When was the last time you performed a kind act for your manager, employee or coworker—brought them a cup of coffee, helped someone move a heavy object or placed a bagel or flower on their desk? “Why should I?” you might ask.
Studies show that people who go out of their way to practice kindfulness are happier and have better mental and physical health than those who don’t spend as much time helping others. During hard times such as the pandemic, research suggests that helping gestures assuage worry and concern. Often during emergencies and crises, people perform acts of kindness at random. Performing good deeds can make you feel in control—even give you bursts of euphoria called “the helper’s high” from dopamine and endorphin squirts released in the brain. But findings from a wide body of research suggests five additional reasons why it pays to practice everyday kindfulness even when there is no work crisis or emergency.
Five Reasons It’s Cool To Practice Kindfulness At Work
Reason # 1: Millions of people suffer from loneliness. Gallup data shows that two in 10 employees spend much of the workday feeling lonely. Toxic organizations perpetuate isolation in favor of one-sided communication and iron-fisted management styles—one of the biggest complaints from the American workforce. In an employee-centered work environment, employees enjoy a satisfying connection with company leaders and colleagues. Leaders check in with employees to keep them in the loop, let them know they belong and keep them connected to the company.
Reason # 2: A cut-throat culture of competitiveness and unkindness. According to Workhuman’s Human Workplace Index, a monthly survey of 1,000 U.S. full-time workers, employees reported experiencing the following unkind situations the most frequently at work:
- Seeing someone else receive credit for their work (36.60%)
- Working with colleagues they clash with (33.90%)
- Overhearing negative comments about a colleague (33.20%)
- Being put on the spot in a meeting (24.60%)
“Just knowing you’re not alone can be a huge comfort on the individual level,” explains Steve Pemberton, CHRO of Workhuman. “On a company scale, effective management and a culture of open, empathetic communication can make these moments far less uncomfortable, reducing fear of embarrassment or consequence.”
Reason # 3: Kindfulness is essential for retention and acquisition. A recent study found that job seekers rate workplace kindness as an essential component for their mental health:
- 77% of respondents were more likely to apply for a job posting that listed “kindness” as an important value of the company.
- 74% of respondents said it’s important to have a kind community in the workplace such as having managers check in on their team members for professional and personal support.
- 89% of young workers see mental health and kindness as high priorities in the workplace.
Reason # 4: Increase of digital and remote interactions. “Developing meaningful professional relationships matters more than ever,” according to Yiannis Gavrielides, co-founder and CEO of COVVE. He cites collaborating effectively with colleagues, building trust with clients, negotiating with suppliers and aligning with shareholders as skills that will differentiate the future professionals. He stresses the importance of building a habit of keeping in touch with people. “We are often too busy to stay in touch,” he admits, but advises that we, “Dedicate time every day to reach out to people. In a world where digital interactions are taking over, remember the importance of in-person meetings. Body language and eye contact matter greatly, especially in negotiations and other occasions where being present can be more impactful. Actively listen to people’s opinions, understand their priorities, offer to help and connect them with people that can help.”
Gallup’s data also shows that having a best friend at work provides essential social and emotional support, and it is strongly linked to business outcomes, including improvements in profitability, safety, inventory control and employee retention. Writing for Gallup, Alok Patel and Stephanie Plowman, state, “Imagine, for example, the working parent who leaned on their best friend at work (who also has a child) when the pandemic required them to juggle at-home learning and their job responsibilities. Their best friend at work offered judgment-free encouragement during the toughest storms—the kind of support that communicates, ‘You’re not alone.’”
Reason # 5: Workplace kindfulness promotes well-being. Studies show that small actions such as buying a cup of coffee for a coworker can improve their mood. Given the tumultuous nature of the workplace this year, the workweek affords many opportunities for kind actions. But a set of studies in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Amit Kumar and Nick Epley discovered that people usually don’t take advantage of kind opportunities because they don’t realize the positive impact kindfulness can have on their colleagues.
In their research, they found that a little good goes a long way and that kindness increases happiness in both the givers and receivers. But in experiments of giving away a cup of hot chocolate in a park to giving away a gift in the laboratory, givers tend to undervalue the positive impact of their kindness, which supports the old adage that it’s better to give than receive. They also found that kindness can be contagious and the consequences of a kind action goes beyond a single recipient. People who had just been on the receiving end of a kind act gave substantially more to an anonymous person than those who had not. These findings suggest that what might seem small when we are deciding whether or not to do something nice for someone else could matter a great deal to the person we do it for,” Kumar concludes. “Given that these warm gestures can enhance our own mood and brighten the day of another person, why not choose kindness when we can?”
A Final Word
“Science is showing that kindfulness at work is cool. Employers and employees who practice random acts of kindfulness may not fully recognize the impact of their behavior on others, but studies show that it has long reaching positive effects. Workers are happier, more engaged and productive, and kindfulness boosts the company’s profitability. “When businesses invest in their employees through acts of appreciation, words of encouragement or making investments in their success, they build a culture where people take pride in their work and feel a sense of engagement and accountability,” says co-founder and CEO of &Open, Jonathan Legge. “When companies fail to do that, employees will simply check-out.”