It’s not just ‘cool to be kind’ – it’s essentialby
In celebration of Anti-Bullying Week 2021, Jess Woodsford highlights the benefits of kindness, what can get in our way and how to kickstart a kinder workplace revolution.
When you think of kindness, what do you think of? A big grand gesture? Helping a stranger? Something simple like a smile?
Now think about kindness in the workplace. Kindness is not something we often think of in relation to our workplace. In celebration of World Kindness Day on 13th November, I wanted to remind you of all the wonderful benefits of kindness and see if we can start a kinder workplace revolution.
What is kindness
Purpose coach and author of ‘Think like a monk’ Jay Shetty describes kindness as “Any thought, action or word that you can do or take to make someone’s day”. What I love about this quote is that it highlights that kindness is not about money. It does not have to be resource-intensive. It can be as simple and as easy as a thought or a few words.
Every time, participants comment on how just talking about kindness for an hour has made them feel happy, relaxed and more positive
Why be kind?
Being kind is more than a ‘nice thing to do’. Research shows there are huge physical and emotional benefits to being kind, both for the giver and the receiver.
Lifevest Inside has some great resources demonstrating the scientific benefits of kindness, such as:
increases endorphins which are the body’s natural painkiller
releases serotonin which heals wounds, calms you down and makes you happy
reduces cortisol which is the hormone related to stress
increases levels of DHEA which slows down ageing.
And it is not only the people giving and receiving kindness that benefit. These benefits are so infectious that even witnessing kindness gives you some of these benefits.
I’ve seen it first-hand. I deliver kindness workshops for organisations and every time, participants comment on how just talking about kindness for an hour has made them feel happy, relaxed and more positive.
What does this mean for the workplace?
As well as reducing stress, anxiety and depression for individuals, an article by Harvard Business Review suggests that kindness at work can reduce employee burnout, absenteeism and improve employee well-being.
With more remote working and fewer social interactions taking place between colleagues, we have lost the opportunity for many expressions of kindness. Like making a colleague a cup of tea, giving praise or compliments, or just showing interest in their day. So, we need to make a more conscious effort to show kindness to our colleagues.
Feeling over-stretched and overwhelmed are also the enemies of kindness
What gets in the way of kindness?
Given all the benefits, why do we not see more kindness at work? There is an uncomfortable, vulnerable side to kindness that gets in the way.
Often being kind means going a little against the grain. Doing something slightly unusual. Standing out a little. That’s what makes it kind but that is also what makes it uncomfortable. This can be exacerbated in the workplace when we are concerned about what is deemed ‘professional’, and whether accepting kindness might make you look incapable.
Feeling over-stretched and overwhelmed are also the enemies of kindness. We don’t feel we have the capacity or time to offer help. We don’t want to feel embarrassed in front of our co-workers, or to ‘poke our nose in where it’s not welcome. We rush around, get tunnel-visioned, internally focused, and sometimes simply forget how easy it is to be kind.
How can you bring more kindness to the workplace?
There are many ways to bring more kindness to your workplace, some are small and simple, while some might take more planning.
Receiving kindness as an act of kindness
The easiest way to start bringing more kindness to work is to recognise that accepting kindness is one of the kindest things you can do for yourself and others. If someone went out of their way to be kind reward them by accepting it with a smile.
Next time someone pays you a compliment, don’t shrug it off or belittle it. Just say ‘Thank you, that really means a lot to me’. Next time someone offers help or support, accept it and say thank you.
Model Kind behaviour
Model kind behaviour whenever you have the opportunity. Task some colleagues to do the same and see what a difference it can make to the atmosphere in the office.
Give compliments, praise and thanks
Make an effort to say thank you to your colleagues for their work. Give compliments and praise for their efforts. In a previous job, we would end team meetings with an opportunity for team members to thank each other.
Sometimes it was for work, but other times it was for bringing in biscuits, making a cup of tea, or just taking the time to check in with someone. If you have the resources/capacity, rewards or time off can help to demonstrate that staff feel valued.
Social time together
Create time and space for staff to socialise, so they can share kind words, ask about someone’s day, share a story/experience. This could be a team coffee break, a walk, a lunch. Virtual or in-person.
Ask for help
Give others the opportunity to offer support by asking for help. Not only does this give opportunities for personal and professional development, but it demonstrates that asking for, and receiving support is something your workplace embraces.
Make kindness a focus
Make it an explicit focus for your organisation. Share resources on the benefits. Put up posters. Organise a kindness workshop. Run a workplace kindness challenge to do three kind things every day for two weeks. Get people thinking and talking about it.
Be the change
All you need to do is commit to spreading kindness in the workplace. It will feel a little awkward at first, but the benefits are endless – as is our ability to be kind.