It could also boost participation and engagement – a ten-minute meditation is a more inviting task than a 4k run, and having easier goals like this will make your challenge seem less daunting.

Creating a Safe Work Environment for Employees

A crucial aspect of workplace wellness, particularly in relation to mental wellness, is cultivating a safe work environment. To truly feel happy at work, people need an inclusive, welcoming atmosphere where they feel comfortable being their authentic selves.

You can use recognition to help foster this kind of environment by rewarding behaviors which support healthier work dynamics. For example, you could create a ‘whoopsies’ award to celebrate mistakes in order to cultivate an environment where employees aren’t afraid to fail.

You should also recognize managers who adopt more empathetic, nurturing, and supportive approaches to working with their team members. How your leadership treats people will set the tone for the organization as a whole, and it’s important that they lead by example.


Promoting Work-Life Balance

Another important factor in an employee’s overall mental wellness is their sense of work-life balance. While in the past many companies cultivated a ‘hustle culture’ mindset among their staff, there’s a growing realization that encouraging employees to overwork can be incredibly damaging. 

Recent Indeed statistics indicate that over half of employees experienced burnout in 2021, and demand for greater work-life balance has been one of the biggest driving forces behind The Great Resignation.  

In order to both strengthen recruitment and retention and to look after the best interests of their people, it’s crucial that HR teams take this problem seriously, and work with managers to set expectations that meet the needs and demands of today’s workforce. 

Again, employee recognition can play an important role in this, by allowing you to reward behaviours that promote better work-life balance at your company. Encourage employees to set boundaries, such as signing off for the evening at reasonable hours, taking enough vacation, and not answering communications outside of work, and reward those who do. 

You should also recognize managers that don’t ask employees for extra hours, and are able to organize their team’s workload effectively to ensure people don’t get overwhelmed.

Conversely, while it might sound counterintuitive, encourage your managers not to offer recognition that exemplifies bad work-life balance, such as recognizing employees for doing overtime or working weekends. 

As much as they might appreciate it when employees go the extra mile, it’s important not to send the message to staff that pushing themselves too hard is a positive thing.


Encouraging Social Wellness in the Workplace 

The pandemic and the shift to remote work has also resulted in increased concern about the social wellness of employees. 

Work can be a valuable social outlet for many people. And for all the positives of remote work, it has left many employees feeling increasingly isolated from their coworkers. The fact that lockdown measures are still limiting social interaction outside of work in many places has exacerbated the problem.

With that in mind, it’s important for companies to take steps to help employees recapture the sense of togetherness, team spirit, and collaboration that has been missing from many workplaces over the past couple of years, and recognition can play an important role in that.


Social and Team-Building Events

An obvious way you can encourage social wellness at work is by organizing events for your employees, either virtually or in-person. 

An employee recognition program like Guusto can be used to offer rewards that will help boost participation in your events. For instance, you could offer prizes to the winners of team-building games, office trivia, or other activities. You could also provide gift cards to cover the cost of food and drink for your staff at events.

Again, it’s also crucial to recognize your organizers! Rewarding team members who put aside their time to help plan your events will let them know how important their efforts are.


Reward Collaboration

You can also promote social wellness within the daily work of your organization by recognizing employees for collaboration. Encourage your managers to reward team members who work together to tackle projects, make themselves available to connect with their peers, and make an effort to reach out and connect with others.


Collaboration on project


Peer-to-Peer Recognition

Finally, recognition itself can be a great way to promote social interactions between team members, particularly in a remote environment. Consistent peer-to-peer recognition can open the door to further interaction and collaboration between team members, as it creates a more welcoming and inclusive atmosphere.


How We Do It at Guusto…

Guusto gives every employee a monthly budget to recognize their coworkers on our platform. We also frequently use our Nomination Box for non-monetary recognition, and draw nominations every week at our all-hands meeting for public recognition.


Occupational Wellness & Recognition 

Last but not least, a vital component of workplace wellness is the level of satisfaction employees actually derive from their jobs. Do they feel stimulated and engaged by their work? Are they happy with where their careers are heading? Does their job make them feel fulfilled?

Cultivating an environment where employees feel they have a sense of purpose, as well as opportunities to grow and develop, is crucial for looking after their wellbeing. Recognition can support this in a number of ways.


Learning and Career Development

Encourage and reward employees who seek opportunities to learn new skills, take courses, and develop themselves as professionals. 

Managers and HR professionals can also help lay out clear career development plans with employees, with opportunities to advance and take on new responsibilities, and reward them when they reach new milestones.


Two young businesswomen having a meeting in the office sitting at a desk having a discussion with focus to a young woman wearing glasses


Volunteerism & Social Impact Initiatives

Occupational wellness doesn’t just relate to our jobs, but to the sense of purpose we get from all of our interests and activities. Volunteerism and social impact initiatives can be a fantastic outlet for those seeking to live more purposeful lives, and should be encouraged by companies whenever possible.

You should recognize employees who volunteer regularly, participate in fundraising events for worthy causes, or organize other initiatives, whether they do so on their own time or through the company. 

Even though we’ve covered a lot in this blog, it still only scratches the surface of what you can do to improve different aspects of employee wellness. There are countless other initiatives, policies, and strategies you can introduce that will help your people feel happier, healthier, and more energized. 

And in almost every instance, employee recognition can be a valuable supporting tool for your efforts, helping to promote, support, and enhance your wellness programs.


Add Guusto to Your Wellness Toolkit

If you’re interested in using employee recognition software to support your efforts in wellness and other areas, Guusto is ideal for you! Our platform includes:

  • A simple, intuitive interface
  • Flexible reward options with dollar-for-dollar value
  • Nomination Box for peer-to-peer non-monetary recognition
  • A comprehensive reporting dashboard
  • And much more!

You can sign up for free today, or click below to book a demo and learn more:

Book a demo


Culture is the Ultimate Advantage

Set yourself apart using the power of company culture. Stand out to new applicants and motivate your team to do their best work.

Conor Moloney

Written by Conor Moloney

Conor is a Content Marketing Specialist at Guusto. He loves creating articles and other resources to help HR leaders build better cultures within their companies.

Related posts