It’s counter-intuitive to claim that kindness will help us achieve our business objectives. In a fast-changing highly-competitive business landscape, kindness can almost be seen as a luxury which possibly slows us down and dulls our competitive edge.
On the other hand, many behavioural studies have shown that practicing acts of kindness has a positive effect on a person’s happiness, relationship satisfaction, and even physical and mental health.
There’s even some science backing these. When we are kind to others, our brains “reward” us by releasing a mixture of chemicals, including dopamine, which makes us feel good. In fact, it has been found that doing a kind act not only bestows a sense of satisfaction on the receiver, but also the one who performs the act, and all those who witnessed it.
But what does that have to do with achieving business objectives? What is the benefit to us as employers and employees to have and practice kindness and graciousness in the workplace? Can kindness be applied to the workplace environment, and where does it fit in? Is it simply a nicety that is “good to have” but not necessary, perhaps even unimportant compared to increasing the bottom line?
Work plays a big part of all our lives. We spend more waking hours in the office than at home. At the Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM), we believe that kindness at work is important, and can have real business outcomes.
Researchers at the Harvard Business School found that happy workers who enjoy their work and have fun working together in a team perform their jobs better.
They also found that supervisors can improve employee happiness levels by “implementing a fair, collaborative, open, innovative culture”, where workers feel valued and appreciated.
When kindness and graciousness are deeply rooted in an organisation’s culture, these workplaces will profit from greater synergy, employee engagement and loyalty, and more fulfilling working relationships. This translates into a more motivated workforce and lower staff turnover, so employers can better retain talent.
One of the biggest challenges faced in the workplace today is employee disengagement. In a 2012 Gallup survey on workplace engagement in 142 countries, Singapore’s ratio of “disengaged workers”, at 76 per cent, was one of the highest. This means that three out of four workers in Singapore feel unmotivated and are showing up at work every day but are not feeling emotionally invested in what they do.
Many organisations are aware that long-term engagement with their employees is vital. After all, what makes a company more successful than another is not its products, services or strategies – all of which can be copied over time – but the people who execute these with personal commitment and passion.
We believe that when we exercise kindness at work and recognise acts of kindness, we can generate a more gracious workplace environment, where staff are emotionally invested in and focused on creating value for their organisations.
Since 2013, the SKM has started taking the Kindness@Work programme to various organisations, and is inviting more leaders and companies to consider this seriously, in the same way that wellness and healthy lifestyle programmes have become de rigueur in human resource management practice.
The Kindness@Work programme is an internal initiative aimed at generating happier and more gracious workplace environments in Singapore. It involves putting the 3 pillars of graciousness – consideration, courtesy & gratitude – into action at the workplace.
The programme can be implemented through a series of workshops and keynote talks. SKM also offers various resources for organisations to start their own in-house kindness activities and initiatives, or to adapt and fit in elements of Kindness@Work into the company’s own existing employee engagement programme.
Each of us can play a part through simple gestures such as greeting your colleagues, opening doors, saying “please” and “thank you”, and even walking over to speak to a colleague instead of sending an email.
Kindness starts with us, and while we are innately kind, it’s something that may remain “locked-up” inside us because we are not consciously and intentionally practising acts of kindness.
While kindness and graciousness may sometimes be seen as “soft” values which are a nice-to-have, there are hard benefits to our workplace environments and results that can be measured through productivity, passion, innovative contributions and retention.
In the bigger picture, we still have some way to go for Singapore to be a gracious society, and the change can start right within our organizations. Those unhappy at work can take that frustration out on their families and to shared spaces in society, but conversely, happy and engaged workers can spread the kindness and graciousness they feel in the workplace into their other relationships and interactions.
This is our corporate social responsibility. And it starts with each one of us, leaders and representatives of our organisations taking responsibility and initiative.
The end goal is to make Singapore a better place for everyone to work, play and live in.
First published in MDIS’s Corporate Insights magazine – July issue
If you are interested to find out more about the Kindness@Work programme, do join us on 29 July 2016 (Fri) from 3pm to 5pm at the MDIS Auditorium for a talk on Kindness@Work where you will recognize not just the transformative effects of graciousness in the workplace, but on yourself individually.