Companies have always had a stake and a role to play in the mental health of their employees. Employee engagement and well-being have been buzzwords for years, with a clear line drawn to productivity, retention, and other measurable business outcomes.
Even prior to the current COVID-19 crisis, companies had begun to look critically at the role of a corporation in society – at how far their duty of care extends and what they really owe to the individuals and communities that enable their success. Now, the theme of the UK’s Mental Health Awareness Week (and Mental Health Month overall) provides us with a new lens: “kindness”.
If kindness involves generosity, helpfulness, and care, then companies have a unique opportunity to mainstream these qualities into their culture and strategy.
Kindness in the Workplace
The reality is that giving and receiving acts of kindness from the people around us – whether strangers, supervisors, or friends – boosts our mental health, strengthens relationships, and develops communities. With a staggering one third of our lives spent at work (that’s 90,000 hours over the course of a lifetime), it is crucial for our mental well-being and for those around us that we give and receive acts of kindness in our everyday working lives.
Researchers from the University of California found that kindness in the workplace can create a positive ripple that impacts the whole workplace culture. Acts of kindness don’t go unnoticed; rather, they have a huge impact on the overall positivity in the workplace and on employees’ sense of well-being. Employees experience more autonomy, feel more competent, and enjoy higher levels of life and job satisfaction.
And it’s not only the recipients of kindness who reap the benefits – the well-being of those giving kindness increases as well.
Employees should have an expectation that they are going to be treated with kindness, empathy, and understanding, and should be happy to reciprocate. Leaders have a key role to play, building trust and engagement through genuine acts of kindness between them and their people.
A Strategy for Resilience
While a company’s willingness to treat their employees with kindness during the current crisis and beyond will not go unnoticed, the same is true of their treatment of the communities in which they operate.
We’ve all heard of people hoarding food and disregarding measures intended to protect the most vulnerable amongst us, but for each of those stories, there are dozens of kindness and community spirit. Ordinary individuals from all walks of life are “doing their part” for others in a common cause. Similarly, many organisations have been taking this opportunity to create the world they want to see, filling gaps in support and resource and leveraging their capabilities to join in the fight.
Organisations have a key role to play in building stronger economies and more inclusive societies, with the resilience to not only overcome the current crisis, but to withstand the next. The mental health of all stakeholders, from employees to customers to shareholders to supply chains, cannot be discounted as we set out to accomplish this important work.
It is hard to imagine that things will ever get back to normal, and harder still to reimagine the future in a new way. During these unprecedented times, organisations must recognise that the way they behave now will be remembered for years to come, leaving an indelible mark on their people and communities.
It’s no secret that purpose-driven businesses whose actions clearly reflect their values are best able to connect with their stakeholders, and applying a lens of kindness over interactions with employees and customers alike builds trust, engagement, and loyalty. As we reimagine the purpose of the corporation in society, using kindness as a lever to support the mental health of our people is a strategy for resilience.
Dr. Rosanna Duncan is Chief Diversity Officer at Palladium. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.