What we can learn from “Notes to NHS staff”

Artist Andy Leek has been showing his appreciation for NHS employees at the frontline of the Covid-19 pandemic. Inspired by his “Notes to Strangers” project, which began in 2015 and involved spreading messages of positivity across cities worldwide, Andy’s latest project involves colourful posters with motivational messages aimed specifically at NHS workers.

Since its inception in February 2020, the “Notes to NHS staff” project has seen almost 2,000 handmade posters appearing in staff rooms of hospitals and surgeries across the UK. The posters include messages of appreciation and gratitude, such as “You’re a part of a beacon of hope”, “You soothe souls”, “Nothing is stronger than your amazing duty of care” and “You’re good enough, strong enough, kind enough”.

The “Notes to NHS staff” art project is just one of many emerging initiatives encouraging public demonstrations of gratitude for frontline workers. At 8pm, every Thursday, people are taking to their front doors, open windows, gardens and balconies to applaud, holler and trumpet in appreciation of NHS employees and care workers, meanwhile a 99-year-old war veteran has raised over £12million for the NHS by walking lengths of his garden.

Employers can learn a valuable lesson in kindness from this heartening public response to frontline workers. Demonstrating gratitude shows people that their efforts are valued, that what they do matters and that are making a difference. In turn, they feel they have a purpose.

Simple acts of kindness can have a significant positive impact on employee motivation, engagement, performance and retention – and, in turn, increasing productivity for the company as a whole.

So, how do we create a kind and fair workplace?

Two little words

I’m going to start with the obvious: say “Thank you”. You do not need glittering award ceremonies and grand gestures to show gratitude. A simple and sincere “thank you” often has the greatest impact – it increases feelings of belonging.

Fair pay   

In my previous blog, I highlighted the disconnect between the value of the work carried out by those on the Covid-19 frontline (that is, nurses, carers, supermarket workers and delivery drivers) and their low level pay.

Fair pay is fundamental to showing appreciation for the difference people make. While I hope to see greater changes in the pay and conditions for frontline workers, I have been pleased to see initial steps made by some organisations to reward these (until now) unsung heroes. In particular, the commitment of supermarket workers has been recognised with Morrisons offering a 6% bonus on earnings for the next 12 months. Meanwhile, Asda, Marks and Spencer, Aldi, Sainsbury’s and Tesco have offered short-term pay rewards.


As well as fair pay, people want opportunities for professional development to also be fair. While some organisations fear training top talent will inadvertently upskill them to then leave, it is in fact a lack of learning opportunities or lack of internal mobility that encourages employees to move on. Training therefore ensures the development and retention of top talent as well as increased overall company performance. 


Trust is key to ensuring your people feel as though they belong. Encouraging and enabling employees to lead projects, work autonomously, work from home or work flexible hours demonstrates your trust in their ability, skills and experience.

Relaying information about the future of the business and trusting employees with that information is also integral to a motivated workforce. Employees disengage when they feel information is being withheld or if they are not clear of the purpose of what they’re being asked to do, so involve them in the company’s mission and show the value of their contribution.

Listen and respond

A fair and kind culture does not just involve broadcasting gratitude, it appreciates the voices and opinions of its people. It invites feedback, it listens, it responds and it acts. Inviting feedback can include company-wide initiatives and policies, but also for encouraging people to develop team or departmental strategies, approaches to projects and new ways of working. 


At this current time, we’re facing new, unprecedented challenges daily, but even small acts of kindness can have significant impacts on your business. If you’re looking to cultivate your company culture, contact me directly by emailing lisa@telljane.co.uk. Thank you.

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