A kind and caring approach was once considered unnecessary to thrive in the world of business. Movies and books alike, showed you to survive, it was a dog eat dog world or that nice people finish last. It couldn’t have been further from the truth and now with mental health awareness ever increasing and companies spending millions on wellness programmes to support their staff, kindness is back on the menu and it is being appreciated like never before.
Multiple studies have been conducted to show the benefits of being kind in the workplace and the impact it has throughout staff. Even small acts that may seem insignificant like making someone a drink, sending a thank you email or mentioning the great job a colleague did have been proven to give what is known as a ripple effect, bouncing out across from the giver to those around them and spreading further. Essentially kindness is proven to be contagious.
One study by the American Psychological Association on ‘The reinforcing benefits of giving, getting and glimpsing’ who tested such small acts of kindness over a period of time in a live work environment, reported results of “higher levels of life and job satisfaction”. They also showed results that the staff “felt more competent in their workplace and more autonomous.”
When we return to offices and the normal workplace, we can spread small acts with much more ease. Taking your turn to boil the kettle and make the teas, or asking a colleague if you can get them anything when you run to the shop, all add up. Taking the time to say good morning and smile to your colleagues as you walk in can set the day off to a great start, rather than rushing onwards to your desk.
Virtually whilst working from home or in lock down this is harder but still achievable. The quick ‘thanks’ that you might call out when someone lends a hand in the office can’t be done as easily but you can still send a Thank You over email or text instead. Call in to check in your colleagues, not only when you want them to help with a task. If you enjoy their company, why not invite them for a virtual lunch break where you both have your lunch at the same time over a video call and can take the time to chat.
Let your colleagues know you appreciate them if they did a great job at something, even if you’re not their management. Respect and acknowledgement from a peer holds as much esteem for an employee as it does from direct managers and is proven to boost confidence.
If something they did impressed you, let them know or even still let management know. It doesn’t need to be a grand formal declaration made in a review but a simple “I found the way X handled the new presentation really impressive, their work was great..” in conversation will do wonders. Not only does it let your colleague’s work shine but it also shows your management that you are a team player and an encourager of a positive and supportive work culture.
Offer your colleagues an unbiased, open and inclusive space to work. Equality can spread from all angles and is not just the responsibility of the top tier. Whilst management ensure they hire a diverse and culturally rich range of staff, we all should look to the equality we offer our colleagues, whether that be in mutual projects, even down to how we behave in the staff break out space.
Perhaps you judge one colleague because they have to rush away at 5pm for childcare or unknowingly exclude another from the conversation in the tea room because they don’t have the same interests as you. Take a pause in the chat about sports or last night’s soap to smile and say ‘hello’ or ‘how are you?’ Try and understand the colleague who has to leave early, and the juggle they may be facing, they could be taking work home or coming earlier most mornings. Offering equality with understanding and kindness will help build a team where everyone feels welcome and appreciated.
Random Acts of Kindness
More and more companies are encouraging staff to participate in random acts of kindness. An act that can be anonymous or is unprompted and offers no direct reward to you that helps spread a little joy and may bring a smile to another.The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation even now offers a free downloadable calendar for the workplace to help offer ideas for staff throughout the year (available here) with suggestions such as “Bring an extra umbrella to work to lend out when it’s raining.” Or “Make sure everyone in meetings today feels included.”