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Celebrating Personal Milestones: The New Normal of Recognition

It’s a phrase you’ve likely heard on repeat over the last few months: “the new normal.” With back-to-school looking very different this autumn, many sports still on pause and countless changes to everyday life, it is no surprise that the workforce is changing too. Today, record-breaking numbers of employees are working from home, and it seems that for many there is no return to the office in their future. Multiple big tech companies like Twitter are even vowing to offer remote options for all employees within the next few years. It’s no question – this trend is here to stay. 

While the current public health crisis has continued to grow the remote workforce significantly, this trend is certainly not new. Thanks to technological advances like email, instant internet connection, and online webinar platforms, work-from-home positions have grown by 173% since 2005. And with a whopping 80% of employees saying they’d like to work from home if, given the chance, this trend is just beginning. 

But with this change in organizational culture, the lines of a work-life balance begin to blur.  So how do leaders process this change in a way that continues to support and connect with their employees in an ever-changing world? The approach comes down to this: managers must find a way to appropriately support personal milestones, as well as professional. 

Why it Matters

As our workforce populates with more Millennial and Gen Z colleagues, a “favorable work-life balance” is increasingly considered a very important factor when searching for and considering job opportunities. Combine that with a rapidly increasing remote workforce and the need for careers that understand and respect the personal lives of their employees, balance is vital.

Celebrating personal milestones is now critical too, as many individuals see their work and personal lives blending. With employees and supervisors alike working from home environments, talking about personal life while “at work” is part of this new normal. We see home décor in the backgrounds of our Zoom calls, we hear spouses, parents, or children talking, and the “work” becomes portable – working while making a coffee in the mornings, dropping the kids at school, or just sitting on the back porch. 

Throughout the many changes, two things have stayed consistently important in building employee engagement: a great relationship with a supervisor and friendships with teammates. To keep up those relationships, recognizing and cheering on your team in their out-of-office lives is almost as important as their job at work. 

How to Begin

Determine the comfort level of your team members. 

Many employees feel comfortable sharing personal celebrations or hardships with their team. Paying off the last of the student loan debt, buying a house, getting engaged, or celebrating a new grandbaby can all be sources of joy and positivity. Similarly, some team members may feel comfortable sharing that their grandmother just passed away so they may be on email less over the next few days. 

  • Begin each weekly check-in with some “good news sharing.” Let your team members know this can be work-related or within the employees’ personal lives and see what comes up over the next few meetings. Employees who do share stories of personal triumph may indicate they are open to talk about their personal lives. 
  • Be the leader. If you want your team to feel comfortable sharing, you must first share as well.
  • Ask your employees directly “Do you feel comfortable sharing personal milestones with your team?”

Consider the specific circumstance.

Good news may be easier to share than bad news, but it’s best to take it as a case-by-case basis. A young new employee fresh out of college may be ecstatic to have paid off her college debt and happy to share her experiences with the team, while an older individual who has never found financial peace may feel embarrassed to receive unwelcome attention at finally paying off debt.

Consider the unique individual. 

Every employee is unique. While some chatty folks are happy to share anything, a few team members may prefer to keep their personal life, well, personal. An employee who will happily talk about anything may be more open to receiving recognition for their personal lives. If an employee has been working under you for three years and never once opened up about family, friends, or hobbies outside of work, he/she may not be the most comfortable with you sharing out their good news. 

When in doubt, just ask. 

“I’m happy to hear about you getting out of debt – that is a big feat. Would you be comfortable with me sharing that good news with the team during our weekly huddle tomorrow?” Clear communication is always a good solution. To check out more tips on choosing private vs. public recognition, check out our blog post here!


Without a doubt, celebrating and sharing personal wins is the next phase of recognition. Determining your team members comfort level is vital to setting the bar with how to begin this “new normal.” For more tips on how to recognize and support your remote employees, check out our downloadable resource guide!

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