Covert: Gratitude—what students need and employees deserve

Alexander Covert, Contributing Writer

Next Friday, March 4, is National Employee Appreciation Day. Observed on the first Friday of March, the official holiday was created to remind employers to thank and reward employees for their good work. In a message to the university, President Eric Kaler stated he wants to use the holiday to focus on “self-care and gratitude for our staff employees,” planning a variety of benefits for university workers throughout the day, including, but not limited to, an appreciation lunch and early dismissal.

I noticed President Kaler addressed his message to the university staff, not the student body. This struck me as odd, as we’re the group that benefits most from the work each staff member contributes to the university’s success—and, by extent, our education. From the professors teaching us our coursework to service workers maintaining the facilities where we live, work and eat, every Case Western Reserve University employee helps provide us with the environment and resources we need to thrive during our time here.

In the fast-paced environment that comes with attending a top university, it’s easy to forget that a staff member had to put time and energy into making and supplying the food you eat at the dining hall. It’s easy to forget the late nights that security guards endure to keep our campus safe while warding off further crime. It’s easy to forget the service workers who clean up residence hall messes students are too disgusted to even look at. We’re so busy going to class or doing our homework that we often forget to be thankful to those who make our experience at CWRU possible.

With President Kaler’s message in mind, I think the student body should use this week to develop gratitude towards university employees. Gratitude is a strong feeling of appreciation to someone or something for what that person has done to help you. There are many benefits to practicing gratitude in your life; research has shown that gratitude is strongly correlated with improved health, stronger relationships and an overall greater level of happiness. In my experience, whenever I have gratitude towards others, I have a greater appreciation for my privileges and a healthier perspective on my challenges.

Genuine gratitude has to be developed from within. Popular techniques to develop gratitude include meditation, thank-you notes or counting your blessings. Personally, I like to think about how fortunate I am right before my meals. Since not everyone has convenient access to decent-tasting food—yes, this includes Leutner and Fribley Commons—it’s easy to remember how lucky I am to eat a good quality meal that gives me energy for my studies. The idea behind these habits is that the more time you spend thinking about good things that happen in your life, you’ll more easily notice them in the future.

Developing an awareness of gratitude also makes it easier to express it. It can be shown through words or actions—on either a small or large scale. Relating to the university staff, this could be as simple as an unprompted “thank you for what you do,” or “I hope you have a good day” (as someone who’s worked in customer service, those quick compliments really do help). If you want to do better, try displaying gratitude in your actions: move the furniture in the common area back to its proper place, don’t leave your waste outside of the garbage for someone else to pick up and clean up the mess you make in the bathroom. It’s those simple actions that make all the difference.

Just like too many national holidays, National Employee Appreciation Day values a group of people that should always be appreciated but rarely are. We should take this opportunity to grow and show our appreciation of CWRU’s employees, making their jobs more enjoyable while improving our ability to be thankful for their work. By showing gratitude to others in our community, we can develop positive habits and promote a healthier, happier university environment.