Praising Essential Workers Is Critical To Their Recovery From Burnout

We should still be praising essential workers getting us through the pandemic.

Researchers from four different US universities find essential workers who receive public praise are energized and recover in healthy ways from the stress of their jobs, while those who don’t receive that praise experience negative emotions and are more likely to drink, smoke, or overeat to recover from work. The study found a significant number of essential workers in less visible fields—corrections officers, sanitation workers, truck drivers—felt the public had expressed no gratitude toward them at all.

Researchers say those who felt seen and appreciated were more likely to engage in healthy activities associated with a positive mental state, like exercising, meditating, and spending time outdoors. Study authors say the results demonstrate the importance of public gratitude for essential workers’ long-term health, well-being, and indirectly, the quality of their work. They also said the findings are also applicable beyond COVID-19, to other health crises and disaster situations where essential workers do critical work, as well as to routinely stressful events.

Study co-author Sarah Doyle says people should remember that expressions of gratitude are essentially free, and yet they can have a substantial impact on the well-being of essential personnel.