It’s the season to give thanks, which means you should thank your lucky stars that you can work from home, right?

That’s the pervading attitude about flex work. Many managers and employers believe these pajama-loving employees should be thankful for the perk of working from the cushy privacy of their living room sofa.

But it’s the employers who should be thankful for flex workers all year.

Reasons to Be Thankful for Flex Workers

We often hear about the perks of working from home, but let’s not forget about the benefits that teleworkers afford companies. Companies supporting telecommuting attract better talent, reduce travel costs, and reap increased productivity (if properly managed).

If you’re managing a virtual team, here are a few more reasons you should honor your out-of-office team members:

  • As someone higher up in your organization, you set the tone. If you want to work with gracious employees, start the gratitude ripple from your end.
  • Gratitude makes you more likeable, encourages teamwork, trains you to be more positive, and positively reinforces others to return the good behavior, according to Dr. Philip Watkins at the Greater Good Gratitude Summit.
  • About 93 percent of respondents in a poll by the John Templeton Foundation say grateful bosses are most likely to succeed, and 81 percent said they would work harder for a boss that’s grateful.
  • Ongoing acknowledgement of teleworkers’ successes and contributions keeps them engaged and prevents them from feeling isolated from the team.
  • You’ll fare better at developing trust with flex workers, a significant factor to the success of your telecommuting program.

How to Build a Culture of Gratitude

Gratitude makes a regular appearance in the interview process and new employee orientation, but it quickly dissipates thereafter. In fact, the workplace is the least likely place people express gratitude, according to the John Templeton Foundation poll.

Employees want to feel like they matter, especially when they’re not sitting beside you. Even those small moments of gratitude when you open the door for someone, smile in the hall, or save a seat in a meeting are foreign to the flex worker’s day.

Before you break out the gold stars, read through these tips to build a culture of gratitude on your virtual team:

  • Reserve gratitude for when it really matters. This way it’s authentic and more meaningful.
  • Avoid blanket thank-you emails to the entire team. Gratitude is most impactful when it’s creative and personalized to each flex worker.
  • Void of break rooms and team lunches, virtual teams need more opportunities to share gratitude. Create and maintain regular one-on-one meetings, or pause for moments of peer-to-peer recognition in group meetings. Taking a note from this Fast Company article, you could even create a virtual gratitude book in team workspaces.
  • Take advantage of technology like web and video conferencing to put a face to your thank you.

Don’t Leave the Boss Out

If you’re a flex worker, don’t just wait for your turn to be grateful to the boss. Practicing gratitude benefits you, too.

Building positive, authentic relationships with managers and colleagues is a huge challenge when you’re working from home. Expressing gratitude is one of the simplest, most powerful ways to nurture team relationships.

Gratitude’s also good for collaboration on team projects, a way to stay memorable from miles away, and a tool to help you stay stress-free and happier at work.

Learn more about creating a work culture of gratitude this month on PGi’s blog, The Future of Business Collaboration. And in case you missed it, check out our interview with the founder of 1 Million for Work Flexibility, Sara Sutton, on why managing flex work means managing company culture.

photo credit: thinkstockphotos.com