In case you haven’t heard, showing gratitude and appreciation to those around you has some pretty big benefits, like making office life better for everyone, lowering your stress levels, and helping you gain perspective and clarity. So, whether it’s that contact who helped you land your dream job or a co-worker who’s always going above and beyond in the office, it’s always a good idea to thank those around you for their time and effort.
Of course, most of us don’t have gobs of money to spend on gifts or lunches out to show how grateful we are. But that’s OK—as the old saying goes, the best things in life are free. And when it comes to giving back, you don’t need to drop any dough at all. Here are a few ideas for how to do it.
1. Take on an Extra Project
Did a co-worker cover your butt during an important deadline? Return the favor by offering to take on something extra that he or she needs help on (or just doesn’t really like doing). Learn more about how to do this by following the instructions for a work swap here—just don’t give your colleague any of your work.
2. Write a Heartfelt Note
Whether it’s a thoughtful email or a handwritten card, never underestimate the powerful of a well-crafted letter. Check out how writer Aja Frost used this technique to thank people in her life—and how it ended up transforming her career.
3. Give a Social Media Shout Out
Who doesn’t love getting a mention on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook? If a friend or colleague did a small favor for you, it can be nice to let your network know, too. Who says we can’t send random tweets of kindness every day?
4. Write a LinkedIn Recommendation
If you want to do something on social media that’s a little more permanent, visible, and thorough than a tweet, try writing a meaningful LinkedIn recommendation. It not only shows your appreciation, but it also helps someone gain professional cred. Not sure how to write an out-of-this-world LinkedIn rec? We’ve got a great five-minute guide to get you started.
5. Tell Other People
It’s great to hear that someone really appreciates your work—especially from other people. I once helped a co-worker find sources for an article with a tight deadline, and in addition to her thanking me profusely, I was really excited when our boss sent me an email to say that my colleague had told her about the awesome work I’d done. I got a second thank you; it was a double-whammy of gratitude.
6. Pass Along Opportunities
Love the work a friend, professional contact, or colleague is doing? Hand that person a great opportunity (or a referral) so that others can see that talent, too. Here’s a quick email template for an intro to make this one even easier.
7. Make Their Day a Little Easier
Did your co-worker order lunch but then get stuck in on a never-ending call? Offer to grab it when you’re out. Is your cubemate scrambling before a meeting? Tell her you’ll make copies of the agenda and get the conference room all set up. These little acts of kindness can make a stressful day so much better for someone—and we can’t think of a better gift than that!
8. Be a Good Listener
Whether it’s a colleague who needs to vent about a tough client or a friend who wants to pick your brain about an upcoming job interview, listening to people’s comments or concerns and giving them your time lets them know that they’re valued. Career coach Lea McLeod has a primer on being an amazing listener.
9. Get Personal
It’s easy to think of your professional connections or colleagues solely in the context of work. But trying to know them on a more personal level by asking questions shows how much you enjoy their presence. This doesn’t have to mean posing deep or intrusive questions—even asking about someone’s family if a co-worker mentions relatives can spark a great conversation that you can go back to later on. To help you with this, check out Alex Cavoulacos’ secret to remembering anything about anyone.
Money doesn’t buy happiness, and gratitude certainly doesn’t have to cost big bucks. But doing something that is thoughtful and meaningful can go a long way in showing your contacts just how much you appreciate them.