A virtual dose of oxytocin can get employees charged up

Recognition matters to employees now more than ever, in the new normal


Think of today’s remote working employees. They rise from their beds in the morning and walk up to their ‘workplace’. They plonk themselves on a chair, to stare at the computer screen for the next eight to nine hours, sometimes even more. Even the thought is monotonous. Some may not even have a proper dedicated desk, because many Millennials live in paying guest accommodations or sparsely furnished flats, which they share with others. They have never felt the need to invest in furniture because they are used to spending a major part of their day at the office. In fact, most of the Millennials survive on cornflakes or fruits for breakfast and depend on the office canteen for their lunch, and probably grab dinner on their way home or order it online. For them, going ‘home’ means going to just rest and get a good night’s sleep.

The pandemic changed all that. Overnight, work-from-home (WFH) became the new normal and travelling to work meant taking a few steps from the bed to the table. For some it just meant using a laptop table on the bed itself. As if seeing the ‘home’ transform into office wasn’t bad enough, they even had to worry about organising decent meals. Focussing on work with housework to worry about too, can be quite a challenge. For those with families and children, WFH can be a nightmare.

This is when they really need a little emotional push. Some motivation and appreciation for their hard work will give them the energy to wake up to the same routine every day.

The hormone, oxytocin, makes an individual experience a sense of being loved. Also referred to as the cuddle hormone or love hormone, this magic hormone is released when a person is appreciated or recognised for his or her hard work. Studies have shown that the hormone can improve social bonding.

In these uncertain times, unemployment is on the rise and job security seems a distant dream. Organisations across the globe are shrinking their workforces to tide over the financial burden brought on by the pandemic. Such a scenario forces employees to worry about their future. This is when they need maximum emotional support.

Unable to step out of their houses or meet and interact with friends, and with their social life being reduced to zero, professionals who earlier welcomed the remote working mode — in the initial stages of the lockdown — have changed their minds after six months of working from home. The truth is, nobody had expected the pandemic to continue for so long. None of the organisations were prepared for this.

The only way to motivate employees through these difficult times is to lend them support. Leaders should say the right things that will make their juniors eager to rise and ‘shine’, literally, every morning. Words of appreciation for a job well done, or even a simple ‘thank you’ may do the trick.

Financial incentives may not be the best way to reward good performers in the current situation. Studies have shown that it is recognition that employees seek more than monetary rewards. With no personal interaction at the workplace, the physical pat on the back is no longer an option, and virtual interaction lacks spontaneity. It is planned, purpose-driven and structured.

A similar organised and planned approach to rewards and recognition is what is required today.

Technological advancements have presented multiple ways of recognising employees. With WFH becoming the new normal, the reliance on technology has only increased.

Intranet: Nowadays, there are myriad features available on intranet platforms that can be used to appreciate employees for their performance and accomplishments. Through the intranet, even employees can recognise their peers digitally. Peer-to-peer recognition is one of the best ways to recognise the good performance and the achievements of employees, given the current scenario. This promotes more interaction amongst the employees too, which is essential for engagement.

Blogs: Organisations can use their blogs to mention and highlight their employees’ achievements and express their gratitude and appreciation for their hard work and contributions.

Gamification: Contests and competitions can help promote a healthy spirit of competitiveness amongst the employees. This will only increase motivation and result in better performance.

Apps: With the new generations being more tech savvy, it is easier for them to accept and latch on to apps. Therefore, organisations can take advantage of the tech savviness of their employees and recognise them through such apps.

The only thing that leaders should remember is that, recognition should be immediate, while the deed or achievement is still fresh. Many times, the timing is all that matters. Since recognition does not require anything tangible, employees can be recognised frequently and every time they do something worth being appreciated. A phone call in these times of social distancing, an announcement on the intranet or an official post is all it takes to motivate employees. If those in positions of power make it a habit to appreciate and recognise efforts, it will soon become an integral part of the organisation’s culture. A little dose of oxytocin at the right time can get employees revved up.

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