Employee recognition trend: time over money


Employee Recognition

Time is money, the old saying tells us. But science would beg to disagree. When it comes to achieving maximum happiness, the two are far from equivalent, and the employee recognition industry could better for it.

A research paper published last year revealed that people who valued time over money would be more likely to have better wellbeing. The results of the research indicated that people who were willing to sacrifice money to give themselves more time, including the option of working fewer hours and earning less, as a result, were more likely to have greater life satisfaction, higher positive emotions and lower negative emotions.

This research should be influencing employee recognition programmes everywhere. 95 percent of employee recognition activity is not designed to deliver a direct financial impact (and even if it was, no budget could cover that objective). The majority of recognition activity is trying to deliver a real sense of appreciation and respect while building a greater understanding and stronger relationship between manager and employee.  A recognition reward of a few pounds or dollars is likely to underwhelm or to be saved alongside other small amounts. However, the equivalent value in time, focused specifically on activities or lifestyle choices, can potentially deliver a lot more.

Look again at the areas the research paper highlights. Higher wellbeing. Increased job satisfaction. More positive emotions, less negative ones. Attain them at the individual level and companies are going to feel the benefit too.

  • Higher wellbeing

Well-being’s a very broad concept. Look at what the World Health Organisation has to say as part of its definition of mental health:

a state … in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.

Essentially it’s about feeling good and functioning well in and outside work. A greater sense of well-being has been shown to contribute towards success in many aspects of life including working life. Increased wellbeing results in –ultimately something that will benefit companies in the form of lower absence levels. An indicator of wellbeing, happiness, has also been shown to be linked to higher levels of productivity.

  • Greater life satisfaction

Life satisfaction – the way someone feels about their life as a whole, rather than the transient feelings and emotions that are only briefly experienced – has been shown to play a big role across many different aspects of people’s lives.

It’s an important predictor of significant life outcomes in and outside work. Greater life satisfaction reduces the risk of burnout. And the issue of time is clearly highly relevant to life satisfaction – the quantity matters as does a sense of control over the way it’s spent.

  • Higher positive emotions and lower negative emotions

Evidence tells us that the stronger the positive emotions the more positive the effect and vice versa. Research highlights tangible benefits that start at a physiological level such as improved immunity and better cardiovascular and endocrine functioning – in other words, better health.

Higher positive emotions have also been shown to have a positive impact on career success and can lead to greater creativity when it comes to problem-solving as well. The less negative emotions in the workplace the better – the knock on effects of negativity are very bad news for companies as it can spread very quickly and influence the perspectives of people around the negative person.

When it comes to approaches to employee recognition this is an awful lot of value for what constitutes very little outlay for companies. So what ideas pack a punch when it comes to giving a little time to employees rather than money? The Workstars’ Top 20 redeemed time and activity rewards for 2016 are a good starting point for some inspiration.


Jason Harney

Founder, also Director of Product and Marketing at Workstars. Jason has been instrumental in progressing social recognition software to the forefront of HR, against a backdrop of the traditional reward industry. As HR strategy begins to shift and innovate to meet the people and social challenges of the day. Trust, culture, values and engagement, matter more than ever. This is where Jason spends his time.