Imagine your office in its current state. Try and step into the shoes of your team or your coworkers. Is there tension? Do they feel burnt out? Is your team easily irritated? Has stress become so second-nature that no one even pays attention to its effects anymore?

Jobs, by nature, become stressful at some point or another. Many career paths have stress built into the job description, but most of us inevitably fall into the trap of “hustle culture”, which is in the fabric of Western society. We move fast and do so much on our own that we tend to leave each other behind and even neglect our mental health.

At Wishlist, we believe we must try to embody ideas that support trust, engagement, and high morale in our offices. Before you try out another system, meeting, or team bonding session to promote an office culture shift, consider: what if the key ingredient missing in your workplace is recognition?

According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, two of the most fundamental psychological needs that we have as human beings (after biological needs such as being fed and having shelter, or safety needs such as employment and health) are our needs to be appreciated and to belong.

We are wired to crave acceptance, connection, and support from those around us even more than we want opportunity and vocational development. Yet our workplaces often do not prioritize these needs. Many of us see our work as a barrier in our journey to self and group acceptance, let alone self-actualization, the highest on the hierarchy of needs.

Biologically speaking, this is because of oxytocin, a hormone our bodies naturally produce. The medical community labels oxytocin as the “love hormone”. It releases in the human body when, for example, we share a smile with a coworker or experience a good handshake.

Our bodies also create oxytocin when we feel loved, appreciated, or wanted in any capacity. Research shows that employees who work under the positive, natural influence of oxytocin perform better and are more responsible for their tasks. Because of this, companies who consistently show appreciation and gratitude far outperform companies that don’t.

Although career advancement and job opportunities may help us to self-actualize, these same opportunities must be built upon the foundation of appreciation, recognition, and belonging for that self-actualization to be sustainable. Physiologically, recognition has a direct impact on our performance in the workplace, laying the groundwork for coveted cultural attributes, including trust, engagement, and employee morale.

At this point, you might be wondering, “Well, if I’m not getting recognized, what’s the point of giving recognition to my coworkers?” The striking thing about recognition is that showing appreciation to others creates the same biological reaction that receiving praise would. This means whether you experience appreciation and recognition from giving or receiving, we physically feel better.

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. – Maya Angelou