Why is it important to be kind at work and how can we improve our empathy skills?

The phrase ‘be kind’ can often be found within hashtags on social media, tiny reminders of our universal humanness. But when was the last time you really gave kindness a second thought? 

Being kind may seem like a simple thing; thinking of others, showing compassion, offering support or smiling at a stranger. And in truth, it is simple… but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy. When the debris of day-to-day life accumulates around us in piles of deadlines, daunting headlines, relationship strains and overwhelm, it’s no wonder kindness can get forgotten. 

What this means is that perhaps we need to all be more intentional about being kind. This means bringing it into our everyday lives, consciously and somewhere that can certainly stand to have more kindness infused into it, is work.

Why do we need to bring kindness to work?

Our working environments may all differ, but for many, there is a shared focus on productivity and output. This may look like how much money you made selling coffee or how well your presentation to the directors was received. Regardless of the industry you’re in, within this focus on how much value you’re adding through your work, our humanness can get lost. Conversations with colleagues can become somewhat robotic, discussing work and nothing else. The culture can become stilted, with people struggling but too afraid to speak up. 

“It’s so important to bring kindness into the workplace, mainly because it makes work a nicer, more enjoyable place to be.” Happiness and wellbeing coach Saloni Chamberlain explains.

“But there are genuine benefits to bringing kindness into work, for example, kindness fosters collaboration, reduces stress, and increases productivity.”

When we bring kindness to work, we see the bigger picture. We understand that our colleagues, managers or peers are whole people with stresses and strains we don’t know about. We’re reminded of our connected humanity, making space for imperfection and learning. 

Life and mindset coach Christine Maragkakis expands on the particular benefit of enhancing connection.

“When we bring kindness into the workplace, we foster stronger connections between colleagues. This can improve confidence and self-worth, enhance team morale, reduce stress and promote staff wellbeing and because staff feel valued, it can improve productivity and staff retention.”

Feeling connected and valued can have a profound impact on how we feel at work, often helping us feel more connected to our core values. 

Kindness itself also benefits both mental health and physical health. It helps to reduce stress levels, helping us feel calmer and more in control while lifting our mood and bolstering confidence. Physically, kindness helps to lower blood pressure, supports our immune system and can even help protect our heart by reducing inflammation levels.

How can we bring kindness to work?

So how can we be more conscious about bringing kindness to work?

1. Truly listen to each other

Giving those we work with our full attention when speaking is a small but vital way we can be kinder at work. Saloni says active listening is key, while Christine shares the power of giving undivided attention.

“Giving colleagues our undivided attention and listening to learn rather than to reply is one way of bringing kindness and empathy into the workplace. 

“When we give colleagues our undivided attention, we are signalling that we respect them and value what they have to say. Our focus can help them to think clearly and express themselves, which can boost confidence, reduce stress and minimise the occurrence of  miscommunication or frustration.”

2. Express gratitude and appreciation

How often do you stop to voice your appreciation for those you work with? Taking the time to share your gratitude can go a long way.

“Consider using more positive language when speaking to others,” Saloni notes. “Expressing your gratitude and appreciation regularly, and actively seeking opportunities to support colleagues. All of these little acts of kindness add up to a supportive and positive workplace!”

There are various ways you can do this, from saying it in person or sending an email to finding a company-wide way of sharing recognition. 

3. Make space for non-work-related discussion

As mentioned previously, when work discussions solely revolve around work it can be easy to forget what people have going on behind the scenes. Consciously carving out time for non-work-related discussions can help and may be especially important for remote workers.

Some ways you may want to try this is by having a general check-in with attendees before a meeting kicks off or allocating a certain time each week for colleagues to meet and chat about non-work-related topics (online or in person).

4. Offer support when you can

For some, workloads can ebb and flow – for example, some periods of the year may be busier than others. Something you may want to consider during quieter periods is to offer your support to those going through a busier time. Ask if there are any tasks you can help with or pick up a task to save someone else from having to do it.

With this being said, it’s important to be honest with yourself about what you do and don’t have time for, which brings us to our last point.

5. Don’t forget to be kind to yourself

One of the cool things about kindness is that often when we’re kind to others, we’re more likely to be kind to ourselves. So remember to treat yourself with the same kindness you treat others. Ask yourself if you need to ask for help, if you need to speak up about your mental health or if you need to say no to anything. 

When we do this, we role model self-compassion which our colleagues can mirror, helping everyone feel less stressed and cultivating a more open culture. 

If you are keen to improve relationships at work, bring kindness into your every day and cultivate a more harmonious working life for you and your team, working with a coach could help. Use our search to connect with a coach and learn more.