This week is Random Acts of Kindness Week, and there’s one place that kindness is often overlooked: the office. While we are at work, we are often more concerned with productivity than satisfaction, and professionalism that often translates to a decrease in personalization. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, happiness can increase productivity by 31%, as well as making employees three times more creative.
Increasing happiness sounds like something that should come from the top—restructured work days or more positive feedback from boss to employee. But there are ways to create a happier environment around yourself while at work, no matter your position in the company. Here are some ways you can contribute with random acts of kindness.
Lend a Hand: All Girl Scouts are taught to leave a space cleaner than they found it. Implementing this in the break room or conference room is a nice way to take pride in your space as well as respecting the others that come to use it after you. Even if there is a full-time cleaning person, simply wiping down the table or collecting up discarded papers at the end of a meeting can be helpful. If your break room has a coffee maker, make a fresh pot when it’s running low. Wipe down the microwave or offer to clean out the fridge.
Make the Professional Personal Again: Greet your co-workers or employees by name. If you’re in a building with a doorman or security guard, learn their names as well. Is there an intern that delivers your mail but you have no idea who they are? Ask next time they stop in. Is there someone you always pass as your handing off your shift? Tell them to have a nice day. Did a coworker go out of their way to help you with something? Thank them in person instead of shooting off a quick email. Even the smallest acts, like smiling, saying thank you, or holding the elevator door for someone, can have a huge impact.
Turning the Negative into Positive: There’s always that one person you dread seeing at work. Unless there’s a good reason not to, try being nice to that person in one of the simple ways listed above. Let go of a grudge just for one day, then maybe for two. Keep going. It may change your entire relationship.
Maximum Kindness: If you are in a management position, there may be even bigger ways to promote kindness in the workplace while take part in random acts yourself. You could organize a blood drive or a collection for a local charity. You could build a small library of books for your employees to share and encourage them to add to it. If you want to go all out, organize a party or another kind of surprise/treat for the whole staff.
Add Kindness to the Workplace all Year Round: While this is international kindness week, that doesn’t mean you have to limit your random acts. Create a Random Acts of Kindness bulletin board where people can share acts that made them smile or feel good. You could volunteer to keep the charity train going all year long, with a different cause each month. As soon as things start feeling forced, though, the kindness effect will wear off and it will feel like just another task for an employee, so remember to keep these random acts fun and easy.
What ways will you make kindness a priority in your workplace this week?
Every February, the entirety of my company is immensely on edge. Reviews are coming up- the one time a year we can sit down with our bosses and make a case for a promotion or raise. It also happens to be the one time a year we can formally give recommendations for how our manager or the company at large can improve. Understandably, tensions are high. By March you can see a difference department by department depending on whose budget and performance allowed for upward movement. The departments who allowed for increased salaries and title changes start to perform even better, while the disappointed employees from other departments either start phoning it in or handing in their two weeks and moving on.
The predominant conclusion of a study conducted by Robert Half was that happy employees mean a more productive workplace. According to the study, the main factors that go into employee happiness are pride, fairness and respect, and feeling appreciated. The majority (79%) of the 24,000 working professionals from eight different countries they surveyed said that it was an equal balance between employer and employee as to who is primarily responsible for employee happiness.
A poll by Tjinsite, a division of TimeJobs.com, found that over 35% of the employees surveyed consider lack of recognition the biggest hindrance to their productivity. In a study conducted by researchers at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, university fund-raisers were split up into two groups. One group was instructed to go about their fundraising telephone calls as normal. The other group was given a pep talk by their manager in which they were praised for their efforts. Throughout the following week, the group who were given a pep talk out-raised the control group by 50%. In both studies, the conclusion was that rewards and recognition act as a morale booster, thereby increasing productivity.
Rewards and recognition are not exclusive to salary bumps, as was shown in the Wharton study. Geoff Pearce, managing consultant at NGA Human Resources, told Forbes Magazine that, “nurturing a positive company culture, offering tailored benefits packages and generous salary arrangements should all rank highly on the list of priorities for companies that take an active interest in making their employees feel valued and appreciated. Businesses aware of the direct correlation between workplace satisfaction and business productivity should act accordingly if they want to boost their output and gain a competitive edge.”
Friday, a consulting company that helps companies measure their employee happiness, says that teams with happy employees are 28% more productive and that people in happy moods are almost six times more likely to solve a lateral thinking test. They also say that unhappy employees are twice as likely to leave their job in the next quarter. This is backed up by another study by Bersin & Associates, that says, “companies that produce ample employee recognition have 31% lower voluntary turnover rates than companies that don’t.”
The studies that back up this theory are numerous and widespread – but what can companies do now to ensure their employees feel appreciated? Take my company for example. We are a small company that focuses on book distribution for independent publishers. Publishing is historically rather unprofitable industry, and our company is no different. At the end of the day, there is simply just not always enough money to give deserving employees raises. So what else can companies do? Here are some ideas: