It’s cool to be kind, and there’s been a real movement in recent years encouraging us to actively be more kind to one another (and to ourselves). The importance of wellbeing in the workplace has also become topical of late, and kindness as a concept feeds directly into this.
Those stale and outdated notions that the “nice guy finishes last” and the business world is “dog-eat-dog” seem to be finally (albeit slowly) fading away. Kindness even seems to be infiltrating politics these days, with New Zealand’s own Jacinda Arden. However, the very fact that kindness in the workplace is still something that needs to be discussed and ‘implemented’ speaks volumes. It seems that, for many employees, companies are still missing the mark. This is a real shame, because a natural kindness culture goes a long way to improve employees’ professional lives, and it can also help to bolster your bottom line.
Why you should embrace kindness in the workplace
This shouldn’t come as a revelation, but, happy employees are productive employees. Thirteen percent more productive actually, according to research by Oxford University.1 Not only that, but a survey by PwC revealed that kindness from employers encourages commitment from their employees, and helps to cultivate a positive work culture.2
A Spanish workplace study, in which one group of employees were asked to perform random (and anonymous) acts of kindness for a second group of employees,3 demonstrated that not only did those on the receiving end of these kind acts report an improved sense of wellbeing and camaraderie with their peers, but those performing these acts also stated higher levels of job and life satisfaction.
Unsurprisingly, these findings are supported by our own biology (you knew we’d find a way to bring in the science), which has shown that acts of kindness are linked to the increased production of endorphins (the brain’s natural painkiller) and serotonin (the ‘happiness’ hormone), while simultaneously reducing levels of cortisol (the ‘stress hormone’).4 Kindness can therefore help to foster a positive work environment for everyone. But how to actually implement ‘kindness’ in the workplace?
Making kindness part of your company’s biology (hey, look, we did it again)
There are lots of simple and easy ways to apply kindness to the workplace in companies of any size. In the above Spanish study,3 acts of kindness included anything from buying another colleague a drink to dropping someone a thank you email. Simple things that might not seem like much, but can make all the difference to the person on the receiving end.
However, given that more and more of us are beginning to work from home, offering to buy your colleague a coffee might require a 400-mile-round-trip to Yorkshire. You’d definitely be known as Dedicated Dave for as long as you live, but it could be seen as a bit eccentric. So, it’s this second act that is probably more practical to take into consideration: Consideration. That’s right, and no, we didn’t accidentally write consideration twice. Consideration and saying thank you goes a reallllly long way. In fact, communication on the whole is a simple and effective tool that reinforces kindness in the workplace. It allows employers to show gratitude to their employees, praise their hard work, and recognise them as individuals. How many of us have had our own days brightened by such small, kind gestures?
However, communication is a two-way street. It’s not always all about what you give out. Sometimes it’s about letting people give the best of themselves. Allowing employees to feel like they have a voice, that their opinions matter, and creating a ‘safe space’ for them to be heard are important aspects that many value. It’s about making people feel like they work somewhere that’s part of a ‘democracy’ rather than a ‘dictatorship’; getting employees involved in important decisions about the company’s or their own future, and hearing what they have to say. An employee who is listened to feels trusted, and an employee who is trusted feels respected.
But open communications also serve another purpose – it allows colleagues to get to know one another and helps to instil that aforementioned sense of camaraderie. Banter and jokes between colleagues should be encouraged on forums such as Skype or Slack. Zoom is great for meetings, but can at times feel a little too formal. And how many peoples are actually comfortable telling a colleague that something’s wrong, face-to-(virtual)face, rather than just over the phone or in an instant message?
Checking in with employees or colleagues is always important. Simply asking someone “Can I help?” or “Are you OK?”, can make the world of difference. A problem shared is a problem halved, after all, and showing people that their problems at work are recognised, and that it’s OK to struggle at times, can make a massive difference. Not only that, but there is a trickle-down effect as well, which should hopefully encourage some of that team spirit: if people see their boss sticking their neck out to help others, then they’re more likely to adopt this attitude too.
Last, but definitely not least, kindness in the workplace is also about recognising that people have lives outside of work. It’s inevitable that at times, the two worlds collide; acknowledging that someone may be going through a rough patch in their personal life, and giving them the support and space that they need to get through it at work, will never go unappreciated.
So, moral of the story: Put your people first. And be kind. Always, and anywhere,
including especially at work – after all, a little bit of kindness benefits everyone.
- Happy workers are 13% more productive. Available at: https://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2019-10-24-happy-workers-are-13-more-productive. Accessed November 2020.
- Redefining business success in a changing world. Available at: https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/ceo-survey/2016/landing-page/pwc-19th-annual-global-ceo-survey.pdf. Accessed November 2020.
- Everyday prosociality in the workplace: The reinforcing benefits of giving, getting, and glimpsing. Available at: https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2017-24716-001. Accessed November 2020.
- Kindness Health Facts. Available at: https://www.dartmouth.edu/wellness/emotional/rakhealthfacts.pdf. Accessed November 2020.