In these unprecedented times, many of us are living with elevated levels of stress, uncertainty, and anxiety. We worry about our health and that of our families, and we wonder about the future of our country and our jobs.
That’s why, now more than ever, every business should be looking for ways to inject a level of compassion into their workplaces.
The word compassion is the Latin word for “co-suffering.”
In recent decades, a workplace culture of compassion hasn’t necessarily been standard practice in the business world. Some management teams even believe showing compassion is a sign of weakness. However, this is far from true. A compassionate workplace culture breeds happier employees and increases productivity, business efficiency, and employee loyalty.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the key reasons why showing compassion in the workplace matters. We’ll also share 12 ways you can ensure that yours is a compassionate workplace where people feel secure, cared for, and acknowledged.
Compassion in the workplace happens when co-workers and leadership teams offer mutual acceptance and understanding and display empathy and patience when someone else is experiencing a difficult time.
In compassionate workplaces, people are connected at a deep level. They take time to listen to and understand one another and build healthy interpersonal relationships. They offer moral support through kind words and positive actions.
Compassion in the workplace promotes positivity. Naturally, positive environments produce positive outcomes. And cultivating a culture of compassion in the workplace delivers many benefits to a business. Here are the top 3:
Unhappy employees result in high turnover rates. The costs associated with high turnover are expensive (it costs $3,328 to replace a $10/hour retail employee alone). Employees leave companies due to poor working conditions, not enough benefits, a negative atmosphere, or poor management practices. Fortunately, implementing positive practices to decrease high turnover is in your control and fairly easy to accomplish.
For example, employees who are supported with sufficient benefits, have positive relationships with their co-workers and management, and enjoy the workplace culture are unlikely to leave. Save for relocation or medical issues, why would they? Creating a workplace culture of compassion – encouraging wellness, showing appreciation, investing in employee benefits – creates the perfect recipe for low turnover rates and increased business efficiency.
Stressful workplaces affect more than just employee morale, and more often than not, this stress is financial stress. Some 73% of all stress in America is money-related. Prolonged financial stress – or acute financial stress – can cause or worsen weight problems, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, substance abuse, and even gastrointestinal issues.
By introducing compassion into the workplace, you encourage and create positive experiences for your employees. Positive social interactions at work have been shown to improve employee health (i.e., lowering heart rate and blood pressure, strengthening the immune system).
Integrating compassion into the workplace by congratulating an employee on a job well done or providing financial wellness benefits to your team lessens employee stress. In turn, employee health improves productivity rises and company success increases.
Employees who feel underappreciated are less likely to perform well.
Equally, employees tend to be motivated to work harder when their boss appreciates their work.
Now that we’ve explored why compassion in the workplace makes business sense let’s consider some of the tactics you can use to entrench it within your organization.
When people believe they’re one of a team and “part of something bigger,” they feel a sense of belonging. And when they know they can be open and share their personal and professional experiences and emotions, they feel a sense of comfort.
Management can be instrumental in fostering greater levels of meaningful connection among workers. One of the ways you can do this is by adopting and formalizing a “zero-tolerance” approach to any abusive, underhand, or discriminatory behavior in your workplace. Work with your HR team to structure and communicate this policy.
Formal recognition programs (such as reward and incentive programs) are relatively common in the modern workplace. However, informal recognition is one of the most powerful motivators.
As a leader, actively seek opportunities to give a “shout out” to someone who has done a great job and encourage your colleagues and line managers to do the same. You can do this publicly in quarterly or annual business updates, “Town Hall” sessions, or even digitally through your company intranet. Award certificates are popular gestures of appreciation, and they can easily be framed and displayed at employees’ workstations or in communal areas.
There’s a well-known saying, “kindness is contagious.” And kindness and compassion are qualities that you can grow and entrench in your business by making it “the way things are done around here.”
So, get intentional and creative about regularly motivating people to perform random acts of kindness. If you like, you can formalize this through a “compassion challenge” where individuals and teams are incentivized to make gestures of thanks and recognition to peers of their choosing.
In a company of almost any size, it’s possible for employees to feel that they’re merely a number in the human resources system and that senior management doesn’t have their interests at heart. Even the most compassionate leader can become caught up in the day-to-day stresses of running the business and neglect to consider the wellbeing of their employees.
As a manager, if you detect a change in mood or demeanor in a team member, take a moment to approach them for a quiet word. Or, next time you notice one of your people struggling with a work-related issue, for example, a difficult customer or a looming deadline, pause to let them know you’re there, offer to help, or even intervene if appropriate. This is one of the most effective ways to reinforce the kind of behavior you want to encourage in your business. People need to know that their managers care about them as human beings.
When someone is experiencing a personal problem, stress, or bereavement, there’s nothing worse than being ignored. Often, co-workers simply don’t know the right thing to say to them or how to respond. What’s often forgotten is that people who are suffering don’t want or expect someone to tell them what to do or think; they just want to feel acknowledged and comforted.
As we touched on in the previous point, one of the easiest ways to support someone who is struggling is to offer to step in and ease their workload. For example, if you know that a co-worker is caring for a sick or elderly family member, why not offer to swap shifts with them now and again so that they can attend to their care duties without worrying about missing work or having their paycheck docked?
Digital solutions such as that offered by Payactiv make it possible for people to swap shifts or pick up extra ones with a couple of clicks on the app on their smartphone.
As a compassionate leader, look for ways to demonstrate compassion in new ways: praise people’s accomplishments put treats in the break room, ask for feedback, and offer employee benefits that improve their wellness and happiness.
Also, take time to introduce yourself to your co-workers and subordinates in person or virtually, particularly those with whom you may not work directly or interact every day. And don’t just ask them about their jobs and what projects they’re busy with. Inquire about their families or what they did over the weekend, for example. And, most importantly, remember their names and greet them warmly the next time you interact.
You can make small but meaningful changes to deepen the connections among your people and foster a culture of positive social interaction among them by arranging regular parties or lunches. These events will give your people the chance to chat about things other than work in an informal setting and help them to get to know each other better. Many companies hold regular after-work drinks sessions on Fridays, which give people a great way to socialize and start winding down after a stressful week.
Lead this effort by example by ensuring you always show up to these events and interact with people at all levels in the organization. “Lunch with leadership” is another great way to let employees know they’re valued. So, consider setting up quarterly lunches between groups of employees and a few of your company’s most influential decision-makers.
As well as providing a competitive salary, focus on providing benefits that your employees will truly value. A great example is flexible payment models for employees, which can be valuable for those working paycheck to paycheck.
People who work in hospitality, care services, or customer services, for example, who receive weekly or bi-weekly paychecks, often struggle to deal with sudden, unplanned expenditures such as broken appliances, healthcare costs, or childcare costs.
Earned Wage Access (EWA) – allowing employees access to wages already earned but not yet paid – can be invaluable for many employees and will help with retention. It removes the stress and embarrassment of borrowing from friends and family or high-cost unsecured lenders. It’s a simple yet compassionate way to help employees remain focused on their responsibilities rather than spending time worrying about unplanned bills. The best providers’ solutions include an instant deposit feature so that people can access their earned wages in real-time in case of emergencies. Payactiv’s EWA service goes further by allowing employees to use their earned wages to pay for services like Uber and Amazon and pay their bills directly in the app. With Payactiv, you can also offer additional perks like discounts and special offers and handy features like budgeting and savings tools, and free bill management.
While everyone performing similar roles will have similar contracts, everyone will face different personal and professional challenges in doing their jobs. Adding some flexibility to the employee-employer working relationship is a great way to show that you’re a compassionate company.
This flexibility can include offering training and development courses, so people can skill up and move up the organization and earn more pay. It could even allow people to “buy” additional leave days from the company or trade shifts now and then.
If you’re serious about workplace compassion, it’s important that you invite the input and ideas of the people you’re targeting – your employees. Once you spend a bit of time talking to people about what exactly it is that would make them feel appreciated, cared for, and valued, you might be surprised. Some ideas to share with your teams for their consideration might include offering to subsidize people’s commute to and from work. This might mean introducing travel allowances or sponsoring travel passes for busses or trains.
Allowing people time off to support selected charitable causes close to their hearts is a great way to endorse and build a spirit of compassion in your organization. Even better, why not offer paid volunteer days? Giving people the opportunity to take a day off once a year to spend working at a charity of their choice isn’t only a great way to show your compassion, but it’s also a highly effective way of teambuilding.
Earlier, we stated the importance of adopting a “zero-tolerance” policy to any form of dishonest, unkind, or discriminatory behavior in the workplace. However, that doesn’t mean there should be no place for well-intended criticism.
To feel truly valued and heard, employees need a safe place to air their views and concerns. As part of this effort, leaders should invite feedback and constructive criticism about their behavior and decision-making.
Both managers and employees usually have mixed feelings about the annual performance review season. When performance reviews are well-planned and executed, they can help establish a positive culture of transparency, feedback, and ongoing learning and development in your business.
Your human resources team likely provides you with instructions, training, and templates to guide you through the review process. Still, there’s no reason you can’t invest a bit of extra effort in ensuring that these sessions go smoothly and deliver value to both you and your direct reports. Always see your performance reviews with your team as an opportunity to strengthen rapport and relationships.
The importance of treating one another more compassionately – and not just in the workplace but in all aspects of our lives – has never been greater.
It’s only by respecting and acting compassionately towards others that we’ll remain truly connected, productive, and mentally and physically healthy.
With so many Americans are stressed, and labor is scarcer than ever, now is the time to show support for your team and increase employee wellness, happiness, and productivity.
Companies that can demonstrate that they’re truly compassionate will be the ones that succeed in attracting and retaining the best talent. Likewise, leaders and managers who put a premium on compassion in their workplaces and teams will be rewarded with loyalty and productivity on the part of their people.
If you see value in showing workplace compassion to employees suffering from financial stress, Payactiv has a compassionate solution with our popular EWA service and complimentary financial wellness program.
Our all-in-one financial wellness and employee engagement solution also allows your employees to access your shift management system, so they can see their shifts and see who they might be able to swap shifts with if they find themselves in a tight spot at short notice. This shows that you’re empathetic to their circumstances without creating headaches for managers trying to keep tabs on their employees and manage all their shifts.
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