As this unprecedented year draws to a close, and holiday festivities (albeit Covid-restricted) get under way, it is the perfect time for us to reflect on the resilience we have built over the past year and how recent challenges have prepared us to face the New Year. This year has been devastating, and now is the opportunity for us to stop and take a moment to show our appreciation for all the hard work of so many people, for our colleagues and for ourselves.

After all, appreciation is a tool than can be used throughout the year to tackle challenges and to improve quality of life. There are also numerous benefits from an organisational perspective, including improved productivity, trust, connection, and engagement. Below are some tips for cultivating appreciation this holiday season.

Take a minute and be present

The stress and anxiety of this year have been overwhelming. For the holidays this year, slow down and take a minute to enjoy and be thankful for the simple things, from decorating the Christmas tree to going for a walk on a frosty December morning. The emails and Slack messages will still be there, but it’ll do you the world of good to turn work off for a few minutes, hours, days.

When you are in work mode, there are also moments of appreciation to be found – whether in a steaming cup of coffee, an exciting new project, or hearing a good story from a colleague over video call. These simple things set a positive tone which helps to build trust and belonging amongst peers – something which has never been more important.

Also take the time to ask your colleagues, however you’re communicating with them, “how are you?”. Really listen and take the time to hear what they have to say – being empathetic and giving someone your attention and presence is a small thing, but they will appreciate it massively.

Give back 

Giving back – to our colleagues, to our family, to front-line workers, to charity – has been a big part of our lives this year as we all come together to share positivity and help those in need. Whether it’s volunteering with a charity, doing the shopping for a vulnerable neighbour who is stuck indoors, or taking the time to thank the checkout clerk at the supermarket, it’s these little acts of kindness that can make a big difference.

Showing and giving appreciation is a small thing to do, and you can even give back at work. For example, help an overloaded colleague who might be trying to juggle looking after the kids with conference calls with some of their work. You could also send a stressed colleague a delivered lunch so that they have once less thing to worry about. Express appreciation and recognition to a colleague or your team for how they have supported you this year and talk about the great achievements you’ve made together, and the challenges you’ve all overcome.

Bring the team together

Though we can’t be together in person, this time of year is always the perfect excuse to bring everyone together in spirit to lift morale and celebrate the year’s hard work – something which is particularly important for us all this festive season.

While office parties will all be a little different this year, there is still plenty of fun to be had. You could host a remote dinner, organise a cocktail making class over video or have everyone just come together for a laugh and a chat over a few drinks in their Christmas jumpers. You could even give out fun, end of year awards that highlight people’s great work throughout the year. It doesn’t matter what exactly the event is, but the important part is about spending some quality, non-work-related time together where you can forget about the emails and just concentrate on having fun. 

Be kind

We’ve all seen our fair share of stress and anxiety this year – trying to juggle everything with worry about what’s going on outside can leave us feeling overwhelmed. So, now perhaps isn’t the time to get frustrated or angry with someone if they miss a deadline or struggle with their workload. If someone is late with a deliverable or seems like aren’t coping too well, reach out with kindness. Ask them how you can help – expressing empathy, support and showing your appreciation for their hard work will go a long way to helping boost their morale.

It is the little things that will make this year’s holiday season that much more special, from the calls on Christmas morning to our families when we can’t be with them in person to sharing a virtual drink or two with colleagues. Giving thanks for the small, everyday things, reminds us of the good that is still to be found, even after this turbulent year. Research tells us when we express our appreciation, even during challenging times, we train our brains to see the good – so, take a moment to enjoy and be thankful for the simple moments this holiday season.