How employee recognition positively impacts employee mental health

Mental health issues are increasing at an alarming rate. The ongoing global pandemic has only brought more challenges for mental health and affected working professionals across the globe. Employees quickly shifted to the new normal of working from home without much aid or support, leaving HR professionals scrambling to introduce new policies and programs to support the mental health of remote employees and provide them with the necessary tools to cope with this sudden change. But the lines continue to blur; work stress and anxiety have found their place in our personal space too.


The anxiety-buffer hypothesis suggests that self-esteem acts as a shield against mental health factors such as fear and loneliness, hampering the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Using acts of recognition to enhance self-esteem for team members is especially likely to have a positive impact, now more than ever.

40 percent of employees across a wide range of professions indicated that employee appreciation and recognition were not a priority for their company’s management team.

Employee dissatisfaction is also connected to a lack of productivity and happiness, meaning employees are less likely to enjoy their employment or believe in the worth of the work they do.

Organizations that actively create a culture of recognition are more likely to positively influence the bottom line and build healthy work environments.

How recognition and appreciation help cultivate mentally healthy workplaces

Thoughts and feelings of unworthiness can make employees feel inadequate, building anxiety and stress at work. And the sad truth is that these negative feelings are often caused and perpetuated by external factors beyond the workplace.

Creating a culture of recognition can help increase self-worth and productivity. It’s well-known that recognition and appreciation play a significant role in human development and our sense of belonging, contributing to a fundamental human need. As best-selling author and speaker Stephen M. R. Covey puts it,

next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is psychological survival, to be understood, to be affirmed, to be validated, to be appreciated.

Employee recognition is a tool that allows organizations to positively impact employee mental health. Progressive companies use employee recognition tactics and strategies to address mental health concerns, reduce HR costs and absenteeism rates, and increase productivity and performance. Employees then gain a sense of accomplishment and validation, which leads to increased self-esteem and productivity.

Creating a culture of recognition to support employee mental health

The role of a leader is to support their employees. Even during uncertainty, employee health can’t be taken for granted. Proactive leaders emphasize providing a great employee experience and work environment to support employee mental health.

Having a sense of belonging to a company is underpinned by team members feeling connected to their coworkers, supervisors, and leaders.

It is, therefore, crucial to develop and build a culture of employee recognition to support the mental well-being of your employees.

1. Peer to peer recognition

A culture of recognition starts by building practices of peer-to-peer appreciation for employees to recognize their peers for contributions and accomplishments. When employees are connected, it provides a sense of belonging and acknowledgment. Staff feel validated and understood through recognition. Better yet, it’s a great morale booster and can help increase overall productivity and engagement.

Peer-to-peer recognition

2. Managers to employee recognition

To build trust, managers need to focus on developing healthy interpersonal relationships with their employees and recognize their accomplishments.

Employees who feel unrecognized can often have a hard time trusting their leaders. A poor working relationship with a direct manager/boss can make an employee feel uneasy about their employment, contributing to work-related stress and anxiety.

Manager to employee recognition

3. On the spot and timely recognition

Recognition delayed is recognition denied. Leaders shouldn’t wait for the right time to appreciate and recognize their employees. To proactively drive a culture of recognition, it should be practiced regularly.

Excellent work should be acknowledged on the spot. While the larger milestones are important, so are the minor ones. It’s important not to let opportunities for recognition go unnoticed.

Recognizing employees with award badges

4. Social validation

Recognition is not always tied to performance or behaviors. Specific moments are additional opportunities for employees to be appreciated. A customized birthday message or celebration of a work anniversary adds value and gives employees social validation. It makes them feel valued and cared for.

Birthday message through recognition platform

5. Be specific

Recognition programs should have a spontaneous, human aspect to them. When recognizing employees through a rewards platform, leaders need to ensure they follow through with reinforcement. Let them know why they are appreciated or how their specific role helped in the process. Keep it personal.

Employee appreciation and reinforcement

For leaders of today’s dispersed and distributed teams, a focus on building a mentally healthy culture is too important to ignore. Wellbeing has steadily moved to the top of the employee checklist, and with good reason. A happier workforce means a more efficient and productive business. Through recognition, leaders can build loyal teams and successful businesses. Creating a culture of recognition is easier said than done, but is vital to help employees flourish in the workplace.