Random acts of kindness are small, but immensely powerful things in the workplace.
Random acts of kindness create feelings of warmth, connection, and happiness for givers and recipients alike. They do this by activating powerful brain chemicals that build feelings of trust, empathy and togetherness between people, while also strengthening resilience to negative feelings.
The implications for how kindness could improve your workplace are huge. In this article, we’ll go into a bit of the science of what makes kindness so powerful, then explain how you can use it to make positive impacts on your workplace.
Science backs up the power of kindness
Random acts of kindness are powerful enough to trigger a change in our brain chemistry, releasing potent hormones that affect how we feel and behave. Those chemicals include oxytocin and serotonin.
Oxytocin, nicknamed “the love hormone,” is a vital chemical for forming social bonds. Higher levels of oxytocin in our body lead to greater trust, empathy, friendliness, and generosity. Serotonin, meanwhile, is a chemical that drives down feelings of depression and anxiety.
An act of kindness triggers our brains to give us an extra dose of these chemicals, which brings huge emotional and physical benefits in turn.
It’s good to feel great
Being on the receiving end of an act of kindness makes employees feel calmer, happier, and even tops up their self-esteem by releasing a short dose of oxytocin.
At the same time, a hit of serotonin from receiving kindness makes the recipient more resilient to feelings of depression and anxiety, while lowering feelings of stress.
It’s also really good for the giver
Crucially, giving random acts of kindness also does wonders for the giver.
People who are kind experience the phenomenon called the “helper’s high”, where your brain’s pleasure centres are activated after doing good deeds for other people.
A random act of kindness literally makes you feel good by lighting up the same parts of your brain that make receiving kindness feel good.
This may be why altruistic people are generally happier, with studies finding that the most generous people are also generally the most content.
Kindness to others has also been shown to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, while increasing feelings of energy. Participants in studies have reported feeling stronger, and more energetic, after being kind to others.
Being kind also reduces stress – kind people have 23% less cortisol in their body, the hormone that gets released in response to stress. Altruistic people are also generally happier, with studies finding that the most generous people are generally the happiest.
All of these benefits are vital for a happier workforce. And a happier workforce is a more productive workforce. Studies have shown that staff are 13% more productive when they’re happy.
There are physical benefits, too
The benefits of kindness don’t just affect our emotions. There’s evidence that kindness can have physical benefits for the physical health.
Kindness releases endorphins that naturally work as painkillers, and oxytocin has been shown to promote better healing and wellbeing. At the same time, lessening stress through kindness has physical effects on symptoms like blood pressure.
On top of those effects, happier, less stressed staff are also more likely to make positive choices around sleep, food, and exercise. Making it more likely your company will enjoy a healthy workforce.
Combined, these benefits have a huge positive effect on overall employee’s health, and even their lifespan. For your company, that means employees who produce better work more often and miss fewer days to mental and physical sickness.
Kindness is even good for others
You don’t even have to be directly involved to get some of these benefits. Just witnessing an act of kindness releases the oxytocin we talked about earlier, while increasing feelings of happiness and optimism.
All in all, kindness is incredibly powerful, and pays huge dividends to everyone affected by it. The only question now is what to do with that information.
How to use your powers for good
So, you now have the science on your side.
You, a humble human, have the power to create feelings of profound warmth, connection and positivity in your colleagues as easily as you sip your tea.
But how best to use your new superpowers? First, make kindness part of your company culture.
While a dose of naturally-produced oxytocin or serotonin is powerful, it’s only temporary.
However, a workplace where employees consistently give, receive, and see random acts of kindness means your staff are never too far from their next top-up of love chemicals.
Create opportunities for employees to be kind
Some companies organise group events for charity, like fun-runs and toy drives, but others go further – they set a few days aside a year that an employee can use to work for a charitable cause of their choice.
In a smaller, more interpersonal way, you can also make sure special moments don’t get missed. Be sure to mark significant milestones like birthdays and work anniversaries with warm, affirming gestures that make your staff feel valued by their colleagues.
Give kindness a place in your company
Many companies do this with something a bit more formal, like a digital employee recognition platform. They let your staff be kind by celebrating the positive achievements of their peers, sharing them on a public noticeboard for everyone to see.
Even if you don’t have the resources for a dedicated platform, you can still do something positive. For instance, a physical message board in your office where staff can write down messages of thanks and gratitude to others is a cost-effective solution.
Or, if you don’t have a central office, perhaps a monthly internal newsletter that celebrates all the good and kind things your staff have done recently.
Celebrate kindness in others
What you highlight and recognise is a signal to your staff. It says, “This is what we value, this is the behaviour we treasure.” Show your staff you prize kindness if you want them to be kind to each other.
Take the time to find, and celebrate, actions of kindness among your employees. Highlight them and, if possible, reward them. By putting that behaviour on a pedestal, you encourage others to copy it, creating a positive feedback loop.
Empower your leaders to embrace kindness
If you want to create sustained positive change in your company, your managers need to buy into it. Good ideas die in middle management when your leaders are forced to choose between hitting a monthly target and embracing a cultural change.
Getting your staff to buy into the power of kindness is the easy part – we’ve laid it all out above. The trick is giving them the space and resources to make sure it becomes a permanent part of your company’s culture.
Over to you
Like we said earlier, there’s an enormous power at your disposal in kindness. Embracing that power, and building it into the fabric of your company has huge benefits.
Not just to your staff’s emotional and physical wellbeing, but to the actual functioning of your organisation as well. It pays to be kind.
If you’re looking for some advice on bringing kindness to your own workplace, just get in touch with us.
Whether you just need a prod in the right direction or a tailor-made reward and recognition programme, we’re always here to talk.