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Mental health awareness - the importance of kindness at work

Emma HR Advisor
20 May 2020 3 minutes

This week (18-14 May 2020) is Mental Health Awareness week and the theme this year is kindness. So why does kindness matter in the workplace?

In the past, kindness in the workplace had a bit of a bad reputation. Growing up we’re all told to be kind but when you’re an adult entering the world of work, it seems like kindness can disappear and seen as some kind of weakness.

If you’re too kind, you get walked all over and you’re perhaps not taken seriously enough when it comes to important decisions. In some cases, companies assign little value to kindness and their workplace culture can be competitive, and we don’t mean in a good way.

mental health awareness - working woman

Key facts about mental health in the workplace

  • 14.1 million working days a year are lost due to stress, anxiety or depression (1)
  • 1 in 6 adults will have experienced a common mental health disorder in the last week (2)
  • 60% of people don’t disclose anxiety problems to their employer (3)
  • The cost to employers of mental health related absence is £7.9 billion a year (4)

The benefits of kindness

Increased mood and energy levels – the chemical serotonin is released when we perform an act of kindness. This results in a feeling of calmness and reduced anxiety.

Increased positive perspectives – the chemical oxytocin is also released which encourages optimism and lowers blood pressure.

Improves our mental health – kindness generally makes us feel better. One famous Harvard study showed we’re happier spending money on others than we are on ourselves.(5)

So why does kindness matter at work?

The importance of kindness in the workplace might seem irrelevant, especially as you might not be able to visibly measure your return on investment.

On average we’ll spend 1/3 of our life at work and having to deal with conflict, negative colleagues and being constantly surrounded by it, can lead to less motivation, less engagement, more sick days, reduced productivity, creativity, and goodwill which can all be very costly for your business.

There’s plenty of research that shows businesses that have a culture of kindness have happier and more engaged staff and that in turn has an effect on your business’ bottom line.

Benefits of kindness in the workplace

Being engaged at work is about feeling valued, supported and respected. How do you encourage that? By being kind.

You’ll have happier employees – well-rested, healthy employees will do better work.

You’ll have less employees taking sick days – looking after your employees mind and body will hopefully mean they’re less stressed and anxious about coming to work. They’ll enjoy work more and might be less inclined to find reasons not to come in, reducing sickness absence for your business.

You’ll have a more engaged workforce – engaged workers will be more invested in your business, have better ideas and work harder because they want to, not because they’re forced to.

Your team will work better together – your employees will be more excited to deliver projects and work together as a team.

Lower staff turnover, reducing cost – happier employees will want to stay in your organisation for longer, helping to reduce your recruitment costs.

How can businesses implement kindness in the workplace?

Simple gestures of kindness can be easy to implement (and are mostly free) – you don’t have to reinvent the wheel and roll out a whole wellbeing programme (unless you want to of course).

We’ve put some suggestions on how you can improve kindness in the workplace below.

  • Reasonable working hours
  • Encourage and incentivise self-care activities – a lunch time walk with colleagues, perhaps a group exercise class such as yoga or meditation.
  • Social interaction across the business – spending time bonding with colleagues, both inside and outside of work.
  • Little acts of kindness – simple things such as saying hello in the morning, complimenting others, inviting colleagues to lunch or making a round of tea and coffee, can really help to build a strong culture of compassion.
  • Thoughtful gifts to celebrate milestones, both work-related and personal – for example celebrating a long-standing employee or marriage, birth or adoption.
  • Recognise Birthdays  – Birthdays are personal and most people want to feel good on their Birthday. A little thing like a Birthday card signed by everyone can go a long way to making employees feel part of the team. Some companies even give people their Birthday as holiday!
  • Recognise good work – compliment employees who are doing a good job directly.

Kindness is contagious

We copy the behaviour of those around us, whether that’s positive or negative behaviour. If more people began to act kinder, others in turn will follow.

Fostering a culture of care across your business will lead to happier and more engaged employees who are likely to want to stay in your business longer and work harder for you. So start small. Say hello, compliment your team and be generous with your time. You’ll feel happier and so will others around you. In a world where you can be anything, be kind.