It pays to be kind: improving workplace culture through kindness
Some businesses are leading the way in creating a culture of kindness at work, and measuring it too
Kindness might not be the first thing to spring to mind when you think about work. But more businesses are recognising that it is just as important to company culture as communication or collaboration.
Being kind to others stimulates serotonin and oxytocin – hormones associated with happiness. Research also shows that people who are regularly kind have significantly lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.
Now, the business world is starting to take note. “We’re a small, close-knit team, and showing employees that management cares is motivating,” says Alex Spencer, a marketing executive for gifting company Prezzybox.
Staff there are encouraged to carry out random acts of kindness for colleagues, while boss Zak Edwards often buys everyone lunch and encourages early finishes on Fridays.
Spencer quickly felt the benefits of a kind workplace. Receiving a present and card on her birthday, despite it only being her second day at the company, made her feel part of the team right away. She was also well supported by her manager when a family member fell ill.
"Being kind to others stimulates serotonin and oxytocin"
“I think this approach stems from the company being family-owned and run,” she tells Positive News.
“We’re much more likely to want to stay with the business if we’re treated with kindness. Staff turnover is really low and there isn’t much of a hierarchy – we’re all afforded the same kindnesses and we feel respected and appreciated as a result.”
A kinder approach is embedded within the B Corp movement: businesses that balance purpose and profit and which are legally required to consider the impact of decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers and the environment.
UK retail giant John Lewis was established with a core belief in fairness and kindness to employees, while kindness is the central philosophy at skincare brand Simple.
Most businesses are familiar with key performance indicators (KPIs), but some experts now recommend firms implement kindness performance indicators. This could involve developing a kindness policy, regularly surveying employees’ experiences of kindness in the workplace, and reviewing the results as a team.
Four ways to clock in with kindness
1. Real face time
Get away from your screen and chat to colleagues in person. Especially if teammates work remotely or on freelance contracts, make time for human connections.
2. Schedule kindness
From helping research a colleague’s presentation, to emptying the office dishwasher, get into a routine of doing altruistic things for the people around you.
3. Pay a compliment
Too often, we’re only told when we’ve done something wrong; let your colleagues know if you’re impressed by their work on a particular project.
4. Offer support
If a co-worker is under pressure or going through a stressful period, offer to help ease their work-load, take care of an errand, or bring them lunch as a surprise.
Illustration: Spencer Wilson