The surprising power of kindness at work

Employees happy in a meeting

“Kindness” is a type of behaviour that involves being friendly, generous, helpful, and considerate to others. Kindness is also selfless, most definitions of the concept include a note that being kind means “expecting no sort of reward in return”.

But this isn’t strictly true. There are all sorts of indirect rewards that flow on from being kind to others, which benefit individuals, colleagues and the workplace.

Kindness is good for you

Being kind doesn’t just benefit the recipient, but provides genuine health benefits for the giver. In fact, giving compliments can make someone even happier than receiving them. According to the Mayo Clinic, a “simple, free, positive and healthy” act of kindness can:

  • Increase the giver’s self-esteem, empathy and compassion
  • Improve mood
  • Decrease blood pressure and cortisol (a stress hormone)
  • Increase connectivity to others, enhancing relationships and reducing loneliness
  • Release endorphins, and boost serotonin and dopamine, lighting up your brain’s pleasure centres which leads to a feeling of satisfaction and well-being.

Kindness in the workplace

One surprising benefit of kindness is it's knock-on effect. According to a study quoted by The American Psychological Association, recipients of kindness will not only pay it back to the person who showed them generosity, but “pay it forward” to someone entirely new.

Another study involving over 50,000 workers found that acts of kindness benefit organisations across a suite of key business metrics. This includes higher productivity, increased engagement, higher customer satisfaction and – crucially – lower staff turnover.

Then there is the connection between kindness and recognition/reward: we know that recognition is vital to making employees feel they are valued by the organisation, increasing motivation, productivity, and retention. Acts of kindness can help make our working lives feel more meaningful and boost long-term job satisfaction.

Has remote working impacted our ability to be kind to others?

HBR warns that the move to more online work has removed the chance of “serendipitous encounters” such as giving a compliment, or a thank you for great work as you pass someone in the hallway or share a lift together. This means we need to work a little harder to replace lost water-cooler moments, with the help of technology.

Tips include, creating a shout-outs channel on internal collaboration platforms (i.e. Slack, MS Teams), investing in a dedicated employee recognition software, or setting aside dedicated time in online meetings for employee recognition. In a hybrid environment, spending less time together may make colleagues more eager to connect and be kind when they meet in person.

Creating a culture of kindness

There are plenty of ways leaders can nurture a culture of kindness. Examples include, modelling kind behaviours, investing or contributing to mentoring programs (which involves the free giving of one’s time to others), actively working to eliminate negativity and toxicity from meetings and communication, and encouraging employees to bond face-to-face or online.

Consider asking your team to call out acts of kindness that they’ve seen so they can be recognised, rewarded and encouraged.

Start practicing random acts of kindness

If you’d like to begin building a culture of kindness in your organisation, the best place to begin is to start practicing random acts of kindness yourself. Whether you’re in the office or working remotely, this could involve:

  • Starting or contributing to a social / teams-based shout-out channel
  • Writing someone a LinkedIn recommendation
  • Writing a message praising or thanking a colleague (and CC their manager)
  • Holding open a lift or door for someone
  • Showing genuine interest when asking someone how they are and taking the time to listen
  • Offering to help a colleague with a task
  • Helping a new starter settle in (even if it’s not your job)
  • Inviting someone to go for a walk
  • Cleaning up common spaces (team area, the kitchen)
  • Making or bringing in a snack to share with others
  • Checking in with remote workers and keeping an eye out for signs of loneliness.

Get started

Challenge yourself and your team to complete a few random acts of kindness today.

Track the outcome, record how it made you feel and how it brought people together.

Watch your developing culture of kindness create a positive ripple effect.

Enjoy the dopamine hit!

Check out our blogs to explore more workplace insights.